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Essentials of Effective Writing

Effective writing begins with a desire not only to write but also to write well. Desire galvanizes your efforts to improve your writing skill no matter what.

There is no formula for success in writing. The key to success is “practice, practice, practice.” After all, writing is a skill; like any other skill, you must practice it before you can master it. You learn from your mistakes, and practicing writing improves your writing. If you write everyday, you will become a more competent and proficient writer. If you learn the mechanics and techniques of writing, your writing will become more effective. It is just a matter of time. And it is just that simple.

Writing is a learning experience for all. Anybody who wants to write learns how to write. One learns how to write by writing-just as one learns how to walk by walking. Everybody can write, as long as the heart is willing to learn and master the skill of writing.

However, to be a good writer, you must possess certain innate qualities:

An interest in words-the subtle shades of meaning between words; the power of words; the sound and rhythm of words

A knowledge of and passion for the subject-writing what you love and loving what you write

A creative mind-the creativity to visualize with vivid imagination, and to see things from different perspectives; the ability to see the relationship of the whole to its various parts

Personal discipline-time set aside to write, to re-write, to edit, and to re-edit

Willingness to learn and to improve-mastering basic writing skill through repeated practice and editing

Remember this: failing to prepare is preparing to fail.

Stephen Lau
Copyright© by Stephen Lau

Click here for more.

Essentials of Effective Writing

Effective writing begins with a desire not only to write but also to write well. Desire galvanizes your efforts to improve your writing skill no matter what.

There is no formula for success in writing. The key to success is “practice, practice, practice.” After all, writing is a skill; like any other skill, you must practice it before you can master it. You learn from your mistakes, and practicing writing improves your writing. If you write everyday, you will become a more competent and proficient writer. If you learn the mechanics and techniques of writing, your writing will become more effective. It is just a matter of time. And it is just that simple.

Writing is a learning experience for all. Anybody who wants to write learns how to write. One learns how to write by writing-just as one learns how to walk by walking. Everybody can write, as long as the heart is willing to learn and master the skill of writing.

However, to be a good writer, you must possess certain innate qualities:

An interest in words-the subtle shades of meaning between words; the power of words; the sound and rhythm of words

A knowledge of and passion for the subject-writing what you love and loving what you write

A creative mind-the creativity to visualize with vivid imagination, and to see things from different perspectives; the ability to see the relationship of the whole to its various parts

Personal discipline-time set aside to write, to re-write, to edit, and to re-edit

Willingness to learn and to improve-mastering basic writing skill through repeated practice and editing

Remember this: failing to prepare is preparing to fail.

Stephen Lau
Copyright© by Stephen Lau

Click here for more.

Essentials of Effective Writing

Effective writing begins with a desire not only to write but also to write well. Desire galvanizes your efforts to improve your writing skill no matter what.

There is no formula for success in writing. The key to success is “practice, practice, practice.” After all, writing is a skill; like any other skill, you must practice it before you can master it. You learn from your mistakes, and practicing writing improves your writing. If you write everyday, you will become a more competent and proficient writer. If you learn the mechanics and techniques of writing, your writing will become more effective. It is just a matter of time. And it is just that simple.

Writing is a learning experience for all. Anybody who wants to write learns how to write. One learns how to write by writing-just as one learns how to walk by walking. Everybody can write, as long as the heart is willing to learn and master the skill of writing.

However, to be a good writer, you must possess certain innate qualities:

An interest in words-the subtle shades of meaning between words; the power of words; the sound and rhythm of words

A knowledge of and passion for the subject-writing what you love and loving what you write

A creative mind-the creativity to visualize with vivid imagination, and to see things from different perspectives; the ability to see the relationship of the whole to its various parts

Personal discipline-time set aside to write, to re-write, to edit, and to re-edit

Willingness to learn and to improve-mastering basic writing skill through repeated practice and editing

Remember this: failing to prepare is preparing to fail.

Stephen Lau
Copyright© by Stephen Lau

Click here for more.

WHAT IS EFFECTIVE WRITING?

Effective writing is made up of effective sentences that must show some of the following characteristics:

Accuracy

An effective sentence must be grammatically correct. This includes observing the rules of grammar with respect to using the right parts of speech, agreement between subjects and verbs, between pronouns and antecedents, and correct spelling.

