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Become a Better Writer Instantly, Part 1

Here are some tricks of the editing trade that will make your writing look more polished instantly.

Trick #1: Use concrete rather than vague language.

Example of vague language: The weather was of an extreme nature.

Example of concrete language: Thunderstorms tore open the sky, bringing a deluge of rain.

Which sentence would make you want to continue reading?

Trick #2: Try active voice instead of passive voice.

Passive Voice: The ball was hit.

Active Voice: Barry hit the ball.

With active voice, the reader knows who did what, which is always more interesting.

Trick #3: Avoid overusing there is/are and that is/was.

Example overusing there is: There is a case of meningitis that was reported in the newspaper.

Better Example: A case of meningitis was reported in the newspaper.

Notice how eliminating there is also eliminated that was. However, this sentence is still in passive voice.

Best Example: The newspaper reported a case of meningitis.

Active voice makes the sentence less clumsy and more direct.

Trick #4: Convey ideas with one positive rather than two negatives.

Example with two negatives: Sam is not unwilling to do the report.

Unless you want to convey hesitation on the part of Sam, use the positive approach.

Better Example: Sam is willing to do the report.

Trick #5: Notice parallel construction.

Incorrect Example: Winning is the goal but to play fair is important too.

Correct Example: Winning is the goal but playing fair is important too.

By pairing playing with winning, you give the sentence balance.

Effective writing techniques are not mysterious. Use them and your writing will sparkle.

Posted on Friday, September 1, 2006, at 9:55 pm


11 Comments

11 Responses to “Become a Better Writer Instantly, Part 1”

  1. Rita Woodring says:

    Thank you for your website. It’s the best one I have found that assures me of correct and precise punctuation and grammar usage.

  2. qtfnwzrew says:

    You have an outstanding good and well structured site. I enjoyed browsing through it.

  3. Dina Sizemore says:

    I am a student this is my second semester and I need a lot of help, so far this website is a good tool for me. I want my englis to be better and English is my second language. I am into writting essays so I like your website, probably I can find some help writting essays in your website.

  4. engee says:

    Speaking of your idea of creating a fun, supplemental Blue Book with more exercises, including answers to them. I’d like it to be published as a separate book. It’s more handy then. But I’m not saying that I wouldn’t appreciate it if you put the supplemental book on your website, as well. I’m sure either way would be good.
    As a used-to-be private teacher of English, I’d rather you didn’t separate the answer section. To me, it’s always been more convenient to put everything together in one piece.

  5. Jane says:

    Thank you for your feedback. It’s very helpful.

  6. Sandy says:

    I’m new to your site. I’m about to purchase your grammar and punctuation book, and I’m wondering if your supplemental workbook is also available?

  7. Jane says:

    There is no supplemental workbook for “The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation.” The book itself contains the quizzes you see online. In June, I will be offering hundreds of extra quizzes online in a special subscription area if you need more practice.
    I hope this answers your question satisfactorily. If not, let me know.

  8. ravi bedi says:

    I am waiting anxiously for June!

    Now tell me if “excitedly” would have been more appropriate here? The fact is, I am excited, not anxious, but in the manner of speech, “anxiously “doesn’t sound out of place.

  9. Jane says:

    “excitedly” is better

  10. Scooter says:

    Effective Writing, Rule 4 provides the example, “The book is uneven but not uninteresting.” Why not write, “The book is uneven but interesting”?

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