The Difference Between Extortion and Blackmail

Two legal terms similar in meaning are extortion and blackmail. Both involve the practice of getting money from victims with threats. Extortion comes from Latin extortionem, “a twisting out.” The crime involves obtaining something, usually money, from a person by force or wrongful use of authority or power. A former city of Miami police officer … Read more

10 Words That Don’t Mean What You May Think They Do

As English evolves, word meanings shift and turn, sometimes reversing themselves altogether. These ten words have shifted their senses over the years. In some cases, we are wise to likewise be flexible; in others, we relax our vocabulary at the expense of useful distinctions: 1. Decimate The literal meaning of this word, as all you … Read more

How Spelling Diverges Between American and British English

As George Bernard Shaw is said to have said, “England and America are two countries separated by the same language.” It’s easy enough to find books and Web sites that provide evidence to back the old boy up, detailing such transoceanic translations as elevator/lift and critical divergences such as the relative meanings of “knocked up” … Read more

The ABCs (and Ds and Es) of Plot Development

Plot develops out of conflict, either external, such as a person or an event that precipitates a series of actions the main character undertakes, or internal, driven by the protagonist’s wants and/or needs. How that character, and others, makes choices and otherwise responds to stimuli determines the course of events. The traditional structure of a … Read more

The Tasks of Technical Writing

If you’ve ever read an instruction manual, you know what technical writing is, though it comes in many other forms. The three basic categories of technical writing are: end-user documentation, which helps consumers build, operate, and/or repair tools, devices, software, and hardware. technical documentation, which includes repair manuals, maintenance guides, and engineering specifications; white papers, … Read more

Last Chance to Join the Freelance Writing Course

This is your very last chance to join the freelance writing course. We’re going to be closing the doors at midnight (GMT) today, Friday 6th May. We’ve already got an amazing group of students signed up (over 200!), but there’s still room for you to join us too. Here’s what one student said about it: … Read more

All Hail the Interrobang! (What the?!)

The proper response to the exclamation “All hail the Interrobang!” is “What the?!” That should be followed, of course, by an “Oh yeah, that thing…” as soon as you’re reminded of what heck an interrobang is. The interrobang is a modern but non-standard punctuation mark. It combines a question mark (?) with an exclamation mark … Read more

Tips for Selecting Your Story’s Narrative Style

Before writers can share their stories, they have to decide what type of storyteller they’re going to hire for a particular gig. Here are the job candidates: First Person For this narrator, it’s all “Me,” “Me,” “Me.” (Or, more precisely, “I,” “I,” “I.”) But it’s not that simple. The first-person narrator can be integral to … Read more

15 Purposes for Parentheses

Parentheses are versatile tools for writers. These examples illustrate their uses; use them to enclose the following: Examples, directions, explanations, and clarifications: 1. “Retain ampersands when they appear as part of an official name (Barnes & Noble, Ben & Jerry’s).” 2. “At that point, you may want to consult with a professional. (Refer to the … Read more

Affect Is (Usually) a Verb

Before so much of the professional jargon of psychology found its way into the popular vocabulary, explaining the difference between affect and effect was a bit easier than it is now. One could state categorically, “affect” is a verb: The loss of his father affected him profoundly. How will the new mall affect the neighborhood? … Read more

The Freelance Writing Course is Re-Opening Today

Remember January? You probably made some new year’s resolutions. Maybe, like many writers, you wanted to finally make some money from your words. Back in January, we launched something new here on Daily Writing Tips: the Freelance Writing Course. A bunch of fantastic students spent six weeks in January and February learning all about freelance … Read more

Tips for Treating Titles of People

Civil titles (Mr., Mrs., and Ms.) — have become largely archaic and superfluous in written communication, and Dr. is usually unnecessary, too — and, in the case of someone who earned a doctorate, is often seen as a disingenuous affectation. (When necessary, follow the person’s name with PhD instead). A doctor with a medical degree … Read more