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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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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

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AN EFFECTIVE PARAGRAPH

Any piece of writing -- whether it is exposition (defining or explaining), description, narration (telling a story), or persuasion (arguing) -- is composed of paragraphs. To write well, you must have relevant ideas that are well presented in your paragraphs.

How do you write an effective paragraph if you have all the ideas?

You begin your paragraph by identifying the topic. You can achieve this objective using several different approaches:

Direct approach -- saying directly what the paragraph is all about -- e.g. "Racial discrimination is a social problem in the United States."
"Fasting is the most effective way to permanent weight loss,"

Indirect approach -- e.g. "Iron is essential for life. It is required to transport oxygen in the blood, as well as to burn food and body fat. Iron deficiency has long been a health concern in the medical field. But, recently, scientists discovered that too much iron could cause cancer and heat diseases."

Limiting-the-subject approach -- limiting and specifying the topic -- e.g. Catching-attention approach -- arousing the curiosity of the reader -- e.g. "Do you want to lose weight without losing your mind?"

Do not make the opening too long or too short. If it too long, the reader seems to know what you are going to say and may not want to continue reading; if it is too short, the reader may not be able to digest what is about to be discussed.

An effective paragraph should be adequately developed. That means you need to give your point of view, and this can be expressed as:a personal tone: e.g. the use of I, me, and my, or as an impersonal tone, that is, keeping your own views well below the surface. Wherever possible, give examples or facts to support your point of view, followed by a logical deduction or conclusion.

Vary the length of your paragraphs. Make some paragraphs longer, and some shorter, but never too long.

To write an effective paragraph, you must practice writing as much as possible. The more you write, the more you know how to write, and the better you will write.

EFFECTIVE WRITING MADE SIMPLE

Stephen Lau

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THE USE OF ITALICS

In English, sometimes words and phrases are slanted to the right--the use of italics. Effective writing requires the use of italics appropriately. The following  shows how to use italics effectively:

(1) Use italics for titles.

e.g. The film
The Interview has caused much controversy.
e.g. Have you read Leo Tolstoy's
War and Peace?

(2) Use italics for foreign words. The English language has acquired many foreign words, such as
chef from France, and spaghetti from Italy, that have become part of the English language and they do not require to be put in italics.  However, many foreign words still require to be out in italics.

e.g.
Gato is a Spanish word for cat.
e.g. Balance is expressed in the concept of
yin and yang.

(3) Use italics for names of aircraft, ships, and trains.

e.g.
Titanic  hit an iceberg and sank on its maiden voyage.

(4) Use italics for emphasis, but avoid its overuse:

e.g. It is easy to find out
how you can avoid credit card debt, but it is difficult to actually do it.

(5) Use italics for words, phrases, letters, and numbers used as words.

e.g. The alphabet
b and d are easily confused by young children.
e.g. Do you know the difference between
allude and delude?
e.g. Many people consider
13 an unlucky number.

EFFECTIVE WRITING MADE SIMPLE

Stephen Lau
Copyright© by Stephen Lau

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WHAT IS GOOD WRITING?

Good writing means trying to avoid the overuse of clichés (overused catch phrases and figures of speech)

e.g. busy NOT busy as a bee

e.g. confront the truth NOT face the music

e.g. everyone NOT each and every one

e.g. finally NOT last but not the least

e.g. firstly NOT first and foremost

e.g. gentle NOT gentle as a lamb

e.g. infrequent or seldom NOT few and far between

e.g. obviously NOT it goes without saying

e.g. seldom NOT once in a blue moon

Avoid weakling modifiers. Most of the following weakling modifiers can be removed without changing the meaning of a sentence:

e.g. actually

e.g. both

e.g. certainly

e.g. comparatively

e.g. definitely

e.g. herself, himself, itself, themselves

e.g. needless to say

e.g. particularly

e.g. per se

e.g. really

e.g. relatively

e.g. very

To use these weakling modifiers occasionally is permissible, but to use them frequently makes your writing ineffective.

Figures of speech add life and vividness to writing. Figures of speech compare one thing abstract with another thing, which is usually literal or concrete.

Metaphors

Metaphors are implied comparisons.

e.g. After listening to the speech of the senator, I was a volcano within although I was still calm without.

e.g. He is a hog at mealtime.

Similes

Similes are direct comparisons to bring out the imagination of the readers.

e.g. After listening to the speech of the senator, I was like a volcano about to erupt although I was still calm on the outside.

e.g. He eats like a hog.

Similes always use words as or like.

EFFECTIVE WRITING MADE SIMPLE

Stephen Lau

Copyright© by Stephen Lau

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THE USE OF COMMAS AND FULL-STOPS

To write well, you need to know how to punctuate your sentences.

Commas and full-stops (periods) are most often used.

