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  • drdianehamilton 7:14 am on May 10, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Alliteration, , Chats and Forums, , , Infinitive, Metaphor, Participle, Writers Resources,   

    How to Write Good 

    Even the best writers make mistakes.  Some common issues include alliteration, split infinitives, and mixed metaphors. Check out a fun list of writing mistakes created by Frank Visco (VP and Senior Copywriter at USAdvertising):

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  • drdianehamilton 9:10 am on December 22, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Capitalizing, , , , , , , , , Writers Resources,   

    Words to Capitalize in a Title 

    Bloggers and other writers may experience confusion as to which words should be capitalized in a title of an article.  I sometimes capitalize all words so that I do not have to look up the rules.  But it is good form to learn how to write correctly.  The following rules apply to capitalizing titles:

    • Always capitalize the first as last words of the title as well as verbs, adverbs, adjectives, nouns and pronouns.
    • Consistently capitalize or do not capitalize conjunctions (examples:  but, for, and) or prepositions (examples: words that show a relationship between the noun/pronounce with another word – example:  from, over, around, about, before, behind) with five or more letters.  Older rules required no capitalization and newer rules require capitalization if words contain five letters or more. Exception: If the word is the last word or the first word in a title, then it should be capitalized.
    • Do not capitalize articles (example: a, an, the), prepositions (see examples above), conjunctions (see examples above) with four letters or fewer, and the particle “to” used with an infinitive (example: to do; to be).  Exception: If the word is the last word or the first word in a title, then it should be capitalized.

     

    Never have your title all in CAPITALIZED LETTERS because this is not only incorrect, it is considered yelling. 

     

    Related Articles

     
    • MegansBeadedDesigns 9:20 am on December 22, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      Thanks for the tips!

      I frequently write specific words in all-caps, for a comically dramatic emphasis.

      That’s what I love about blogging, it’s a looser form of writing and it’s okay to mess up now and again. (For me anyway.)

      • drdianehamilton 9:25 am on December 22, 2011 Permalink | Reply

        Hi Megan,

        I think going for drama is OK. I’ve done that. Also . . . I make all kinds of mistakes (sometimes on purpose). I agree that blogging is more loose. I think there are those that want to know the rules though so I hope this helps. Thanks for the response. 🙂

        Diane

  • drdianehamilton 2:04 pm on March 11, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , Sentences, , Topic sentence, Writers Resources,   

    Bloggers and Social Media Junkies: 5 Tips to Improve Your Writing 

    Today’s Ask Dr. Diane:  What are some things I can do to improve my blogging and writing skills?

    The Internet has turned lot of people into writers.  Bloggers and social media junkies may have great ideas to share but may lack some writing skills that could help improve the message they want to convey.  I know I make a lot of mistakes when I write.  I try not to, but when you blog as much as I do, it is inevitable.  I never intended to be a writer.  However, I found that I liked sharing information, so writing became a means to an end.  When I write my books, I use a professional editor.  Not all of us can be editing experts. It could be very expensive and inconvenient to have to use an editor for every blog and social media posting.  However, there are some simple things that can help to improve writing skills. 

    1.  Don’t End Sentences in Prepositions. The problem is that many people have no idea what a preposition is.  Susan Thurman, author of The Only Grammar Book You’ll Ever Need, claims there is a trick to helping recognize a preposition.  “Look at the last eight letters of the word preposition; they spell position.  A preposition sometimes tells the position of something:  in, out, under, over, above and so forth.”  My seventh grade teacher suggested we think about a box.  For example:  in the box, over the box, and so forth. The following are the most common prepositions according to Thurman.  Try to avoid ending a sentence with any of these words:

    • About
    • Above
    • Across
    • After
    • Against
    • Along
    • Among
    • Around
    • At
    • Before
    • Behind
    • Below
    • Beneath
    • Beside
    • Between
    • Beyond
    • But
    • By
    • Concerning
    • Despite
    • Down
    • During
    • Except
    • For
    • From
    • In
    • Inside
    • Into
    • Like
    • Of
    • Off
    • On
    • Onto
    • Out
    • Outside
    • Over
    • Past
    • Since
    • Through
    • Throughout
    • To
    • Toward
    • Under
    • Underneath
    • Until
    • Up
    • Upon
    • With
    • Within
    • Without

