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WRITING: DASHING THROUGH THE SNOW January 16, 2018

WRITING:  DASHING THROUGH THE SNOW             January 16, 2018 DASHES VS. COMMAS & PARENTHESES:  Part A  The Dash/Dashes In writing, correct punctuation marks are critical to readily clarify relationships and meanings for readers, thereby avoiding confusion that cannot readily be resolved.  Writing is normally more formal than speaking, where listeners can say they’re confused, ask for clarity and receive it on the spot. Dashes, commas, and parentheses can be used effectively to set off material that interrupts the main sentence.  Today, we will deal only with dashes to keep readers’ attention.  We will have lessons on commas and parentheses very soon. DASHES emphasize the interrupting material.  Like the white-gloved traffic cop whose raised palm tells you to stop, the first dash points to the interrupting material and announces, “Time out! Stop, look, and listen!” Then, like the traffic cop who points to you when you’re permitted to resume driving, the closing dash points toward the remainder of the core clause, saying, “And, now, back to our show.”   The irritable child–with her constant complaining and crying–causes much distress. Notice how a dash is typed: with two unspaced hyphens when the en dash or em dash* are not available, without spaces between them and the word that precedes or follows:  child–with her constant complaining and crying– Do not use lone hyphens (spaced or unspaced) where dashes are necessary. Dashes: Can be formed in three ways, in three lengths, depending on their role within the sentence. When a dash separates numbers (often meaning “to”), it’s typed as a hyphen: pages 22-99              October 18-24           Social Security Number 193-48-2765 A dash often indicates a break in thought: Race me–if you think you have a chance to win. They try–but do not always meet–the professor’s impossible deadlines. Four unspaced hyphens are used as a dash that replaces an omitted word: It’s a secret! I can’t tell the name of her lover, Mr. —-!  [Only this kind of dash is preceded by a space.] A dash or a pair of dashes sets off and emphasizes a key insertion. Many men have adored Sophia Loren–one of the loveliest women alive. Sophia Loren–one of the loveliest women alive–has been adored by many men. If your sentence continues after an interruption, you must end it with a second dash. Note that your sentence must make sense if the interruption is removed. Although Beth took up painting–somebody said she had a natural talent–she soon realized that she lacked sufficient training. Again, your sentence should make perfect sense, logically and grammatically (be...

WRITING: TRANSITIONS January 2, 2018

WRITING:  TRANSITIONS                                                January 2, 2018 When writing, we must create a road map of sorts for our readers to follow.   Readers need to be able to understand how and why our thoughts–phrases, clauses, sentences, paragraphs, and sections–are related to one another. To that end, our thoughts must be connected appropriately and clearly via the use of transitions–specifically, sentence adverbs and transitional phrases–to make reading and comprehension fluid and easy. As you will see, a sentence adverb and a transitional phrase relate and connect the second sentence with the first.   Example: Without sentence adverb: I had planned to go to the movies last night.   After a hard day at work I went home and slept all evening. With sentence adverb: I had planned to go to the movies last night.   However, after a hard day at work I went home and slept all evening. With transitional phrase: I had planned to go to the movies last night.   Surprising to no one, after a hard day at work I went home and slept all evening. See the difference?  The first set of two sentences has a choppy sound to them because they are not connected by a sentence adverb; conversely, the other sets flow smoothly because they are connected by transitions. Anything that writers and editors can do to make text readily understandable for readers is well worthwhile! Many lessons and bits of advice in this writing/grammar series have been taken from Writestyle’s online campus of courses covering Grammar, Punctuation, Proofreading, and Editing.  If you need help, we’re here for you.        ...

WRITING: PARALLELISM December 4, 2017

WRITING:  PARALLELISM                                                December 4, 2017 Our writing should flow well for our readers. When we write parts of the sentence in parallel fashion, we keep things logical, clear, and easy to read. Parallelism gives the sentence a sense of coordination and unity, rhythm and power. One of the best examples of parallelism came from President Abraham Lincoln: “. . . that the government of the people, by the people, and for the people shall not perish from the earth.” Now, compare the following examples: Nonparallel: I’ve spent the past week reading, some writing, and I took long walks. That sentence jolts readers, causing them to pause and think between the two independent clauses.   They think, “Wait a second. I have to read this again. What’s the writer talking about? Is a word or two missing? It feels weird. Shouldn’t it be worded in a different way?” Now, look at how the next sentence differs. Parallel: I’ve spent the past week reading, writing, and taking long walks. By contrast, the second sentence–one independent clause–flows smoothly because of the use of parallelism in the gerunds “reading,” “writing,” and “taking.” The sentence is parallel and easy to read within an economy of words. In this lesson we have given you a brief overview of parallelism in sentence structure. You now should have a good idea of how to construct parallel sentences. If you feel that you need a comprehensive treatment, you may wish to enroll in Writestyle’s Editing course. Also, we used an example of parallelism that was written and spoken by a famous person in world history.   What other famous examples of excellent parallelism can you find? Many lessons and bits of advice in this writing/grammar series have been taken from Writestyle’s online campus of courses covering Grammar, Punctuation, Proofreading, and Editing.  If you need help, we’re here for you.      ...