You use commas to separate compound sentences. A compound sentence is made up of 2 or more simple sentences. First of all, a simple sentence has a subject, a verb, and or an object.

e.g. He laughed. (simple sentence: subject + verb)
e.g. He laughed at me. (simple sentence: subject + verb + object)
e.g. He left the room. (simple sentence: subject + verb + object)
e.g. I was all by myself. (simple sentence: subject + verb+ complement)

However, you cannot join two or more simple sentences together without a coordinating conjunction (and, but, or, nor, for, so, yet)

e.g. He laughed at me, he left the room. (incorrect: there is no coordinating conjunction)
e.g. He laughed at me, and (he) left the room.(correct)
e.g. After he laughed at me, he left the room.(correct: "he laughed at me" becomes a subordinate clause and no longer a simple sentence with the addition of the subordinating conjunction "after")
e.g. He laughed at me, left the room, and I was all by myself. (correct)

You may or may not need a comma for a compound or complex sentence. A complex sentence is made up of a simple sentence and one or more subordinate clauses (a subordinate clause is an incomplete sentence joined to a simple sentence by a subordinating conjunction, such as after, when, since etc.

e.g. He saw me and he shook my hands. (a compound sentence joining 2 simple sentences by a coordinating conjunction: "and": " he saw me" and "he shook my hands")

A comma before and is optional. If you think the sentence is too long or the meaning is misleading, you may want to add a comma.

By the same token, if you think the complex sentence is too long, then you may want to add a comma.

e.g. When he saw me walking with the Mayor along the corridor, he shook my hands.
e.g. He shook my hands when he saw me. (without the comma)

I hope you have learned the following: a simple sentence, a compound sentence, a coordinating clause, a subordinating clause, and the use of comma.

EFFECTIVE WRITING MADE SIMPLE

Stephen Lau
Copyright© by Stephen Lau

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THE ENGLISH SENTENCE

In English, the number of sentences is infinite. However, within this infinity, there are FIVE patterns:

Subject + verb

e.g. An accident happened.
            (subject) (verb)

Subject + verb + object (direct)

e.g. The man took the money.
              (s)     (v)         (o)

Subject + verb + object (indirect) + object (direct)

e.g. The man give me the money.
               (s)   (v)   (o)       (o)

Subject + verb + complement (of the subject)

e.g. She is pretty.
       (s) (v) (c)

Subject + verb + object + complement (of the object)

e.g. They elected him President.
       (s)     (v)       (o)   (c)

e.g. They made her unhappy.
       (s)     (v)     (o)  (c)

Sir Winston Churchill once said that the English sentence is a "noble thing." As such, in order to write an effective sentence, one must know what an English sentence is.

A sentence is for communicating a complete thought, a command, a question, or an exclamation.

    e.g. I love you.
    e.g. Take it.
    e.g. Is it right?
    e.g. How wonderful!

In most cases, a sentence requires at least one subject-verb combination (e.g. I came.); in some cases, a sentence can be a single word (e.g. Help!).

The basic sentence pattern or sentence structure is made up of a subject and a verb:

           Subject                 Verb
           Birds                     sing

But you can add single descriptive words (modifiers) to add more meaning to the basic sentence pattern. These words can be: an article (a, an, the); an adjective (a word to describe the noun or subject); an adverb (a word to describe the verb).

e.g. The (specify which birds) yellow birds (the color of the birds) sing beautifully. (how they sing)

You can add a phrase (made up of two or more words with no subject-verb combination) to make the sentence longer. There are different types of phrases:

1.    an infinitive phrase: to + verb e.g. to do the work, to play the piano

2. a participle phrase: present participle/past participle + noun, e.g. playing the piano, the broken window

3.    a prepositional phrase: under the table, in the beginning

You can add a clause (made up of words with a subject-verb combination) to make the sentence longer. There are two different types of clauses:

1.  an independent clause: communicating a complete thought, e.g. The man was singing.
2.   a dependent clause: describing another clause, and not communicating a complete thought, e.g. When the man was singing (what happened?)

You can change sentences into different types by adding different clauses:

1. The simple sentence: one independent clause making one complete thought, e.g. The man was singing.

2. The compound sentence: more than one complete thought, with two or more independent clauses, e.g. The man was singing and the children were dancing.

3. The complex sentence: one independent clause with one or more dependent clauses, e.g. The man was singing (independent clause), when the children were dancing (dependent clause).

4.  The compound complex sentence: two independent clauses with one or more dependent clauses, e.g. The man was singing (independent clause) and the children were dancing (independent clause) when the light suddenly went out.

Effective writing is the use of different types of sentences (simple, compound, complex, compound complex) to give variety. In addition, vary the sentence length to avoid monotony in writing.

EFFECTIVE WRITING MADE SIMPLE

Stephen Lau

Copyright© by Stephen Lau

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