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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.  ...

WRITING: DANGLING MODIFIERS October 24, 2017

WRITING:  DANGLING MODIFIERS                  October 24, 2017 Another common problem in writing and grammar concerns modifiers that don’t modify clearly or at all. Dangling and misplaced modifiers can leave your reader confused and calling you for clarifications. This week, we’ll discuss dangling modifiers and use an example so that we can learn to put these modifiers in their place. (Another time, we’ll supply a similar treatment about misplaced modifiers–with explanations, examples, and fixes included.) A dangling modifier usually appears at the beginning of a sentence. At first glance it may seem to modify the word/words that follow it; a thorough read, though, will prove otherwise. Unlike some transitions, dangling modifiers can’t be “fixed” by moving them elsewhere in the sentence because no matter where they’re located they can’t adequately modify anything in the sentence. The fix: Either eliminate the modifier or rewrite the sentence. The problematic sentence: Tarnished beyond repair, I threw away my favorite vase. The problem: (Who or what was tarnished, the narrator, or the vase?) Fix #1 eliminates the modifier: I threw away my favorite vase. Fix #2 rewrites the sentence: I threw away my favorite vase; it was tarnished beyond repair. I threw away my favorite vase because it was tarnished beyond repair. Because my favorite vase was tarnished beyond repair, I threw it away. I threw away my favorite vase, tarnished beyond repair. As you can tell, modifiers play a key role in writing for reader comprehension.  To communicate clearly, first construct the sentence logically in your mind; then, write it down. Later, proofread your piece objectively to be sure that your message is clear for your reader to understand. If you follow these steps faithfully, you’ll never leave your readers “dangling” again. 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: THE 5 W’s October 13, 2017

WRITING:  THE 5 W’s                                                                   October 13, 2017 We’re constantly reading and writing, aren’t we?  Even if we aren’t, someone else is, and we want all necessary key elements to be included in the story.  You’ve probably noticed that in writing, nearly every newspaper story tells who did the what, as well as when, where, why and how he/she did it (unless some details are not yet available to law-enforcement personnel or they cannot be released to the public until after next of kin have been notified).  Those “W” key elements are known as the 5 W’s of journalism, with “how” sometimes included, too.  The same basics hold true for other story forms, too, whether nonfiction (true) or fiction (not true).  The game of “Clue” is a good example. Who:  especially the protagonist/main character.  Miss Plum? What:  a key part of the story’s plot.  What happened? When:  daytime? Nighttime? Between 4 and 6 a.m.? Where:  the setting for a story or a scene in a story/an article, a short story, a poem, a book.  In the drawing room? Why:  motive.  Because his partner had embezzled all of their joint funds? How:  With a gun? A knife? A candlestick? If you don’t have the 5 W’s in your story, you don’t have a complete story.   Not having a complete story gives a bad impression of your writing of that particular piece and can cause readers to question your credibility as a writer across the board.  It also causes inconvenience and extra use of time for readers who need the rest of the facts right now and for you if you’re going back in to fix/finish the story.  Always double-check that you have answered these questions fully and clearly for 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.      ...

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