Tips on Effective Writing

Be Mindful of Your Prose

To make your paper great and effective, here are some tips:

Word Choice

  • Try to avoid using slang words and/or fillers (ex. “like…I am going to explain…in light of the fact that…what I mean to say”)
  • Noun & pronoun à inanimate objects do not take on personal pronouns (“I read many poems, and they were all great!” [“and each one was great!”]
  • Avoid repetition
    • Green in color” – by stating that it is green, the audience already knows that it’s a color
    • “Beautiful and lovely” – you are essentially using similar words to describe the same aspect
    • “If I run today, I will run through the woods.” – the same word is used twice in one sentence
    • Eliminate words such as who, which, that  when unnecessary
    • Do not repeat the same points in multiple consecutive sentences – it is more effective for you to get your point across in 1-2 sentences than repeating it multiple times in different ways
  • If you are not sure if a word is correct (or actually is a word) DO NOT USE IT! –Try a different word!

Tenses

  • Be mindful of your tenses
    • If speaking about a piece of writing (novel, poem, short story, etc.), you write in the present tense – the text still exists
    • If you start a paper in the present…maintain the present and/or active voice!!

 

Subject-Verb Agreement

  • Compound Subjects
    • Using  ‘and’ between two subjects à takes a plural verb (“The teacher and the student worked on the paper.”)
  • Or – Either/Or
    • When joined by  ‘or’ [‘either/or’] the verb takes the tense closer to it (“Gang colors or dyed hair is not allowed in school.” “Either the teacher or the students are going to push for shorter days.”)
  • Who, Which, & That
    • When ‘who’, ‘which’ or ‘that’ is used as the subject, the verb agrees with the antecedent (“They are students who study hard.”—“He is the student who studies hard.”)

Other commons issues to be mindful of:

  • Plural-possessive
    • Be aware of where the apostrophe is placed (“The women’s dresses” vs. “The bears’ claws”)
    • Run on sentences à if a sentence goes on for more than 4-5 lines without correct grammar/punctuation it is most likely an run-on (add conjunctions or split sentences)
    • Sentence fragments à dangling modifiers are incomplete sentences; all sentences need a subject & a verb
  • A dangling modifier is a word or word group that refers to/modifies a word or phrase that has not been clearly stated in the sentence. (After getting a degree in education, the student teacher needed more experience in the classroom to become an effective teacher.)

Before you hand in your paper you should:

  1. Read your paper aloud (if you stumble over words—your readers will as well)
    1. Any moment that you have to pause or take a breath, check to see if there is punctuation (if not…you probably need to put something there)
  2. Check spelling & capitalization (most handwritten papers are looked at as rough drafts BUT capitalization and spelling does affect the pathos of your text)