Emphasis

The arrangement of words in a sentence can determine which idea receives the most emphasis. To stress a word, place it at the end of a sentence or at the beginning of a sentence. A word or phrase receives the least emphasis when it is placed in the middle of a sentence.

e.g. For many families, foreclosure is the only option. (least emphatic)

e.g. Foreclosure, for many families, is the only option. (emphatic)

e.g. There is only one option for many families: foreclosure. (emphatic)

The use of inversion (reversing the normal order of words in a sentence) is another way of emphasizing an idea.

e.g. Parents who give their children a good moral education are wise. (normal order)

e.g. Wise are the parents who give their children a good moral education. (inversion)

e.g. Those who live without worries of daily problems are happy. (normal order)

e.g. Happy are those who live without worries of daily problems. (inversion)

Remember, not all sentences need special emphasis; effective writing generally contains a mix of some sentences in natural order and others re-arranged for special effects.

Stephen Lau
Copyright© by Stephen Lau
WHAT IS EFFECTIVE WRITING?

Effective writing is made up of effective sentences that must show some of the following characteristics:

Accuracy

An effective sentence must be grammatically correct. This includes observing the rules of grammar with respect to using the right parts of speech, agreement between subjects and verbs, between pronouns and antecedents, and correct spelling.

Emphasis

The arrangement of words in a sentence can determine which idea receives the most emphasis. To stress a word, place it at the end of a sentence or at the beginning of a sentence. A word or phrase receives the least emphasis when it is placed in the middle of a sentence.

e.g. For many families, foreclosure is the only option. (least emphatic)

e.g. Foreclosure, for many families, is the only option. (emphatic)

e.g. There is only one option for many families: foreclosure. (emphatic)

The use of inversion (reversing the normal order of words in a sentence) is another way of emphasizing an idea.

e.g. Parents who give their children a good moral education are wise. (normal order)

e.g. Wise are the parents who give their children a good moral education. (inversion)

e.g. Those who live without worries of daily problems are happy. (normal order)

e.g. Happy are those who live without worries of daily problems. (inversion)

Remember, not all sentences need special emphasis; effective writing generally contains a mix of some sentences in natural order and others re-arranged for special effects.

Stephen Lau
Copyright© by Stephen Lau
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Idioms

All at sea
: confused
e.g. The lawyer was all at sea when he read the two conflicting reports of the incident.

Handwriting on the wall: a warning
e.g. If the Governor had seen the handwriting on the wall, he would not have adopted those unpopular proposals.

Vested interest
: a personal stake
e.g. He showed a vested interest in his uncle’s business.

Get a handle on something
: get control or understanding of a situation
e.g. As soon as he heard the crisis, the President tried to put all the facts together to get a handle on the underlying cause of the crisis.

Make or break
: succeed or fail
e.g. This book will make or break my career as a writer.

Half a mind
: a thought about something but without specific details
e.g. I have half a mind to close the store since the business has not been good.

Above all
: most importantly
e.g. Above all, you must have a valid visa if you wish to continue to stay in the United States.

Go for broke: make great effort; risk everything
e.g. To win his re-election, the Mayor would go for broke.

Had better: ought to, should
e.g. You had better finish your homework before going to bed.

Then and there: on the spot
e.g. As soon as the candidate finished his speech, he was shot then and there.

Mind one’s p’s and q’s
: pay attention to one’s manners
e.g. When you meet the President, you must mind your p’s and q’s.

Stephen Lau
Copyright© by Stephen Lau

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Slang

Face-off
: a confrontation.

e.g. After my face-off with the manager, I quit the job.

Screw around
: waste time.

e.g. Stop screwing around! Find something to do!

Cop out: plead guilty.
e.g. I decided not to cop out and got a lawyer instead.

Beefcake:
a muscular man.

e.g. She has been dating a beefcake.
e.g. He goes to the gym regularly because he wants to be a beefcake.

Caught short: caught at a disadvantage.
e.g. The market plunged, and we were caught short just as thought we were on the road to recovery.

Beat about the bush; prevaricate; not being direct.
e.g. Don't beat about the bush; tell me what's on your mind.

Better than a slap in the eye: okay, acceptable.
e.g. Not all the goals were accomplished. Well, at least the project was completed on time; it's better than a slap in the eye.

Poison
: drink..
e.g. "What's your poison?" "I'll have a gin tonic."

Full bang
: full speed.
e.g. You have to go on full bang if you don't want to miss your flight.


By a long chalk
: by a great amount.
e.g. He lost his reelection by a long chalk.

Choosy: difficult to please.
e.g. Nobody likes to deal with you: you're a choosy customer.

Come clean: confess everything.
e.g. Under the police interrogation, the man finally came clean.

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Stephen Lau

Copyright© by Stephen Lau

-------------------------------------------------
The Use of Subjunctive Mood

Subjunctive mood indicates making a hypothetical statement (i.e. not true).

e.g. If I were you, I would do it. (Past tense for a present action to indicate something contrary to the fact)

e.g. If he were the president, he would do it. (He is not the president, and therefore he will not do it.)

e.g. If you worked hard now, you would pass the exam. (You are not working hard now, and so you will not pass the exam; it is merely an assumption. Compare: “If you work hard, you will pass the exam.” Here, it becomes a condition, and therefore there is a probability that you will pass the exam.)

e.g. If pigs had wings, they would fly. (Pigs do not have wings, and therefore they will never fly.)

