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March 5, 2010
April 9, 2014
Acronyms are great. They allow you to repeat titles, names, and concepts easily. The problem is that your reader may not know what they mean, and this hurts communication. Our advice is simple: the first time you use an acronym, write out the full name first and add the acronym in parentheses.
Do this for every acronym, even if you think most readers will know what it means because some might not. You only need to do this the first time you use the acronym. After that, you can freely use the acronym without risking losing your readers. Here’s how to do this:
“The Association for Advancement of Retired Persons (AARP) was founded in 1958. The AARP provides . . . .”
March 7, 2014
HUPA is an acronym for “Hey, You! Pay Attention.” HUPA is our term for any phrase, word, or strategy that is specifically intended to grab the reader’s attention.
HUPAs can be created in many ways. When you start a sentence with attention getting words such as now and thus, you are using a HUPA. Any kind of inflammatory word, i.e., a word used to provoke a strong reaction, is a HUPA. Strings of short sentences are often HUPAs. Most rhetorical devices are HUPAs. Whenever you think to yourself, “That will get their attention,” you have probably created a HUPA.
Now for the tip, in 5 parts
- HUPAs are fine—and sometimes necessary. However, if you find yourself using HUPAs frequently, revise. Using too many HUPAs has a negative effect on readers.
- If you are trying to make everything seem like the most important information, then nothing will be the most important. All the information will be equally important.
- Using too many HUPAs indicates that the information isn’t interesting by itself and requires some strategy to make it seem interesting.
- Using too many HUPAs makes reading the text a tiring activity. You are simply “hitting” the reader too many times, which creates subconscious mental stress on the reader.
- An astute reader will realize that you are using strategies to artificially elevate the importance of the contents. This makes you seem amateurish and shifts the reader’s attention from the content to you.
Use HUPAs only when absolutely necessary.
February 25, 2014
For lists made from a series in a sentence, use this sample as a guide.
These employees are
- friendly, and
If you were to write this out as a sentence, you would have the following: “These employees are smart, knowledgeable, friendly, and efficient.”
When creating a list, you use the same punctuation.
In the sample above, notice
- the commas after each item,
- where the “and” goes, and
- the lack of a colon after “are.”
When the items in the list are complex (i.e., they have their own commas), you can use a semicolon after each list item. Also, you can capitalize each item in the list, but you don’t need to do so because the items would not be capitalized if you were to write this out in sentence format.
February 18, 2014
A prepositional phrase begins with a preposition (e.g., of, on, under, around) and ends with the object of a preposition. Consider this sentence.
“The gun was under her pillow.”
In this sentence, the prepositional phrase is “under her pillow.”
When a writer begins to string phrases together, he makes the writing difficult to understand and tedious to read. Consider this sentence.
“The gun was under her pillow on the bed in the room at the back of the house in a small carrying case.”
This sentence has 6 prepositional phrases in a row! Every time a writer starts a new prepositional phrase, the reader needs to revise his mental picture of where the gun is.
Here’s our recommendation: If you have 3 or more prepositional phrases in a string, examine the sentence carefully. Find a way to revise the sentence so this doesn’t occur, or break the sentence into smaller sentences.
Using this tip, we can revise the sample sentence this way.
“The gun was in a small carrying case under her pillow. By keeping it at the back of the house . . . .”
Each sentence now has only 2 prepositional phrases. The second sentence leads to further information, thus keeping the content moving forward, as opposed to simply providing a static description. [We also removed “in a room.” If something is in a house, it must be in a room, so that phrase is unnecessary.]
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