Through the piercing screech of chalk on the blackboard, you discern a command: "Never start a sentence with 'and' or 'but,'" your school teacher stated. Forget this "rule." It's perfectly fine to begin a sentence with a conjunction, such as or, but, and or so. Most experts think the made-up rule stemmed from an oversimplification; … Continue reading Can I start a sentence with “but” or “and”?
A headline can make or break a story. Nowadays, it's not enough to get readers to click on an article or a review. We want them to read it, share it and, in many cases, go on to purchase a product. The elements of an effective headline have changed dramatically over the past few years, … Continue reading How to write an engaging headline
In past tips, I've highlighted the importance of avoiding wordiness. Clear, concise writing conveys your message quickly and directly, and helps us keep readers' attention. One way to do this is to avoid redundancy. We can eliminate adjectives and prepositions that some words' meanings already include. For example, the phrase "tall skyscraper" is redundant because … Continue reading Avoid redundancy
If I told you, "You will not get paid Friday," you'd probably be pretty upset. But that statement also leaves a lot in question. Does it mean that you'll miss a paycheck altogether, or that you'll be paid on a different day? Maybe you'll get your check early. You just don't know. Usually, unless you're … Continue reading Stay positive!
Using precise, vivid language strengthens and clarifies your writing. It helps readers visualize your ideas and prevents the confusion that can arise from vague descriptions. Consider the following examples: Vague: This pizza is gross. Specific: This pizza tastes like a year-old, microwaved waffle slathered in crusty ketchup and globs of Cheez Whiz. Vague: The kids … Continue reading Use precise, vivid language
You're going to fall over when you read this, but this email will change your life. I'm exaggerating, of course. Hyperbole weakens writing. To quote William Zinsser's "On Writing Well" (yes, again), "These verbal high jinks can get just so high … before the reader feels an overpowering drowsiness. It's like being trapped with a … Continue reading Life-changing advice: Avoid hyperbole
"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times." "I came, I saw, I conquered." "Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country." Their parallel structure is one reason they're memorable. WHY SHOULD YOU CARE? The human brain likes patterns, and using parallel … Continue reading Keep your sentences parallel
At some point, a teacher or professor probably told you to avoid fallacies in your writing. What are fallacies? Put simply, fallacies are arguments or conclusions based on faulty logic. Avoiding them will strengthen your writing and help gain readers' trust. There are many fallacies, but today I'll highlight one: hasty generalization. What is hasty … Continue reading Forbidden fallacies: Hasty generalization
If you find yourself writing any of the following phrases, stop! These wordy expressions muddle your message and, in some cases, don't add any meaning. Below, I've outlined some phrases to avoid, along with more concise alternatives that will help keep readers engaged in your writing. in terms of when it comes to as far … Continue reading Avoid these wordy phrases
Syntax. It may sound like a boring grammar term, but correct syntax can mean the difference between an accurate message and utter humiliation. What is syntax? In short, syntax is the order or arrangement of words. Bad syntax can lead to embarrassing or incorrect statements. Case in point: More embarrassing mistakes A couple of years … Continue reading Scary syntax: Avoid this embarrassing mistake