5 Number Problems

1. Number Collisions In the sentence “The day the slain woman was to turn 28, 3,000 gathered at a church to recall her life,” the proximity of her age (assuming it is styled numerically rather than spelled out) and the number of mourners confuses the eye. Readers may assume, before they comprehend the sense of … Read more

Principal vs. Principle

What’s the difference between principal and principle? The principle is of principal importance. Here’s the background for these close cousins, as well as related terms. Principal derives by way of French from the Latin term principalis, meaning “first in importance.” In English, it initially referred to a ruler, but the word also came to be … Read more

June 5: Our Freelance Writing Course Goes Live

A couple of years ago, we noticed that the demand for online freelance writers was booming. The Internet was becoming the predominant medium for companies to reach their customers, and people were spending more time than ever online (instead of watching television, listening to the radio, and so on). That’s why we decided to create … Read more

10 Tips for Constructive Correspondence

Business writing, or any communication for other than personal reasons, requires a higher standard of compositional conduct. Whether you are requesting service or complaining about it, or applying for a job or responding to an applicant, correspondents have certain expectations about how you approach them. Keep the following suggestions in mind the next time you … Read more

What’s the Reading Level of Your Writing?

In a recent article, the Los Angeles Times reported on a survey that found that the level of sophistication in oratory in the US Congress has declined. That conclusion reminds me of a reading-comprehension tool I came across when I was a schoolteacher — a system that might provide you with some insight about your … Read more

Do You Have to Be a Specialist to Succeed?

Do you need to specialize in subject matter to be a successful writer or editor? You’ll get different answers from publishing professionals, and both “Yes” and “No” are correct. The devil’s in the details. If you have a master’s degree or a doctorate in a particular discipline, and you’re a good writer, you will likely … Read more

7 Great Websites for Writers

From usual suspects to obscure gems, from grammar guides to usage resources, here are some websites of great value to writers: 1. Amazon.com You may have heard of this website — a good place, I understand, to find books (or anything else manufactured). But what I appreciate even more is the “Search inside this book” … Read more

Coping with Quotations

A stock element of effective writing is to employ a quotation by a noted writer or other famous person to illustrate a point. But take care that when you seek to strengthen your work by alluding directly to another’s, you don’t in fact weaken it by committing one of the following errors: Attributing the Quote … Read more

50 Tips on How to Write Good

The contents of this post are an alphabetical arrangement of two lists that have been circulating among writers and editors for many years. In case you have missed out all this time, I’m sharing here the wit and wisdom of the late New York Times language maven William Safire and advertising executive and copywriter Frank … Read more

Descriptions and Prescriptions

Question: How many dictionaries does it take to screw up the word lightbulb? Answer: How many you got? I’m mildly irritated whenever I see lightbulb styled as two words in an article or a book. (I can’t help it. I’m a word nerd.) That happens all the time, because it’s rarely styled correctly — and … Read more

Do You Look Like a Writer?

Did you read under the covers with a flashlight late into the night when you were a child? Have you been methodically working your way through the Great Works of Literature since the onset of puberty (or, if you were properly precocious, before)? Do you seek out and absorb the advice and insights of authors … Read more

Q Words

Have you ever noticed the similarity in vocalization when you utter words starting with wh- and those beginning with qu-? Go ahead and try it now. Don’t be embarrassed — nobody’s looking. Huh — your mouth’s moves are almost identical, right? But that’s not coincidental, because many English words beginning with wh- are akin to … Read more