Writing Actions: Freewriting

Freewriting offers one method of clearing and opening your mind. You can freewrite by writing non-stop, on any topic, for a specific length of time. Do not stop to edit or evaluate what you are writing, and, if you cannot think of anything, keep repeating your last word or phrase until you get going again. The point of freewriting is to unblock your thought processes, and put you in the mood to express ideas in writing. The topic or relevance of what you are writing is, at this stage, put aside. Many writers find that freewriting allows them to approach their task in an uninhibited way.

Significance of Audience Analysis

Your audience analysis will determine your choice of content – what and how much information you need to give – and style – how you will present this information. Style refers to the emphasis you put on certain ideas and the tone that you adopt in relation to the information you present: your overall attitude and approach as this manifests in the language you use. Your style is formed through your word choice and sentence structure. So, following the results of your audience analysis, you may decide to show a lighthearted approach through your writing – or maybe an evaluative, serious, pompous or respectful approach. In all, for a text to be successful, there must be writer-reader complicity. In other words, the readers must feel that the writer is on their side, supporting their interests and respecting their needs. If readers feel that a writer treats them as an example of a general category, rather than as specific individuals or a specific company, they are more likely to resist accepting the information given.

Fix the Spelling Mistakes

Whatever writing problems you have, you must stop making spelling errors! You can follow these easy steps to eliminate the errors:

  • Always write in a robust word processor that has spell-checking capabilities.
  • Use the spell-checker; fix the errors it identifies.
  • When you use a name whether a person’s name, the name of a team, the name of a place, or even the name of a horse, by gosh, make sure you spell it correctly. Look it up on line if you have even the slightest doubt.
  • Read your work. Read it out loud. Have you used a word that sounds like another word but has a different spelling? Make certain you’ve used the correct word. If you don’t know, look it up! Typing the word in Google might save you some embarrassment.
  • Create a cheat sheet. All writers use words that won’t stick in their heads. For example, without assistance, I would misspell embarrassment even though I’ve been aware of this problem for more than 30 years! If you constantly misuse your, you’re, and yore, add them to your cheat sheet, and stick it to your monitor so you never again make the mistake.

If you can’t correct your own spelling, despite the awesome technology at your disposal, get someone to read your work before you publish it.

What are idioms?

Idioms & meaning

Idioms are expressions which have the meaning that is not obvious from the individual words. For example, the idiom drive somebody round the bend means make somebody angry or frustrated, but we cannot know this by looking at the words.

The best way to understand an idiom is to see it in context. If someone says:

  • This tin opener driving me round the bend! I think I’ll throw it away and get a new one next time I’m in town.

Then the context and the comma sense tells us that drive round the bend means something different from driving a car round a curve in the road. The context tells us the tin opener is not working properly and that it is having an effect on the person using it.

THE QUESTION MARK

A tag question is a device used to turn a statement into a question. It nearly always consists of a pronoun, a helping verb, and sometimes the word not. Although it begins as a statement, the tag question prevails when it comes to the end-mark: use a question mark. Notice that when the statement is positive, the tag question is expressed in the negative; when the statement is negative, the tag question is positive. (There are a few exceptions to this, frequently expressing an element of surprise or sarcasm: “So you’ve made your first million, have you?” “Oh, that’s your plan, is it?”) The following are more typical tag questions:

  • He should quit smoking, shouldn’t he?
  • He shouldn’t have quit his diet, should he?
  • They’re not doing very well, are they?
  • He finished on time, didn’t he?
  • She does a beautiful job, doesn’t she?
  • Harold may come along, mightn’t he?
  • There were too many people on the dock, weren’t there?

(Be careful of this last one; it’s not “weren’t they?”)

Mind Mapping

What is Mind Mapping ?

Mind mapping is similar to brainstorming but more visual and less linear. Create mind maps by:

  • Starting with a word or image central to your topic.
  • Placing it in the middle of a big sheet of paper and drawing a line radiating out from it to a major subdivision of the topic.
  • Circling that subdivision, and drawing a line radiating out from it to a more specific subdivision.
  • Continue the process until you run out of ideas.

Mind mapping is especially useful to those who find it easier to assimilate and understand schematic information than linear or sentence-based reasoning.

Commas

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.

Capitalization Rules

Rules of Capitalization

  1. Capitalize the first word of a quoted sentence.
  2. Capitalize a proper noun.
  3. Capitalize a person’s title when it precedes the name. Do not capitalize when the title is acting as a description following the name.
  4. Capitalize the person’s title when it follows the name on the address or signature line.
  5. Capitalize the titles of high-ranking government officials when used before their names. Do not capitalize the civil title if it is used instead of the name.
  6. Capitalize any title when used as a direct address.
  7. Capitalize points of the compass only when they refer to specific regions.
  8. Always capitalize the first and last words of titles of publications regardless of their parts of speech. Capitalize other words within titles, including the short verb forms Is, Are, and Be.
  9. Capitalize federal or state when used as part of an official agency name or in government documents where these terms represent an official name. If they are being used as general terms, you may use lowercase letters.
  10. Do not capitalize names of seasons.
  11. Capitalize the first word of a salutation and the first word of a complimentary close.
  12. Capitalize words derived from proper nouns.
  13. Capitalize the names of specific course titles.
  14. After a sentence ending with a colon, do not capitalize the first word if it begins a list.
  15. Do not capitalize when only one sentence follows a sentence ending with a colon.
  16. Capitalize when two or more sentences follow a sentence ending with a colon.

Grammar

Grammar is a subject too complex to be summarized here.  Poor grammar may do nothing worse than irritating your readers.  Sometimes, however, poor grammar can make your writing confusing or impossible to understand.

Be careful with spelling, and especially with homonyms (words which sound the same but are spelled differently).  You may have correctly spelled a word that you didn’t mean to use.  “Joe is a little horse” is a very different statement from “Joe is a little hoarse.”

Incorrect punctuation can change the meaning of a sentence.  “My brother’s money” belongs to my brother, but “my brothers’ money” belongs to my brothers.  A misplaced comma can turn one modifier into two different modifiers.  “He arrived for his appointment, late yesterday afternoon,” suggests that he arrived on time for an appointment in the late afternoon.  “He arrived for his appointment late, yesterday afternoon,” suggests that he was late for his appointment.

Failure to understand the parts of speech can also cause confusion.  If, instead of “I feel bad,” you write, “I feel badly,” it sounds as if you are not very good at feeling.