WRITING: ELUSIVE TERMS November 25, 2017

WRITING: ELUSIVE TERMS                    November 25, 2017 For speaking and writing, the dictionary defines “elusive” as follows:  “eluding one’s clear perception; hard to express or define; skillfully evasive.”   Some words in the English language are elusive.   Such words may seem to add substance or description to our communications, and some can be helpful in verbal situations. In writing, however, they rarely add anything to the cause. In fact, they often interfere with reader comprehension. Some examples of elusive terms are:  all that, all that much, very, just, rather, somewhat, quite, like, at that point in time.  Let’s discuss each of them.   Maybe you’ve noticed that usage of “all that“ ranges from interesting to irritating. In a form of modern slang, some GenXers sometimes say, “She thinks she’s all that.” To the rest of us, what IS “all that“? It seems to mean, for example, that a girl considers herself to be the best, and her attitude shows in her snobbish behavior. In another example, some say, “I didn’t like it all that much,” such as while testing a product in a marketing survey. The listener, though, doesn’t know what “that” is or the speaker’s basis for comparison; as a result, he/she is left to wonder, “How much is that much?” Speakers can prevent such problems by saying simply, “I didn’t like it,” or by adding an explanation: “I didn’t like it well. I like the concept, but I don’t like the taste.” In this last example we have clear usage that anyone can understand.   “Very“ often is used in exaggeratedly in conversations. When people are eager to amplify their description of an event, they may merely take the word from “very” to “v-e-e-e-ry,” with the possible inclusion of a few head nods. If that isn’t sufficient, the speaker is inclined to bring in the big ammo–voluminous vocal inflections, eyeball and head movements, and arm gestures.  That’s the beauty of conversation, especially informal moments; you can say as little or as much as you want.   “Just“ is often substituted for “only” and “simply.”   Again, such usage is okay in informal conversation. But, in writing and formal situations, if you mean “only” or “simply” you should use the correct word so that no misunderstandings will occur.   Some people consider “rather,” “somewhat,” and “quite” to be high-brow terms. “Rather” and “somewhat” indicate a small degree; “quite” indicates much more. Whereas in conversation you may have a chance to clarify, in writing you will not.   “Like“ has been used in a slang sort...

WRITING: SENTENCES November 7, 2017

WRITING:  SENTENCES                                                   November 7, 2017 In writing, if all sentences were the same type and of a similar length, reading could become less interesting.  Alternating sentence types and lengths, whenever possible, makes writing and reading more interesting.  Fortunately, we have three different types of sentences.   Simple:  I am going to cut the grass. Very-simple and very-short sentences are most often geared toward young children to suit their limited reading and/or comprehension levels.   Compound (more than one part):  I am going to cut the grass, and then I am going to trim the bushes. Compound sentences are for readers of average ability.   Complex:  I am going to cut the grass [Part 1, independent clause, complete thought/sentence], and then I am going to trim the bushes [Part 2, independent clause, complete thought/sentence], which is what all homeowners should do to take good care of their properties [Part 3, dependent clause, incomplete thought/sentence].   Complex sentences that contain short, easy-to-understand independent clauses and a short dependent clause also are usually for average readers.   However, a complex sentence can become more complex as more and longer parts are added.  Those parts can be independent clauses (they usually follow a semicolon), but they’re often dependent clauses.  The more parts that are added, the more difficult the sentence becomes for less-sophisticated readers to follow.   Varying sentence type and length is okay to keep interest in your writing, but more important than that is to tailor sentence length and word choice appropriately for your readers.   Many lessons and bits of advice in this writing/grammar series have been taken from Writestyle’s online campus of courses covering Grammar, Punctuation, Proofreading, and Editing.  If you need help, we’re here for you.  (Note: Our very-old Web site, https://writestyle.com, is being revamped but is still accessible.)   Vickie L. Weaver’s beloved rhyming picture book, My Child, I’ll Still Be Loving You, highlights the parent-child bond while her biography, Dancing in the Stars, entertains and inspires via dance, romance, history, Vaudeville and Hollywood.  ...

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