Posted by: Jack Henry | August 17, 2017

Editor’s Corner: Writing Tips

Daily Writing Tips offers excellent advice for improving our writing in an article called “10 Tips for Clean, Clear, Writing” by Mark Nichol.

It’s a long article, so I’ve cut it short, and I’m going to give you only five of the tips today. I’ll give you the other five next week.

1. Use vivid verbs. Monitor your writing for excessive use of forms of “to be”—is, be, and their variants—and other helping verbs such as has, as well as other weak verbs like do and go, and replace with active verbs. [dbb – OK. This one is not so relevant for technical writing, but it is for marketing and most other types of writing. Rather than saying, “My sister
is loud when she talks on the phone, it is more vivid to say, “My sister bellows when she talks on the phone.”]

2. Reword or delete clichés. Think outside the box. There is no one-size-fits-all approach. All (fill in the blank) are not created equal. These. Are. So. Lame.

3. Always use the serial comma. When listing more than two things, include a comma before the conjunction [dbb – and, but, yet, etc.] preceding the final item. Omitting the comma can prompt ambiguity about the list’s organization, but inserting it never contributes to confusion. [dbb – Can I get a hallelujah?]

4. Avoid scare quotes. Generally, use “scare quotes” only to signal that the writer is calling out the quoted content as being dubious or ironic, not to introduce an unfamiliar term. [dbb – We do use quotation marks, when necessary, to introduce unfamiliar terms. I did some research and found that Mr. Nichol wrote a previous article called “When in Doubt, Leave Scare Quotes Out,” in which he asserts that
people are too heavy-handed in their use of quotation marks to introduce unfamiliar terms, which is true—I think that’s what he’s referring to here.]

5. Hyphenate phrasal adjectives. If a two-word phrase doesn’t appear in the dictionary as a standing open compound, it is not exempt from hyphenation. [dbb – I wonder if he could be more vague…I think what he’s saying is that if you look for a two-word phrase (without hyphens) in the dictionary and you
do not find the phrase, then you probably need to hyphenate it.]

Enjoy the rest of your day!

Donna Bradley Burcher | Senior Technical Editor | Symitar®

8985 Balboa Ave. | San Diego, CA 92123 | Ph. 619.278.0432 | Extension: 765432

Symitar Technical Publications Writing and Editing Requests

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