Writing Tips


Tip #1:
"Its" vs. "It's"

"Its" is possessive. (The computer lost its files.)
"It's" means "it is" or "it has." (It's your birthday today.)
Don't put an apostrophe in "its," unless you can replace "it's" with "it has" or "it is."
You wouldn't say, "The computer lost it is files."

 

Tip #2:
"Very Unique"
There is no such thing as "very unique." Either something is unique, or it is not.
Unique means "one-of-a-kind," so something cannot be "very one-of-a-kind" or "extremely one-of-a-kind."

 

Tip #3:
Apostrophes
Don't use an apostrophe to form a plural word.
You will notice this in grocery stores sometimes.
Banana's 70˘/pound (incorrect)
Bananas 70˘/pound (correct)
When you use an apostrophe, it implies that the word is possessive or a contraction.

 

Tip #4:
"You're" vs. "Your"
"You're" means "you are." (You're a great friend.)
"Your" indicates something you have (your dog, your computer).
When you are uncertain, try to substitute "you are" for "you're."
You wouldn't say, "I love you are new jacket." So, the sentence should be "I love your new jacket."

 

Tip #5:
Quotation Marks
When you're quoting someone, make sure that the period or comma is inside the quotation marks.
Emma said, "I love to ride horses." (correct)
Emma said, "I love to ride horses". (incorrect)
"I like to read books that open new worlds to me," said Jonathan. (correct)
"I like to read books that open new worlds to me", said Jonathan. (incorrect)
This is the American rule. In England, either is acceptable.

 

Tip #6:
"Less" vs. "Fewer"
These words mean the same thing but are used to modify different words.
"Less" modifies mass nouns, and fewer is used to modify count nouns.
Mass nouns are nouns that you can't count (rain, love, happiness, clutter, etc.).
Count nouns, obviously, can be counted (notebooks, hands, doors, etc.).
There are fewer complaints.
There is less confusion.

 

Tip #7:
"Whose" vs. "Who's"
"Whose" indicates possession.
"Who's" means "Who is."
"Whose homework is that?" (Not "Who is homework is that?")
"Who's ready for dinner?"

 

Tip #8
Continuous vs. Continual
According to dictionary.com, "continuous" means: "uninterrupted in time; without cessation."
"Continual" means: "of regular or frequent recurrence; often repeated; very frequent."
You cannot say, "I studied continuously for a month," because you would have stopped to eat, sleep, etc.

 

Tip #9
Active vs. Passive Voice
Use active voice whenever possible.
Active voice means the subject is performing the verb.
Examples:
Active Voice: I made mistakes.
Passive Voice: Mistakes were made.
Active Voice: Ben planted the flowers.
Passive Voice: The flowers were planted by Ben.
Notice that sometimes the responsible party is not present with passive voice.
("Mistakes were made." Who made the mistakes?)

 

Tip #10
There, Their & They're
I found this on wikihow.com.
(Note: make sure that you are careful referencing "wiki" sites since they are edited by many people.)
Use "there" when referring to a place, whether concrete ("over there by the building") or more abstract ("it must be difficult to live there").
Use "their" to indicate possession. "Their" is a possessive adjective and indicates that a particular noun belongs to them.
Remember that "they're" is a contraction of the words "they" and "are."
When you use any of these three words, get in the habit of asking yourself these questions:
1. If you wrote "there," will the sentence still make sense if you replace it with "here"? If so, you're using it correctly.
2. If you chose "their," will the sentence still make sense if you replace it with "our"? If so, you've chosen the correct word.
3. If you used "they're," will the sentence still make sense if you replace it with "they are"? If so, you're on the right track!

 

Tip #11
Who vs. That/Which
"Who" refers to people. "That" and "which" refer to groups or things.
She was a woman that hated hypocrisy. (incorrect)
She was a woman who hated hypocrisy. (correct)
The following is a little more complicated.
You should use "that" when you are giving essential information for a sentence.
(This is called a restrictive clause.)
Example: This was the file that held the evidence.
(Not just any file - it was the file that held the evidence.)
You should use "which" when it's just extra info.
(This is called a non-restrictive clause.)
Example: The capital of Alabama is Montgomery, which has a population of 200,000.
That's just extra information. In fact, you could take it out of the sentence, and the sentence would still make sense.

 

Tip #12
Never use "irregardless" for "regardless."
"Irregardless" is a non-standard word because it uses two negative elements (ir- and -less).

 

Tip #13
Here's the word for the day:
multifarious: having great diversity or variety.

 

Tip #14
Do not use double negatives.
Example: "He had hardly no green beans on his plate." ("Hardly" and "no" are negatives.)

