300 Days of Better Writing

February 25, 2014

Punctuate bulleted series as if they were written out in a sentence.


For lists made from a series in a sentence, use this sample as a guide.

These employees are

  • smart,
  • knowledgeable,
  • friendly, and
  • efficient.

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.


This is the strategy for day 7 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 4, 2013

Major Writing Process—Editing


Let me give you three quotes that are particularly appropriate here (one of which you have already seen).

1.       It is perfectly okay to write garbage—as long as you edit brilliantly. (C. J. Cherryh)

2.       Rewriting is the essence of writing well: it’s where the game is won or lost. (William Zinsser)

3.       Rewriting is called revision in the literary and publishing trade because it springs from re-viewing, that is to say, looking at your copy again—and again and again. (Jacques Barzun)

After you write, put away your document. Leave it long enough so that you may see it without preconceptions and without remembering what you were thinking at the time. Then look at it again. Does it satisfy your purpose? Have you communicated clearly? Can you make it more concise without losing essential content? Are the ideas logically presented? Keep criticizing it, refining it, until it is as good as it can be. Then give it to others (perhaps your editor) to evaluate.

Here’s the primary point: Your first draft will need editing. The editing process is what will make your document an effective communication tool, regardless of the genre.

Here’s the secondary point: If others recommend (or make) changes, don’t be offended. First drafts will always need improvements.


This is the strategy for day 103 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.

June 3, 2013

Use the simplest correct words.


Using big words makes you seem smart. They make your reader think, “Wow, this writer really knows a lot!” Right? Probably not.

Using words that are outside of your readers’ common vocabulary may have three effects, all negative. First, they reduce the readers understanding of what you are trying to communicate. Second, they distract the reader from what you are trying to communicate and force the reader to concentrate on word meaning. Third, they can give the impression that you are trying to impress the reader, which will make you seem pretentious. If your goals are clear communication and improving your credibility, use the simplest correct words.

One note about the “correct” word: While you are choosing simple words that mean what you want to say, you also need to consider how readers will respond to them. As such, you need to think about the tone you wish to create.


This is the strategy for day 33 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.

February 28, 2013

Thus and therefore statements should follow logically from the previous statements.


The topic here is non sequiturs. Non sequitur is a Latin term meaning does not follow. A non sequitur is a problem with logic; it is a conclusion that isn’t logical, based on previous statements.

A non sequitur looks like this:

Idea A is true.
Idea B is also true.
Thus, Idea C MUST be true.

The fault in this logic is assuming that C is true just because A and B are true. In this case, C might be true, but it certainly isn’t true just because A and B are true. It is a non sequitur.

When you start a sentence with thus or therefore, you are saying that the statement you are about to write is the logical conclusion of the previous statements.

If the thus/therefore statement isn’t true based on the previous statements, you have created a non sequitur. Let’s look at an example.

A: People love to eat beef.
B: Beef comes from cows.
C: Thus, people love cows.

The first two statements in this sample are true. The last statement might also be true, but it is not the logical conclusion of the previous statements. It is a non sequitur.

Here’s the point of this tip: When you start a sentence with thus or therefore, make sure the statement logically follows from the previous statements. If it doesn’t, your reader will reject your ideas.


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