The most important habit you can form is the daily writing habit. Even if you only write a page or two in a day, that’s OK. The important thing is to do it. Eventually, you’ll get there. Some days will be good; some will be not so good. Still sit down to write. It’s important that you have one dedicated time for writing. You might do more, at other times, but make that one time be sacred. It might be first thing in the morning, right after lunch, right after work, or right before bed. Choose a time that you can do every single day, without fail. Dedicate at least 30 minutes to writing … at first. Later, you’ll need at least an hour, preferably two. This will not only improve your writing habit, but also add creativity to your ideas.
The question mark can be used within a sentence (not just at the end of it) if wished, although you might prefer to use commas and leave the question mark for the end of the sentence it’s your choice, as both ways are correct. For example, take the situation of someone leaving their house in a hurry before a disaster and wondering what they might have time to take with them. The sentence could be written both of the following ways, noting that the second way provides a lot more emphasis:
- Would I have time to take my car, my horse, my photo album, my laptop, my favorite clothes and jewelry?
- Would I have time to take my car? my horse? my photo album? my laptop? my favorite clothes and jewelry? Note that you do not need capital letters as it remains one sentence.
In this sentence, the question marks are known as “interrupters” and either emphasize each of the separate question fragments, or show the close-linked nature of them.
Comma usage is one of the most complex, and most misunderstood, questions of proper punctuation. In some cases there are widely accepted rules governing comma usage; in a few cases, there is more than one acceptable approach. Students often think it’s silly to worry about things such as punctuation: after all, isn’t the legal analysis what really counts? However, when one applies for a job or submits written work to a supervisor, nothing will leave a more negative impression than ignorance of the basic rules of punctuation.
- When you begin a sentence with a phrase or dependent clause to introduce a subsequent independent clause, separate the clauses with a comma.
- Use commas to set off a nonrestrictive clause in the middle of a sentence, but not to set off a restrictive clause.
- Use two commas to set off an appositive or an aside in the midst of a sentence.
- Use two commas, not one, to set off a nonrestrictive clause in the middle of a sentence.
- Place a comma after a transitional word that introduces a sentence.
- When using commas to separate items in a list, place a comma before the conjunction that precedes the last separate item in the list, unless that last item is a compound term.
- Use a comma to separate two adjectives that modify the same noun, but do not use a comma if the first of two adjectives modifies the second adjective, but not the noun.
- Do not use a comma to replace the word “that.”
- Do not use a comma to separate the parts of a double predicate, unless the sentence would be confusing without it, or the second part of the double predicate requires special emphasis.
- When joining two independent clauses with a conjunction, place a comma before the conjunction. Conjunctions include the words “and,” “but,” “or,” “nor,” and “yet.”
- Generally, use a comma before “which” but not before “that.”
- Place commas inside, not outside, quotation marks.
- Use two commas when setting off dates and places.
The full stop is a punctuation mark indicating a strong pause. It is used most commonly at the end of a complete sentence like this one.
- This is a short sentence. This is another.
- It happened suddenly in 1996.
- There are two reasons for this (in my opinion).
The full stop is the strongest mark of punctuation. It is sometimes called the period.
Organizing thoughts into a coherent piece of writing can be a daunting task. The best way to pin those ideas down and put them into a form that others can follow is to use an outline. The tried-and-true I-II-III A-B-C outline works whether you have to churn out a paragraph, a page, or a paper. Here’s how to use it for a strong single paragraph;
Write the numbers 1-5 on a piece of paper.
- Next to #1, write your answer to the question, or your opinion on the topic, in a complete sentence. For example, if asked to write a paragraph about your favorite person, you might write, “My favorite person is my mother.”
- Next to #2, write one reason in support of your answer. For example, on the favorite person paragraph, you might write, “She knows how to help with homework.”
- Next to #3, write another reason in support of your answer. You might write, “She takes me wherever I need to go.”
- Next to #4, write a third reason in support of your answer. You might write, “She is very good at reading stories.”
- Next to #5, rephrase your answer or opinion from #1. You might write, “My mother is a wonderful person to me.”
- Copy your sentences #1-#5, one after the other, on your final sheet of paper. And there you have it — a coherent five-sentence paragraph: “My favorite person is my mother. She knows how to help with homework. She takes me wherever I need to go. She is very good at reading stories. My mother is a wonderful person to me.”
The example used here is a very simple paragraph for an early elementary assignment, but the same technique can be used for a more advanced open-ended question. Just answer the question in the first sentence; write one reason for that answer in the second; another reason in the third sentence; a third reason in the fourth sentence; and rephrase your answer for the fifth sentence.
Whether you’re composing a blog or a business letter, an email or an essay, our goal should be to respond clearly and directly to the needs and interests of our readers.
