You've probably heard this advice before, but it bears repeating: Write with stronger verbs (action words), instead of adding adverbs. The right verb can do the job of both the verb and the adverb, making your writing more powerful, engaging, concrete and concise. Adverbs, on the other hand, are often unnecessary. Adverbs describe the way … Continue reading Why most adverbs are unnecessary
A few months ago, I wrote about why you shouldn't follow the made-up rule to never start a sentence with and or but. This week, I'm defying your grade-school teacher again. You've likely heard the old-fashioned maxim to never end a sentence in a preposition (such as after, at, before, for, in or through). Although … Continue reading Can you end a sentence in a preposition?
We have only a few seconds to capture and retain readers' attention. That's why it's so important for the lede or intro to be clear and compelling: We want people to keep reading, engage with our content and, in many cases, go on to buy a product. There are several ways to engage readers in … Continue reading Lead off right
I've mentioned the importance of avoiding fallacies, which are errors in logic that weaken an argument. By eliminating them, we strengthen our statements and gain readers' trust. In a previous tip, I covered one type of fallacy, called hasty generalization. Today, I'll highlight another: post-hoc. A post-hoc argument assumes a direct cause-and-effect relationship between two … Continue reading What is ‘post-hoc’? Strengthen your writing by avoiding this fallacy
In this post, I'll review another set of homophones, or words that sound alike but have different meanings. Do you know the difference between compliment and complement? Read on to see some examples of their uses and to learn a trick for remembering which is which. Compliment is a noun or a verb that denotes … Continue reading Compliment vs. complement: What’s the difference?
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 you start a sentence with “but” or “and”?
Some people think hyphens are unnecessary; others overuse them. It's a divisive topic even among copy editors. But if you think hyphens don't matter, consider the following examples: People who believe in hate-free speech are quite different from those who hate free speech. You'd likely react differently to a man eating chicken than you would … Continue reading Why hyphens matter
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
Rivaling the Oxford comma, the so-called singular they is one of the most debated grammar topics. What do I mean by "the singular they"? I'm referring to the use of they as a gender-neutral pronoun to mean he or she (and the use of them in place of him or her, and their instead of … Continue reading The singular “they” and guidance on gender