Writing Tips - Common Writing Problems

 
ITEM EXPLANATION EXAMPLE (faulty)
Affect/Effect

Affect is generally a verb and means to have an impact upon something.

Effect is generally a noun and generally means the end result of something.

 
Also

Resist using also to begin a sentence. It generally suggests that you just got a clever idea, but rather than work it into your writing, you've chosen to tag it on.

Also cars at this intersection rarely signal their turning direction.

Being as

Avoid using the expression "Being as." What you generally mean is "Because I am..."

Being as I'm a Hope Scholarship student...

Causality

Try to make sure that there is a clear line of causality throughout your writing. In other words, make sure that each sentence and each paragraph follows logically from the previous one.

 

Colloquialism

Avoid using words that are either slang or that don't fit the context because, for example, they are too modern.

Charles Dickens looks at the downside of having good fortune through Pip's success in Great Expectations.

Comma splice

Parts of a sentence cannot be combined (spliced) with a comma. Use a coordinating conjunction or a subordinate conjunction.

Old growth trees support a variety of organisms not found elsewhere, owls may not survive in newer forests.

Diction/Usage

Diction is the level of speech that's appropriate for writing/speaking situations. Elevated diction means that you're trying too hard to sound important. Use language that you'd feel comfortable with when talking to a friend. Trying to sound important will probably lead to usage problems.

Notwithstanding my own Hope Scholarship, I am shocked by the egregious example that Georgia has set to allow specious use of state funds for non-academic endeavors.

Forced or stilted

Writing that seems artifical or contrived. Avoid using hyperbole and rhetorical questions for effect.

Forced: This proves that Tennyson is using Hallam's death to make an argument about science.
Stilted: Jane Austen brings forth her message by using familiar characters.

Idiom

An idiom is the way that something is typically phrased in a language. An improper idiom --I can't put my foot on it-- will confuse/amuse readers.

My concern on this issue...

It's/Its

It's means "it is," while "its" is a possessive pronoun.

It's a wise dog that scratches its own fleas.

Possessive

Use an apostrophe to indicate possesion.

The parents' association accepted David's contribution.

Precision

Make sure that your sentence means what you want it to mean. Words are precise and must be chosen carefully.

The quality of news on the local station is very poor and needs to be made more palatable.

Prepositional phrase

Too many prepositional phrases will twist and turn your reader and make your sentences difficult to follow.

If, when cueing a record, the arm is in the position of being on the album, push the release lever in the opposite direction from you.

Real as an adverb

The use of "real" as an adverb, though now very common, is not proper grammar.

I was real interested by that presentation you gave in class.

Subordinate Conjunction

Make your sentences richer and more interesting by using subordinate conjunctions such as: although; while; even though; in spite of; etc. They also add logical flow (causality) and development to your work.

 

Syntax

Syntax refers to the way that a sentence is arranged. Ungrammatical sentences or convoluted sentences disrupt the syntax and make your writing unclear.

 

This ...

(pronoun referent)

Every time that you begin a sentence with "This" double check to make sure that what you're referring to is absolutely clear. You may want to repeat the subject (using a different term) to make certain that your meaning is unmistakable.

The Hope Scholarship offers funding to students who sustain a GPA of 3.0 or higher. This is very demanding.