Follow these ten quick tips to improve your writing whenever you set out to inform or persuade.
- Lead with your main idea.
As a general rule, state the main idea of a paragraph in the first sentence–the topic sentence. Don’t keep your readers guessing.
- Vary the length of your sentences.
In general, use short sentences to emphasize ideas. Use longer sentences to explain, define, or illustrate ideas.
- Put key words and ideas at the beginning or end of a sentence.
Don’t bury a main point in the middle of a long sentence. To emphasize key words, place them at the beginning or (better yet) at the end.
- Vary sentence types and structures.
Vary sentence types by including occasional questions and commands. Vary sentence structures by blending simple, compound, and complex sentences.
- Use active verbs.
Don’t overwork the passive voice or forms of the verb “to be.” Instead, use active verbs in the active voice.
- Use specific nouns and verbs.
To convey your message clearly and keep your readers engaged, use concrete and specific words that show what you mean.
- Cut the clutter.
When revising your work, eliminate unnecessary words.
- Read aloud when you revise.
When revising, you may hear problems (of tone, emphasis, word choice, and syntax) that you can’t see. So listen up!
- Actively edit and proofread.
It’s easy to overlook errors when merely looking over your work. So be on the lookout for common trouble spots when studying your final draft.
10. Use a dictionary.
When proofreading, don’t trust your spellchecker: it can tell you only if a word is a word, not if it’s the right word.
Where do fictional characters come from? Does the stork bring them; do they grow in cabbage patches? Both seem like possibilities, since story characters can pop up just about everywhere else.
Some places to start:
- Someone you see on the street or in the supermarket. Imagine a life for this person, and you’ve got a fictional character.
- Take a picture of a person in a magazine. Invent a name for him or her, a personality, hopes and fears, annoying habits.
- Open the phone book to a random name. Let’s say you come up with “B. Goulding.” What might the “B.” stand for? Write down the first thing that comes to mind; for example, Bertha. When you imagine someone named Bertha Goulding, what mental picture occurs to you? I see someone tall and fat, maybe sixty years old, with black curly hair and red lipstick. Turn the name you’ve chosen into a fictional character.
When writing, you should use a formal, academic style. Academic writing does not have to be elaborate or complicated. A well-structured, straightforward paper is more easily understood and your ideas better appreciated than one filled with complicated sentences and words.
Strong academic writing must
- Be well-organized, with ideas presented in a logical order;
- Present objective analysis that is critical without being too negative or positive;
- Use clear language that is simple without being basic;
- Avoid emotional language.
Every field has its style of writing. The best way to become familiar with the style used in your field is to read and note how effective authors write.
- Do some short exercises to stretch your writing muscles Many new creative writers find that doing the washing up or weeding the garden suddenly looks appealing, compared to the effort of sitting down and putting words onto the page. Force yourself to get through these early doubts, and it really will get easier. Try to get into the habit of writing every day, even if it’s just for ten minutes.
- If you’re stuck for ideas, carry a notebook everywhere and write down your observations. You’ll get some great lines of dialogue by keeping your ears open on the bus or in cafes, and an unusual phrase may be prompted by something you see or smell.
- Work out the time of day when you’re at your most creative. For many writers, this is first thing in the morning before all the demands of the day jostle for attention. Others write well late at night, after the rest of the family have gone to bed. Don’t be afraid to experiment!
- Don’t agonize over getting it right. All writers have to revise and edit their work it’s rare that a story, scene or even a sentence comes out perfectly the first time. Once you’ve completed the initial draft, leave the piece for a few days then come back to it fresh, with a red pen in hand. If you know there are problems with your story but can’t pinpoint them, ask a fellow writer to read through it and give feedback.
HAVE FUN! If your plot seems wildly far-fetched, your characters bore you to tears and you’re convinced that a five-year old with a crayon could write better prose take a break. Start a completely new project, something which is purely for fun.
Writing is a skill that is acquired through conscious and persistent effort: it is not an instinctive skill that we are born with. There are several reasons why writing is more complex than speaking. One reason is that it is separate from any form of physical interaction: the writing stage can take place at a totally different time and place from the reading stage. This is why writers must try to perceive their text from the readers point of view and write in a way that is clear and relevant to their audience. Another reason is that writing is thought-active. The simple fact that you want to write about a topic triggers thought processes that give the topic a particular shape out of a range of alternatives. To use a computing metaphor, your mind reconfigures the topic in a way that allows it to be downloaded in a written form. This then influences the direction your text will take. If this direction is unsatisfactory, you have to think about the topic differently, reshaping and reorienting it. The changes that take place from thinking to writing explain why many novice writers complain that their final result is not what they initially wanted to express, or that what they mean comes out differently on the written page.