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.

March 7, 2014

Use HUPAs sparingly.


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

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Using too many HUPAs indicates that the information isn’t interesting by itself and requires some strategy to make it seem interesting.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.


This is the strategy for day 127 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 7, 2014

From Bad to Good-Technical and Academic Writing


Academic and technical writing are far different than literary writing, such as novels and poetry. The primary purpose of academic and technical writing is to provide information about a defined topic to a specific audience. Whether you write graduate papers, professional journal articles, dissertations, white papers, manuals, websites, reviews, or similar documents, you are writing academic or technical documents.

Academic and technical writing can be bad writing. They can be complicated, tedious, and confusing. They can be terribly boring. Unfortunately, bad academic and technical writing is common (which makes bad writers nearly indistinguishable from their crowd of peers).

Why do people write badly? Possibly, they think the writing is supposed to be dull and confusing, or perhaps they think it sounds more professional. Maybe they have read a lot of poor writing, so when they review their writing, it sounds “right.”

On the other hand, academic and technical writing can be good writing. They can be clear and straightforward, logical, persuasive, and useful. They can be wonderfully interesting. Unfortunately, good writing is uncommon (which makes good writers stand out from their peers).  (more…)

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.

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