Subjunctive mood can also be used in the past tense. In that case, the past perfect tense (instead of the past tense) is used to show the hypothetical statement in the past.

e.g. If he had been the president, he would have done it. (He was not the president, and so he did not do it.)

e.g. If you had worked hard last year, you would have passed the exam. (You did not work hard last year, and so you failed in the exam last year.)

Effective Writing Made Simple

Stephen Lau 
Copyright© by Stephen Lau

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The Correct Choice of Words

Writing has to do with words, in particular, the choice of words. A good stock of vocabulary is of course important. But other than that, you also need to know the exact meaning of each word so that you will use it correctly. There are many words that may sound similar, but they have different meanings, and thus they are confusing.


Mellow / Melodious

Mellow: mature; soft and pure; rich and full.
e.g. As he continues to age, he become more mellow and compassionate.
Melodious: tuneful; pleasant to the ear.
e.g. He voice is melodious; he should take up singing.

Reign / Rein

Reign means to rule over; rein means to control (e.g. an animal)
e.g. The emperor reigned over the country for decades.
e.g. You must rein in your hot temper.
e.g. Beware of giving free rein to your reason. (i.e. not release from any restraint).

Defuse / Diffuse

Defuse means to decrease the danger, such as deactivate a bomb; diffuse means to spread over a wide area.
e.g. It is difficult to defuse the conflicts in the Middle East.
e.g. Once you open the bottle of fragrant herbs, their scents will diffuse.

Genteel / Gentle

Genteel: well-bred, polite; imitating the lifestyle of the rich.
e.g. Your friend is genteel. Is he very rich?
e.g. All along he has been living in genteel poverty. He is not practical.

Faint / Feint

Faint (both as a noun and a verb) means loss of consciousness; feint means a misleading attack.
e.g. She fainted when she heard the bad news.
e.g. The robber, who gave a feint, began to attack the policeman.

Studio / Studious

Studio: a place where pictures are taken, or films are made.
e.g. The film was made in a Hollywood studio.
Studious: fond of study; careful and thoughtful.
e.g. To be a good scientist, you must be studious.

Hail / Hale

Hail means to greet or salute; hale means healthy and strong.
e.g. "Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee."
e.g. A man is hale when his complexion is rosy.

Some time
/ Sometime / Sometimes


Some time means a period of time.
Sometime, as an adverb, means approximately; as an adjective, means former or occasional.
Sometimes, as an adverb, means now and then.
e.g. We have been for the train for some time.
e.g. Why don't you visit me sometime?
e.g. She was my sometime girlfriend.
e.g. Sometimes I like her, and sometimes I don't -- that's our relationship.

Accountable to / Accountable for

Accountable to means responsible to someone; accountable for means responsible for something or having to explain.

e.g. The Manager has to be accountable to the Board; he has to be accountable for all his business decisions.

Lose / Loose

Lose means being unable to find; loose means to set free or to become less tight.
e.g. Here is your ticket to the game; don't lose it.
e.g. Don't lose your temper (become angry).
e.g. You are too loose with your children (you have little or no control over them).
e.g. This dress is too loose for you (it doesn’t fit).

Impersonate / Personate

Impersonate is to copy or imitate a person for fun; personate is to claim to be another person with the purpose to cheat or deceive.

e.g. The comedian impersonated the President to entertain the audience.
e.g. Someone personated the client, and took the money.

Recourse / Resort

Recourse means turning to others or something for help; resort means to turn to for help (both noun and verb).

e.g. His only recourse was the police.
e.g. The police should not resort to violence to stop the peaceful demonstration.
e.g. The army decided using violence as the last resort.

Decorative / Decorous

Decorative: having an artistic or showy effect.
e.g. The ballroom with all the ribbons and flowers are very decorative.
Decorous: showing good taste.
e.g. The Princess looks decorous in that simple but elegant dress.

Foul / Fowl

Foul means dirty or offensive; fowl  a fowl is a bird, such as hen.
e.g. The smoke from that factory fouls the air. (as a verb)
e.g. He always speak foul language, even in the presence of ladies. (as an adjective)
e.g. We are going to have a roast fowl for Thanksgiving.

Admit / Admit of

Admit means to confess an act; admit of means allow of or leave room for.

e.g. He did not admit taking the key without permission.
e.g. The circumstance admits of no delay.
e.g. His admission of guilt shows his honest personality.
e.g. There is no admittance for error.

