Tag Archives: grammatical writing

Parallelism

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When train tracks or skis are parallel, one of them doesn’t veer off. They stay the same distance apart. When writing, you want your prose to be parallel as well. When it isn’t, your readers will be jarred by the parts that veer off on their own. Here’s an example:

The most frequent causes of snowmobile accidents are mechanical failure, the driver is careless, and the weather conditions might be dangerous.

It’s easy to rewrite this sentence in parallel form, seeing that all the pieces are of the same grammatical form:

The most frequent causes of snowmobile accidents are mechanical failure, careless drivers, and dangerous weather conditions.

Here’s one more:

Roger is overworked and not paid adequately.

This is very easily fixed:

Roger is overworked and underpaid.

When you proofread what you’ve written, check to see that lists are in parallel form. If something grates on your ear, you’ll know how to fix it.

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Why I Post Writing Tips

English: Education.

English: Education. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I have been sending out writing tips for about 15 years. They end up going to thousands of people, primarily people who work in companies for which I gave business writing seminars. Do you ever stop to wonder why I send these tips out, tips that I now also post in my blog?  Because I want you to succeed.I cannot overemphasize how important it is to be able to write well.  By “well,” I mean writing clearly, concisely, precisely and confidently:

• Writing so your readers don’t have to guess what you mean

• Writing that invites your readers in

 • Writing that makes your readers feel good when they see they have received an email, letter or report from     you

• Writing your readers won’t delete before they even read it when they see who wrote the document

If you are looking for a job, your résumé is your calling card. Do you have any idea how many résumés are deleted at the first typo?  If a résumé has no typos but is badly organized or if it looks sloppy on the page, you can kiss that job goodbye.

If you have a job, your writing skills are no doubt part of your performance evaluation. Who will be promoted, a person whose writing is careless, ungrammatical, disorganized? Or will it be the person whose writing possesses the opposite of those characteristics? (Obviously, those are rhetorical questions.)

 

What will help your writing?  My tips can’t do it all. How I wish it were that simple. I do suggest you make a folder and save them for future reference, however.

The best thing you can do to improve your writing is to read, read, read. Find an author you like—it doesn’t have to be a so-called highbrow author—and just make yourself read. If you like a TV series, get the book it was based on. You’ll find it in iTunes or Amazon.

One other tip I used with my college students is a one-month experiment: write one page a day for 30 days. If you start on the 20th of the month, do this every day until the next 20th rolls around. Just write those single pages on any topic you want (each page can be a different subject), print them out, and put them in the order of oldest first.  After doing this for a month, start with the first page you wrote and read through them.  Finally, read the first page and then the most recent one you wrote. I guarantee you will see improvement you didn’t think would be possible.  No one read these for you. No one critiqued them. The improvement came from the simple act of writing.  Magic!

If you do this, I would love to hear from you at the end of your month. Remember, just one page a day. That is only about 250 words. No biggie!

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