300 Days of Better Writing

June 18, 2014

Interject and isolate statements for impact.


One way to emphasize a point is to interject it into a sentence and isolate it with punctuation. Consider this sentence.

“The modern poet, thriving on his own perceived cleverness, will break the conventions of language use.”

We could have used “thriving on his own perceived cleverness” to make a separate sentence. However, by interjecting it into this sentence, and then isolating it with commas, we force the reader to pay close attention to the idea it communicates.

First, the reader will pause before the phrase (due to the first comma). This alone creates emphasis. Then, when the reader realizes that we are stopping the main idea of the sentence to express some idea, the reader will pay close attention to what we are stating. After all, if we are willing to interrupt ourselves, we must think that the idea is very important. The reader, as a result, will pay close attention. This is impact.


This is the strategy for day 297 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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June 5, 2014

Use quotes around words to draw special attention or when using them in a new or ironic way.


When you are using a word in a new way or you want to create ironic emphasis, you can place the word in quotes. This is the same as using “air quotes” while speaking. Generally, you do this to indicate that the meaning you are communicating is different than the usual meaning of a word. Consider this sentence.

“He tried to be ‘friendly’ with the woman seated next to him at the opera.”

The quotes around “friendly” indicate that you are communicating something other than normal friendliness. (Perhaps he tried to put his arm around her while pretending to stretch.)


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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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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April 9, 2014

Spell out your acronyms.


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 . . . .”


This is the strategy for day 156 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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