300 Days of Better Writing

May 30, 2014

Lead the reader to your conclusion.


In classical argumentation, you build a case for some idea. You present facts, theories, and assumptions. Then, you reveal the conclusion. If you have done your job well, the conclusion will be the inevitable result of the discussion.

If you start with the idea, you either confuse your reader (because he or she won’t have the necessary information for understanding) or you will create an antagonistic relationship with the reader (because he or she disagrees with you).

Here’s what this means. If you have a new idea about which you want to convince your reader, or if your idea is controversial, lead your reader to it. Your reader will have the necessary information to understand and believe the idea—before you present it.


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May 22, 2014

Common knowledge does not need a reference.


Although we recommend providing references for new or controversial information, we do not recommend providing references for common or widely accepted knowledge. We also do not recommend providing a reference for commonly accepted definitions or descriptions.

For example, you do not need to provide a reference for this information: “Clouds are formed from water molecules.” This is common knowledge.

You also would not need a reference for this information: “Books are composed of bound papers, which often contain words or images.”

Basically, if your readers already know, understand, and believe the information, you will not need a reference.


 

This is the strategy for day 128 in 300 Days of Better Writing, available at Hostile Editing in PDF, Kindle, and paperback formats.

For a sample of 300 Days of Better Writing and other books by Precise Edit, download the free ebook.

November 21, 2013

Don’t place a comma between the subject and predicate, part 1.


Every complete sentence has a subject and predicate. We have used the term subject many times, but you may not be familiar with the term predicate. Basically, the predicate is the main verb in the sentence and everything that modifies or extends it. Consider this sentence.

“The man with the broken nose stumbled on the broken flagstone.”

The simple subject is “man,” and the entire subject of the sentence is “The man with the broken nose.” The main verb is “stumbled,” and the predicate is “stumbled on the broken flagstone.”

According to this tip, you should not place a comma between the subject and predicate. While this seems pretty obvious with the simple sentence above, I see many clients put a comma there when the subject is complicated. Consider this sentence.

“When the following morning finally arrived, the president of the bank that collapsed when the stock market tumbled was found dead.”

Here, the subject ends with “stock market tumbled,” and the predicate is “was found dead.” Due to the complexity of the subject, with its multiple phrases and clauses, some writers will put a comma after “tumbled.” Regardless of the sentence’s complexity, however, no comma is needed there.


This is the strategy for day 210 in 300 Days of Better Writing, available at Hostile Editing in PDF, Kindle, and paperback formats.

For a sample of 300 Days of Better Writing and other books by Precise Edit, download the free ebook.

May 2, 2013

Use topic chains to create cohesive paragraphs.


If you write a long paragraph (more than 4 or 5 sentences), how do you keep focused on the topic? How do you keep the reader aware of the main idea being discussed?

You do this with topic chains. A topic chain is basically a series of words and phrases that refer to the main idea. In most cases when you use a topic chain, each sentence will have one or more words that refer to the idea. If this is not possible with a particular sentence, you may need to consider whether or not that sentence belongs in the paragraph. Consider this paragraph from a proposal for state authorization to provide after school services to at-risk children.

The term disabilities comprises many conditions that may inhibit student learning. Often, students with disabilities require specialized instructional strategies to reduce the degree to which these inhibitors affect learning. Students with special needs require a highly-qualified teacher with training and experience in addressing such needs. As part of the tutor selection process, [the company] identifies those teachers possessing these unique skills, resulting in the ability to match students with special needs with teachers possessing appropriate teaching skills. Teachers will use strategies that allow for differentiated pacing with careful sequencing, monitoring, and control of the learning process.

The underlined words create the topic chain. As you can see, each sentence contains words that refer to the topic introduced in the first sentence. These words keep the reader focused on the topic.


This is the strategy for day 137 in 300 Days of Better Writing, available at Hostile Editing in PDF, Kindle, and paperback formats.

For a sample of 300 Days of Better Writing and other books by Precise Edit, download the free ebook.

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