Should You Use Accent Marks?

To accent, or not to accent? That is a good question. Whether ’tis nobler to include diacritical marks (also called diacritics) is open to debate. Here are the arguments: Most publishers who go by Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary (and that’s most publishers) follow that resource’s lead: Any word it lists with an acute (forward-leaning) or grave … Read more

7 Dos for Dangling Modifiers

In each of the sentences below, the noun phrase immediately following the introductory phrase is not the referent for that phrase; you have to keep working through the sentence and locate another noun, or, sometimes, surgically separate a “(noun)’s (noun)” phrase to isolate the correct one. 1. “If asked what will reverse the trend, my … Read more

Making the Most of Palindromes

Anyone can come up with a list of palindromes. The real challenge is to use them intelligently in published writing. Can a writer incorporate palindromes (words or phrases that read the same backwards and forwards) in any meaningful and credible way? Or will they remain nothing more than amusing stand-alone oddities? Here are five suggested … Read more

5 Tips For Aspiring Freelance Writers

This is a guest post by Ian Greaves. If you dream of working for yourself and being able to generate an income from your writing, you will need to learn how to make the most of the time and resources at your disposal. Achieving consistency in the quality and content of your writing will be … Read more

7 Advisories About Abbreviations

Abbreviations are useful, but they can be wickedly tricky little widgets. Keep these points in mind when you truncate words and phrases: 1. a/an This entry refers not to a or an as abbreviations but to which of the two indefinite articles should precede a given abbreviation. The choice depends not on the first letter … Read more

100 Whimsical Words

The English language can be maddening to native speakers and learners alike, but is also delightfully rich, especially for those who seek to convey a lighthearted tone in their writing. Here are 100 words it’s difficult to employ without smiling. Though their meanings may be obscure, they each present a challenge — I mean an … Read more

7 Tips for Using Suspensive Hyphenation

Often, when both items in a pair of hyphenated phrases have a common element, the first instance of that element can be elided, or omitted, without erasing the connection; the incomplete phrase is implied to have the same form as the complete one. However, as shown in these examples, it’s essential to treat the phrases, … Read more

25 Writing Competitions You Should Enter

Have you completed one or more short stories, poems, or nonfiction pieces? Perhaps you’d like some motivation — or to take the next step with them. This post lists writing competitions for 2011 that feature cash prizes of $1,000 or more and, often, publication deals for the winner (plus, for many contests, additional prizes for … Read more

7 Solutions for Sentences with Problematic Parallels

1. “The street is lined with boisterous sports bars, nail salons, and clothing boutiques.” Some neighborhood, where nail salons and clothing boutiques can be described as boisterous. Do I misunderstand? I do, because when only the first of several items in a list is given an adjective, it is easily confused as applying to each … Read more

Beware of Buzzword Bingo

Far back in the mists of Internet time (that would be the 1990s), a couple of wags at a computer company called Silicon Graphics created a subversive game that filled a need. You’ve been there, perhaps: a company meeting at which executives or tech geeks unironically launch volleys of absurd marketing catchphrases or tech jargon. … Read more

5 Tips for Fixing “Not Only . . . But Also” Errors

Few constructions cause as much consternation for editors as that in which a contrast is represented with the phrase “not only, . . but.” The solution to garbled syntax in such constructions is simple but bears repeating, so multiple sample sentences follow. But before we go any further, note not only that a comma following … Read more

The Pros and Cons of Freelance Writing Online

Freelance writing online is often touted as a dream job. It certainly has its benefits, but it has its downfalls as well. In fact, the drawbacks to freelance writing are often the flip side to the positives of the profession. The Pros 1. Your schedule allows for a fair bit of flexibility. Because you are … Read more