 

Tip #15
Here are a few Latin/Greek roots:
am, amor = love, liking (amiable, enamoured)
arch = chief, first, rule (archangel, architect, archaic, monarchy, matriarchy, patriarchy, Archeozoic era)
bibl = book (Bible, bibliography, bibliomania)
bio = life (biology, biometrics, biome, biosphere)
brev = short (abbreviate, brief)

 

Tip #16
Word for the day:
Serendipity: the faculty or phenomenon of making fortunate accidental discoveries.

 

Tip #17
Here are a few Latin/Greek roots:
chrom = color (chrome, chromosome, polychrome, chromatic)
civ = citizen (civic, civil, civilian, civilization)
clam, claim = cry out (exclamation, clamor, proclamation, reclamation, acclaim)
cosm = universe, world (cosmos, microcosm, cosmopolitan, cosmonaut)
crea = create (creature, recreation, creation)

 

Tip #18
"Principal" vs. "Principle"

"Principal" means: "first in order of importance; main" or "a chief or head" (like a principal of a school).
"Principle" means: "a basis of a system of thought or belief."

 

Tip #19
Only use one speaker per paragraph.

 

Tip #20
Word of the day:
officious (uh-FISH-uhs), adjective:
Marked by excessive eagerness in offering services or advice where they are neither requested nor needed; meddlesome.

 

Tip #21
Latin/Greek roots:
cred = believe (creed, credo, credence, credit, credulous, incredulous, incredible)
cresc, cret, crease, cru = rise, grow (crescendo, concrete, increase, decrease, accrue)
crit = separate, choose (critical, criterion, hypocrite)
cur, curs = run (current, concurrent, concur, incur, recur, occur, courier, precursor, cursive)
cura = care (curator, curative, manicure)

 

Tip #22
Effect vs. Affect

effect: (noun) 1. something that is produced by an agency or cause; result; consequence:
Exposure to the sun had the effect of toughening his skin.
2. power to produce results; efficacy; force; validity; influence: His protest had no effect.
affect: (verb) 1. to act on; produce an effect or change in:
Cold weather affected the crops.
2. to impress the mind or move the feelings of:
The music affected him deeply.

 

Tip #23
Independent Clauses (IC)

An independent clause is a group of words that contains a subject and verb and expresses a complete thought.
An independent clause could stand alone as a sentence.
Examples:
The dog barked when the doorbell rang.
In case you didn’t hear, Mom said to eat your peas.
When the fan started blowing, a candle burned out.
Here are the independent clauses that were in the preceding sentences:
The dog barked.
Mom said to eat your peas.
A candle burned out.
All of these could be sentences on their own.

 

Tip #24
Dependent Clauses (DC)

A dependent clause is a group of words that contains a subject and verb but does not express a complete thought.
A dependent clause cannot be a sentence.
Example:
After the last bird flew south for the winter... (DC)
... because he felt proud. (DC)
Many times these dependent clauses start with dependent word markers, such as:
after, although, as, as if, because, before, even if, even though, if, in order to, since, though,
unless, until, whatever, when, whenever, whether, while.

 

Tip #25
Here is a breakdown of how you should punctuate sentences that have a combination of IC/DC.
IC. IC. I went to the store. I didn't buy any bread.
IC; IC. I went to the store; I didn't buy any bread.
DC, IC. When I went to the store, I didn't buy any bread.
IC DC. I didn't buy any bread when I went to the store.

 

Tip #26
Coordinating Conjunctions and More...

The seven coordinating conjunctions used as connecting words at the beginning of an independent clause are
for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so (FANBOYS).
If you have two independent clauses in the same sentence, you can separate them with a comma and a coordinating conjunction:
Example:
I like math, and Tom likes social studies.
(Either "I like math" or "Tom likes social studies" could stand alone as a sentence. Therefore, they are independent clauses.)
If you have an IC and then a DC, you do not need a comma.
Example:
I enjoy riding my bike when the weather is nice.
("I enjoy riding my bike" is an IC. "When the weather is nice" is a DC.)
If you have a DC and then an IC, you do need a comma.
Example:
When the weather is nice, I enjoy riding my bike.

 

Tip #27
Word for the day:
expeditious: characterized by speed and efficiency.

 

Tip #28
A dependent marker word (DMW) is a word added to the beginning of an independent clause that makes it into a dependent clause.
Example: When Kate went to church, she felt better the whole week.
Some common dependent markers are:
after, although, as, as if, because, before, even if, even though, if, in order to, since,
though, unless, until, whatever, when, whenever, whether, while.

