300 Days of Better Writing

June 2, 2014

Use object pronouns as objects, not subject pronouns.


When you need a pronoun for an object, use an object pronoun. Your choices are me, you, him, her, it, us, them, and whom.

Applying this tip is pretty simple, but many people make mistakes when the object contains two or more things. They may use a subject pronoun instead: I, you, he, she, it, we, they, and who. These subject pronouns cannot be used as objects, except for you and it, which are both types of pronouns.

Consider this sentence.

“Mary drove Tom and I to the house.”

This sentence is incorrect. “I” is not an object pronoun; it is a subject pronoun. The correct pronoun is me. The sentence should read as follows.

“Mary drove Tom and me to the house.”

Because most people won’t make this mistake when the sentence only has one object pronoun, you can use this trick: remove one object, say the sentence aloud, and determine if it still sounds right. Then do it with the other one.

For example, you would say “Mary drove Tom to the house. Mary drove I to the house.” The first one sounds right, but the second doesn’t. You would say “Mary drove me,” so you know the complete sentence should be “Mary drove Tom and me to the house.”


This is the strategy for day 56 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 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.


Free E-book to Improve Your Writing Skills

Top writing strategies and expert instruction from
each of Precise Edit’s writing guides

  • 1 critical article from
    Precise Edit Training Manual
  • 8 days of instruction from
    300 Days of Better Writing
  • 5 top strategies from
    Bang! Writing with Impact
  • 2 essential word choices from Which Word Do I Use?
  • 1 major comma use from Zen Comma
  • 1 section on main verbs from Concise Guide to Technical and Academic Writing

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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.

April 17, 2014

People don’t share body parts.


Writers can create strange visual images if they forget this simple rule. Consider this sentence.

“When people get a good idea in their head, they should act on it.”

Here’s the problem. According to this sentence, multiple people are sharing one head. This is a number agreement problem: plural people, single head. Here’s another, slightly more complicated, example.

“When the audience members hold a candle in their hand, the entire room lights up.”

Again, we are writing about multiple people, who cannot share one hand, so we need “hands.” This gives us the following:

“When the audience members hold a candle in their hands, the entire room lights up.”

However, this may imply that each person is using two hands to hold the candle, which may not be true. Perhaps each person only uses one hand to hold the candle. By solving the agreement problem, we have changed the meaning. (This example also seems to imply that all the audience members together are holding only one candle, which is another number agreement problem.)

Here’s my recommendation. Either make the body parts plural, as in the first example, or revise the sentence to avoid the problem. The second example can be revised several ways, but two possibilities are as follows.


Free E-book to Improve Your Writing Skills

Top writing strategies and expert instruction from
each of Precise Edit’s writing guides

  • 1 critical article from
    Precise Edit Training Manual
  • 8 days of instruction from
    300 Days of Better Writing
  • 5 top strategies from
    Bang! Writing with Impact
  • 2 essential word choices from Which Word Do I Use?
  • 1 major comma use from Zen Comma
  • 1 section on main verbs from Concise Guide to Technical and Academic Writing

Get the free e-book (PDF) OR

Purchase the Kindle version ($0.99).

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