Writing Tips Study Guide (page 3)
I'm not a very good writer, but I'm an excellent rewriter. -James A. Michener (1907–1997) -American Novelist and Short Story Writer
Congratulations on your commitment to improve your writing. This lesson reminds you of things to remember every time you write in order to be totally confident that you have performed all the appropriate steps and done your very best.
Writing well requires thoughtful planning, observance of the rules of grammar and spelling, attention to detail, and, most important of all, a commitment to thinking hard and doing it right.
Review these tips to make sure you understand and believe them. If you make these tips your own personal rules for writing, you're certain to write better. And remember, it's only taken you 15 minutes a day to achieve this important life skill.
Tip 1: The Single Best Way to Improve Your Writing
The single most effective way to improve your writing doesn't involve writing at all. The secret: Read! If you read (at least) 15 minutes a day, every day, your writing will definitely and magically improve.
Tip 2: Slow Down
The single most useful practice you can develop as a writer is to slow down. Proofread and edit your writing very carefully, and you're certain to catch a lot of errors in advance of submitting your work to other readers.
Tip 3: Learn to Type!
If you don't already know how to touch type, which means typing quickly without looking at the keys, learn how! Being able to type quickly will actually make your writing better—because you won't lose your train of thought while you're searching around the keyboard.
Tip 4: Identify Your Audience before You Begin Writing
The more specifically you have your reader in mind, the more focused and fluent your actual writing will be.
Tip 5: How to Get Jumpstarted
If you're having trouble getting started on a strong first paragraph, skip it and begin your writing with the second and third paragraph.
Tip 6: Ask the 5 Ws
If you're stuck about how to develop your topic, imagine you're a reporter or a detective, and ask the 5 Ws: who, what, where, when, why.
Tip 7: How to Write an Interesting Introduction
||Ask a question, whether or not you answer it right away.|
||Use a quotation, which needn't be from a famous person; it might come from someone you've interviewed for the essay.|
||Include a startling or shocking fact that will grab your reader's attention.|
||Include a dramatic description of a situation or event related to your topic.|
||Start out with an exclamation: "Wow! Who knew the problem was this great?" This isn't a question that calls for an answer; it's simply a dramatic device that can often be used effectively. This is called a hypothetical question.|
Tip 8: Know the Sentence Structure Rules
- Simple sentences don't have to be short, but they must contain only one independent clause.
- In compound sentences, the two (or more) independent clauses must be related in thought. Do not mix apples and oranges.
- In complex sentences, the dependent clause clarifies the relationship between ideas. Often these dependent clauses start with words like because, when, who, or while
Tip 9: Know How to Avoid Common Sentence Structure Errors
||Check every sentence you write for complete thoughts, and for the appropriate subject/verb pairs.|
||Read each sentence aloud to see if your voice drops naturally at the end of the sentence. If it doesn't, you've probably written a fragment.|
||Slow down. Rushing to get your work finished is a common trap that often produces fragments and/or run-ons.|
Tip 10: Avoid Sentence Fragments
- Fragments are allowed only when they are used sparingly for dramatic effect, or to emphasize a point.
- You'll be on safer ground if you obey the rules and avoid using fragments altogether.
Tip 11: Comma Splices Are Common Killers of Good Writing
When in doubt about a comma, leave it out. You have a better chance of conveying meaning without a comma than you do with sticking one in arbitrarily and thereby splicing (or splitting) the sentence unnecessarily.
Tip 12: Use Punctuation Marks Correctly
- Commas and periods always go inside closing quotation marks.
- Question marks go inside or outside quotation marks, depending on your meaning.
- If you are writing dialogue, start a new paragraph for each new speaker.
Tip 13: Avoid the Ellipsis
- Write what you mean; do not depend on the ellipsis to suggest something that you might have written but didn't.
- The only time you should use the ellipsis is to indicate that you have deleted part of a direct quotation.
Tip 14: Avoid the Five Most Common Writing Errors
|1.||Comma splices are misplaced commas; learning to avoid them and/or correct them is the single most significant improvement you can make in your writing.|
|2.||In every sentence you write, the noun and the verb must agree in number.|
|3.||Verb endings are tricky; they must be checked and used correctly.|
|4.||Pronouns must agree in number, in person, and in function with their antecedent.|
|5.||Misspelling commonly confused words is a common error that can easily be avoided. Rely on a dictionary, not a spell-checker, to check confusing words.|
Tip 15: Organize Carefully
Your primary organizational goal is to make it easy for your reader to follow along with you. You must take the reader step by step along the path of your argument.
Tip 16: Your Paragraphs Are Your Building Blocks
- Check and double-check every paragraph of your essay to make sure that each paragraph either supports or expands on your thesis statement.
- Create meaningful transitions between paragraphs; avoid clichèd connecting phrases such as on the other hand, in conclusion, and in summary.
Tip 17: Vary Your Paragraph Length
||A series of very short paragraphs will feel choppy or disconnected, and may be a symptom of a thesis that is not well developed.|
||Extremely long paragraphs are difficult to read through—they seem to take the reader's breath away.|
||Used carefully, one-sentence paragraphs can make a dramatic impact, but be careful not to overdo this strategy.|
Tip 18: Avoid These Bad Writing Habits
- clichés and slang
- using a thesaurus to find impressive words
- rushing to finish and therefore making grammatical errors
Tip 19: Adopt the Six Characteristics of Good Writing
|1.||well-developed ideas and content|
|3.||consistent and appropriate tone and voice|
|4.||powerful and engaging word choice|
|5.||variety in sentence structure|
|6.||correct grammar, spelling, and punctuation|
Tip 20: How to Avoid Writer's Block
- Try freewriting or creating a cluster diagram, a mind map, or a rough outline.
- Interview someone connected to your topic.
- Go back and reread the assignment carefully; you may be missing a big clue.
- Give it a rest, overnight if possible, and then come back to your work with fresh eyes the next day.
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