When you see those dependent marker words, you have a clue that you're probably looking at a dependent clause.

 

Tip #29
Latin/Greek Roots:

cycl, cyclo = wheel, circular (unicycle, bicycle, cyclone, cyclic)
deca = ten (decade, decalogue, decathlon, decahedron)
dem = people (democracy, demography, epidemic)
dent, dont = tooth (dental, denture, orthodontist, periodontal)
derm = skin (hypodermic, dermatology, epidermis, taxidermy)

 

Tip #30
Word for the day:
plenary \PLEE-nuh-ree; PLEN-uh-ree\, adjective:
Full in all respects; complete; absolute; as plenary authority.

 

Tip #31
Latin/Greek Roots:
dict = say, speak (dictation, dictionary, dictate, dictator, Dictaphone, edict, predict, verdict, contradict, benediction)
doc, dokein = teach (doctrine, indoctrinate, document, dogma, dogmatic)
domin = master (dominate, dominion, predominant, domain)
don = give (donate, condone)
dorm = sleep (dormant, dormitory)

 

Tip #32
Word for the day:
genuflect: to bend the knee, as in worship.

 

Tip #33
Only include one space after punctuation (comma, period, colon, etc.).

 

Tip #34
These are two frequently confused words:
complement: a thing that enhances something by contributing extra features
compliment: an expression of praise or to politely congratulate

 

Tip #35
Equally
Don't say "equally as" (e.g. "The speech is equally as effective.") You can use either equally or as on its own.

 

Tip #36
Foreshadowing:
A literary device in which an author drops subtle hints about plot developments to come later in the story.

 

Tip #37
Word of the day:
olfactory: pertaining to smell.

 

Tip #38
Always start and end stories with a memorable image/dialogue/description that will leave an impression on the reader. This goes for essays as well.

 

Tip #39
Always use spell-check.

 

Tip #40
Don't use many exclamation points! Either characters seem mad, or excited all the time! It can be kind of disturbing!
Try to keep this rule of thumb: use a maximum of one EP per page for a short story,
unless there is a serious situation (a fire, a fight, etc.).
For an essay, it's usually better to not use one at all.
As a side note, in journalism, the rule is that each writer has three EP for his/her entire career.

 

Tip #41
Word for the day:
capricious: whimsical; changeable.

 

Tip #42
Use a thesaurus.
You can find one in many forms: in a book, on the Internet or on MS-Word.
It usually makes your writing more interesting (remarkable, exciting, and attention-grabbing as well).

 

Tip #43
Always read your stories at least twice before completing them. Also, try to read it out loud at least once.

 

Tip #44
The phrase "I couldn't care less" is sometimes shortened to "I could care less." However, this changes the meaning entirely.

 

Tip #45
"The truth is..." or "The fact is..."
A bad beginning for a sentence. If you feel you are possessed of the truth, or of the fact, simply state it. Do not give it advance billing.
- From The Elements of Style by William Strunk and E.B. White

 

Tip #46
Word for the day:
Colloquialism: A word or expression appropriate to informal conversation but not usually suitable for academic or business writing.
(They wanted to "get even" instead of "retaliate.")

 

Tip #47
Avoid using qualifiers (rather, very, little, pretty, etc.).

 

Tip #48
Avoid comma splices. A comma splice occurs when a comma is placed between two complete sentences.
Example: This sentence is incorrect, the comma should have been a period.

 

Tip #49
So:
Avoid, in writing, the use of "so" as an intensifier: "so good," "so warm," "so delightful."
- From The Elements of Style by William Strunk and E.B. White

 

Tip #50
Word of the day:
indelible: incapable of being removed or erased.

 

Tip #51
Omit needless words.
Vigorous writing is concise.
A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences,
for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts.
This requires not that the writer make all sentences short, or avoid all detail and treat subjects only in outline,
but that every word tell.
Many expressions in common use violate this principle:
- the question as to whether
Instead: whether
- there is no doubt that
Instead: no doubt
- used for fuel purposes
Instead: used for fuel
- he is a man who
Instead: he
- in a hasty manner
Instead: hastily
- this is a subject that
Instead: this subject
- Her story is a strange one.
Instead: Her story is strange.
- the reason why is that
Instead: because
"The fact that" is an especially debilitating expression. It should be revised out of every sentence in which it occurs.
- From The Elements of Style by William Strunk and E.B. White

 

Tip #52
When you're using quotation marks (QM), make sure you don't include a space after the beginning QM or before the ending QM.
Example:
" You don't need spaces here, " said Mrs. Rainey. (incorrect)
"You don't need spaces here," said Mrs. Rainey. (correct)