English Words and Phrases Frequently Confused

Stephen Lau

Copyright© by Stephen Lau

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Misuse of the Semi-Colon

The Semicolon is one of the punctuation marks frequently misused in writing.

A semicolon is used between a dependent clause and an independent clause.

e.g. Although he was very tired; he did not want to go to bed. (incorrect)

e.g. Although he was very tired, he did not want to got to bed. (a comma should be used instead)

A semicolon is used to introduce a list.

e.g. The box was filled with everything but books; clothing, snacks, hammers and tools. (incorrect)

e.g. The box was filled with everything but books: clothing, snacks, hammers and tools. (a colon should be used instead)

A semicolon is not used between an introductory phrase and the rest of the sentence.

e.g. Her hands trembling; she managed to pour the toxic liquid into the tube. (incorrect)

e.g. Her hands trembling, she managed to pour the toxic liquid into the tube (a comma should be used instead)

Effective Writing Made Simple

Stephen Lau

Copyright© by Stephen Lau

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The Grammar Basics

Effective writing means knowing, learning, and understanding the grammar basics

Knowing the Grammatical Terms
Knowing the rules of grammar does not mean you will become a good writer, but it will certainly help you avoid bad writing. In addition, knowing the essentials of grammar may give you the following advantages:

Avoiding grammatical errors

Providing clarity to your writing

Giving credibility to your readers

Knowing grammatical terms is essential for effective writing because these grammatical terms provide a common language for talking about good writing.

Knowing the Eight Parts of Speech

Knowing grammar basics means knowing the eight parts of speech in English words and writing:

NOUNS

A noun names a person, place, or thing.

A noun can be singular (referring to only one) or plural (referring to more than one). Generally, you make a singular noun plural by adding an “s”; however, some nouns do not follow this general rule:

e.g. enemy becomes enemies

e.g. goose becomes geese

e.g. hero becomes heroes

e.g. sheep remains sheep

Some nouns are countable, e.g. books, while some are not, e.g. hunger.

A noun can be possessive (indicating ownership).

e.g. Tom and Jerry’s house (NOT Tom’s and Jerry’s house)

e.g. Jesus sayings (NOT Jesus’s sayings)

e.g. the bottom of the page (NOT the page’s bottom)

e.g. the characters of Star Wars (NOT Star Warscharacters)

A noun MUST AGREE with a verb in a sentence, that is, a singular noun requiring a singular verb, and a plural noun requiring a plural verb.

e.g. The data indicate (NOT indicates) that there is a strong demand for this type of goods. (data is the plural form of datum.)

e.g. The criteria for selection are based (NOT is) on the recommendations of the trustees. (criteria is plural)

e.g. Human rights is an important issue in this country. (singular: human rights treated as a single unit and thus requiring a singular verb)

e.g. Human rights are ignored in many parts of the world. (plural: human rights considered individual rights of people)

e.g. Four thousand dollars is a lot of money to me. (singular: a monetary unit)

A proper noun names a specific person, place, or event, e.g. Tom Cruise, Chicago, and World War I.

A proper noun is always capitalized, e.g. The Great Depression (BUT an economic depression).

VERBS

A verb expresses an action or a state of being.

Action verbs give life to sentences.

e.g. The police officer shot the suspect.

e.g. The bomb exploded.

e.g. He jumped for joy when he heard the good news.

Linking verbs complete sentences but without expressing any action.

e.g. We were unhappy.

e.g. My sister is a school teacher.

e.g. I have no money.

Some verbs can be both linking and action verbs.

e.g. The dish smells delicious. (The linking verb links to the quality of the smell; therefore, it is WRONG to say: “The dish smells deliciously.”)

e.g. The security guard’s dog smelled the man’s luggage. (an action verb)

A transitive verb carries an object; an intransitive verb does not.

e.g. The burglar took the money. (direct object: money)

e.g. My parents sent me some money. (direct object: money; indirect object: me )

e.g. The child is sleeping like a baby. (an intransitive verb)

Many verbs can be both transitive and intransitive.

e.g. We are eating our dinner. (transitive)

e.g. They are eating. (intransitive)

e.g. She sings folk songs. (transitive)

e.g. She sings beautifully. (intransitive)

Only transitive verbs can be used in the passive voice.

e.g. The suspect was shot by the police officer.

e.g. The money was taken by the burglar.

e.g. The money was sent by my parents.

Of course, there are other parts of speech you need to learn, as well, including adverbs, pronouns, adjectives, and prepositions etc. Once you are familiar with the grammar basics, then you can begin writing. With more practice, you can produce effective writing.

Effective Writing Made Simple

Stephen Lau
Copyright© by Stephen Lau