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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.      ...

WRITING: ONE WORD, OR TWO? OR … September 19, 2017

WRITING:  ONE WORD, OR TWO? OR …                   September 19, 2017 Clarity is everything in writing and in speaking. In person you have a chance to clear things up if what you said or asked didn’t quite make sense.  But, in writing you don’t have that luxury; you have to be clear up front.  Correct and sufficient punctuation can do much to help across the board, including to indicate whether two words should be together as one or should stay separated. Examples:  Decision maker            life long vs. lifelong    eyedrops vs. eye drops Tom is the decision maker.  Becoming an author has been her lifelong goal.  I need to use more eyedrops.  As she turns around, an eye drops into the bucket. A list of words that people often aren’t sure about–one word, or two—can be found at https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/901458.One_Word_Two_Words_Hyphenated and http://iws.collin.edu/dparker/tw_class_3211/proposals/Word-List.pdf   What’s a third option?  Hyphenation.  Two words that are working together as a compound adjective to describe a noun need a hyphen between them, without spaces. Unclear:  That face licking dog is cute. Is a face licking a dog? What’s happening here? Clear:  That face-licking dog is cute. Which dog is cute?  The dog that is licking a face is cute. Here’s another sentence that is confusing without punctuation inside it.  “We are rewarding our prizes and special access based on attendee ordering sequence.” What’s going on?  Are attendees ordering a sequence?  If so, a sequence of what? Clear correction:  We are rewarding our prizes and special access based on attendee-ordering sequence. The other way around confusion is to rethink and rewrite the sentence: We are rewarding our prizes and special access to attendees who order first. We are rewarding our prizes and special access based on the sequence in which attendees order. We are rewarding our prizes and special access on a first-come, first-served basis. We are rewarding our prizes and special access: Order first to get them first.   See how clear sentences can be with sufficient punctuation?  (Sigh) I love clarity! Many lessons and bits of advice in this writing/grammar series have been taken from Writestyle’s online campus.          ...

WRITING: GENDER-SPECIFIC PRONOUNS/LANGUAGE September 8, 2017

WRITING:  GENDER-SPECIFIC PRONOUNS/LANGUAGE       September 8, 2017 This special, extra weekly issue has been prompted by extraordinary current events. It’s important–please read and share it with others ASAP.   Usage of gender-specific pronouns verbally and in writing used to be straightforward and simple: “he” “him” “his” “boy” “man” “guy” “dude” “male” (and such) → to/about a human male; “she” “her” “hers” “girl” “woman” “gal” “broad” “female” (and such) → to/about a human female.   Nowadays, though, in turns of events that many of us never imagined, genders aren’t always as clear as they used to be; so, pronouns aren’t, either.  If you confuse us with a gender change or with how you identify with gender, we can’t always be sure how to address you.   Recently, here in the good ol’ USA, some people, even children, have gotten into legal trouble after using incorrect gender-related pronouns.  What?  Are you as shocked as I?  What’s next–being arrested for using incorrect grammar in any form?  News flash: If that’s the case, we need a million new jails, yesterday.   People who complain about incorrect usage of gender-related pronouns should do a reality check.  Pronto!  They’ll have to get over themselves and be objective.  With gender-change surgeries going on, and a person looking like one gender but in physical/private reality being the other, the reality for the rest of us is that we’re not always sure what to say and we can’t all be expected to know.  Young children are especially confused or unknowing; in many cases, explaining a gender change to a child is NOT an option.   Whether we jump to conclusions or proceed with caution, we could still say the ‘wrong’ pronoun or something else that unintentionally might offend.  Complainants who can be objective, after all, have to realize that if they were in our shoes, they probably would have as much trouble with such situations and pronouns as we’re having.   The rest of us will do our best as tactfully and courteously as we can.  So, complainants and others, including educators and law-enforcement people, should be reasonable and logical when our pronouns aren’t quite on target—or they might be the ones who get in trouble.   Traditionally, “it” has been used for animals and inanimate objects, and occasionally in reference to a stranger’s baby whose gender we don’t know (“the baby”).  An older child or adult who identifies with or has changed to the other gender is a human being; using “it” is not an acceptable option for...

WRITING: INTERVIEWING & JOURNALISM September 7, 2017

WRITING:  INTERVIEWING & JOURNALISM                         September 7, 2017 An editor or a writer should maintain a consistent tense when writing a person’s quotes/comments—EITHER all present tense (Jones says) OR all past tense (Jones said). An alternate word choice for “says” and “said” is okay occasionally, such as the following: Jones explains that businesses . . .; In addition, Jones believes that . . . ; He adds that when . . . Also, not all statements by an interviewee have to be within quotation marks.  Traditional journalistic writing alternates between quoting (“Telecommunications and office furniture all have to work in harmony today,” says Jones, “or businesses are just throwing their money away.”) and reporting (Jones explains that businesses often buy chairs and aren’t taught how to adjust them for ergonomic comfort.). Decide which tense and quotation method will work best for you in each situation of your interviewing and writing, remember “Just the facts, ma’am” (no editorializing or dirty journalism!), and delight readers with your story.  You can do it!   Many lessons and bits of advice in this writing/grammar series have been taken from Writestyle’s online campus....

WRITING: TO SPLIT OR TO FIX? August 29, 2017

WRITING:  TO SPLIT OR TO FIX?                                   August 29, 2017 Having house guests for two weeks was fun, but I got behind in my work and then I was sick last week.  Thank you for returning for more writing and grammar info!   Sometimes writing is very easy, and the sentences flow readily from our minds through our fingers onto the page.  At others, though, some phrases/sentences become like tongue twisters and don’t seem to come out right, no matter what we do.  Trying to force writing and rhyme can cause discomfort and dissonance for both writers and readers.  What to do?   The Problem When you’re experiencing too much difficulty and/or confusion in writing or editing a sentence, step back, slow down, and read it out loud.  Was it uncomfortable for you to say and hear?  If so, look at/listen to the parts, and figure out what and where the problems are.  Is logic/clarity the only problematic issue?  Does it sound clunky and odd, without a smooth flow?  Can you easily move or delete a word or two in order to achieve logic and a comfortable flow?  If not . . .   The Solution Consider reconstructing/rewriting the sentence or splitting it into two or three sentences, depending on its length.  Also, think about whether text would be clearer, easier to read and hear, and overall more effective if portions are relocated/switched.  You can even try both possibilities.  Think at the sixth-grade level (newspaper writing/broadcast news) instead of doctorate level.  Can you also get rid of any unnecessary or interfering words?  If you really get stuck, ask someone for help.  Then, reread to make sure that the flow of thought and logic have survived.  Will it make sense to your readers and be easy for them to read/say?  If so, you’re good to go. Don’t let a lack of flow and logic trip up or halt your writing, or even take half an hour to resolve.  Getting upset and sending the piece out in problematic form won’t help, either.  It should be easy enough to resolve; be objective and give it a reasonable second chance.  Always go with what’s best for your readers.   Many lessons and bits of advice in this writing/grammar series have been taken from Writestyle’s online campus.  Like this blog and find it helpful?  Watch your inbox for more!    ...

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