A Quiz About Misplaced Modifiers

Modifying phrases intended to provide clarity can be counterproductive if placed in the wrong position in a sentence. Repair the improper installation of modifiers in the following sentences, then compare your solutions with my revisions at the bottom of the page: 1. “Joseph Priestley began to suspect that air was not a simple substance while … Read more

10 Types of Wordplay

Humorous works of fiction are easily enlivened when the author resorts to one or more of the following categories of playing with prose: 1. Acronyms: An acronym is an abbreviation consisting of a string of initial letters pronounced as a word. Fictional examples, such as SPECTRE (for “Special Executive for Counter-intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge, and Extortion”), … Read more

100 Words for Facial Expressions

Face it — sometimes you must give your readers a countenance-based clue about what a character or a subject is feeling. First try conveying emotions indirectly or through dialogue, but if you must fall back on a descriptive term, try for precision: 1. Absent: preoccupied 2. Agonized: as if in pain or tormented 3. Alluring: … Read more

4 Books That Show You How to Write

No, that headline doesn’t read “Four Books That Tell You How to Write.” The verb is show, and that’s exactly what I mean. This post does not list writing guides, but if you want to learn how to create a memorable reading experience, follow the excellent examples below. Note that this is not a definitive … Read more

A Quiz About Clarity

Writers usually don’t mean to be duplicitous when they write one thing when they mean another; it’s just that what they intended to communicate is not what they communicated. The following sentences demonstrate some of the types of misunderstandings that result from careless composition. Try your hand at repairing the damage, and then take a … Read more

Four Powerful Ways to Bring Your Writing Goals Closer

Do you wish you could get further with your writing? Perhaps you want to: Finally finish that novel that you started ten years ago Improve your spelling and grammar Make money from your writing Have a popular blog with lots of readers Publish a non-fiction book to support your business …or something else entirely. Whatever … Read more

How Do You Teach Someone to Write Well?

Why is the craft of writing in such a dire state? The best writers of our time create magnificent prose, and additional tiers of talents do a fine job of communicating. But the vast majority of people seem competent at best, and many of those who are paid to write — or for whom writing … Read more

15 Big Little Words

Sometimes, short and sweet is best, and English includes many three-letter words that help us accommodate our yearning for concise composition — or, to be brief, fix our yen for curt prose. Some are workhorse words — the article the, the pronouns his and her, conjunctions like and, prepositions such as for, verbs like put … Read more

A Quiz About Parallel Structure

Many writers are thwarted by unsuccessful efforts to express equivalent ideas in phrases that clearly identify the hierarchy and relationships of those ideas. Here are five sentences in which syntactical structure fails to communicate these concepts. Try your hand at resolving the confusion, and then compare your results to my solutions at the bottom of … Read more

75 Synonyms for “Angry”

Are you angry? At the risk of infuriating you, or making you apoplectic or exasperated, here are dozens of words to use to describe your choleric condition more precisely: 1. Acrid: extremely harsh (also refers to an unpleasant taste or smell) 2. Acrimonious: harshly unpleasant 3. Aggravated: angrily agitated 4. Angered: made angry 5. Annoyed: … Read more

Is Identifying a Person’s Age Necessary?

In writing, should a given person’s age be specified? In fiction, the number of years since a character was born is of variable importance, depending on the person’s prominence in the narrative and on the nature of the story as well, but at the very least, the author usually provides some clue, at least, as … Read more

12 Evocative Words That Include “Ae”

There’s something about the digraph ae that lends it a dignity and an aura. Perhaps it’s the vowel combination’s ubiquity as a plural marker taken directly from Latin (antennae, nebulae, and so on). Maybe it’s the frequency of its appearance in classical nomenclature (maenad, praetor, and the like). Whatever the reason, words in which ae … Read more