    2.   Learn to Spell without Spell Check. If you rely too much on a spell checker, you may find that words you meant to write are replaced with words that have entirely different meanings.  I can’t count how many times that a student has sent me a note saying to “please excuse the incontinence”.   It is best if you take the time to learn to spell correctly so that you don’t have to rely on a device that may change your intended meaning. The following are fifty of the most commonly misspelled words according to author Gary Provost of 100 Ways to Improve Your Writing:

    • Acceptable
    • Apology
    • Appetite
    • Architect
    • Assassinate
    • Autumn
    • Calendar
    • Changeable
    • Conscious
    • Correspondence
    • Criticism
    • Deceive
    • Discernible
    • Embarrass
    • Eminent
    • Existence
    • Fascinate
    • Grateful
    • Hygiene
    • Imaginable
    • Immediately
    • Irrelevant
    • Jewelry
    • Judgment
    • Lovable
    • Miscellaneous
    • Mischievous
    • Mortgage
    • Necessarily
    • Occasionally
    • Occurrence
    • Omission
    • Orchestra
    • Potatoes
    • Professor
    • Pseudonym
    • Quarrelsome
    • Religious
    • Reservoir
    • Rhythmic
    • Scissors
    • Syllable
    • Tragedy
    • Umbrella
    • Vanilla
    • Vengeance
    • Weird
    • Wholesome
    • Youthful
    • Zealot

    3.  Vary your sentence length.  Some of my students like to write in either really long run-on sentences or overly short monotonous sentences.  Try to vary your sentence length.  Notice how the first sentence in this paragraph was longer and more complex.  That was followed by a shorter more succinct sentence.  It makes your writing easier to read if you vary the sentence length and mix it up a bit. 

    4.  Ask yourself some questions once you have finished your draft.  Does the initial paragraph let the reader know what your paper, blog or article is going to contain?  Do you have needless repetition of ideas?  Is your tone and tense consistent?  Does one paragraph advance to the next in a smooth fashion?  Does each of your paragraphs contain a topic sentence that conveys the thought you have developed throughout that paragraph? 

    5.  Work on expanding your vocabulary.  Rather than learning overly complicated words to express what you want to say, try varying the way that you say things by using a thesaurus.  If you are talking about a house, perhaps refer to that house as a dwelling or a building in the next sentence.  If you find that you are using the same word over and over, check out some alternatives words in a thesaurus to add dimension to your writing.

    I know I am guilty of making some of these mistakes.  Through practice, we can all improve our skills. 

     
  • drdianehamilton 2:48 pm on February 16, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , Writers Resources   

    How to Respond Effectively in Online Discussions 

    Online college students often find that they are required to answer discussion questions in class.  With the popularity of texting and the lack of formality used when writing an email, many students are lacking the necessary skills to write an appropriate posting. 

    Online schools often require that postings are substantive.  In other words, the postings should be substantial and have sufficient content to answer questions in depth.  Students may be given guidelines or a minimum word count to guide them.  However, when responding to fellow students’ postings, there are usually not specific word count requirements.  Therefore, it is important for students to respond in a way that is not merely showing their agreement or disagreement with what is being discussed. 

    A good rule of thumb is to support what the student has said with at least one sentence. That doesn’t mean the student has to agree with the statement; they just have to support the fact that the student has made their point. 

    Then after supporting them, the student can disagree or agree with the topic at hand.  They should include several more sentences explaining their position on the topic.  They could give examples and cite sources.  

    A good way to end the discussion would be with a question that is either addressed to the original student or one that could be addressed to the class in order to bring more participants into the discussion.  

    It is extremely important that students write in complete sentences, use correct grammar, check spelling and punctuate correctly.  For additional help with writing skills, please check out the following links:

    Can Spell Check Make Things Worse?

    Top 15 Writing and Grammar Mistakes

    15 Ways to Improve Writing Skills

    10 Common Writing Mistakes

    Can Texting Damage Writing Skills?

     
  • drdianehamilton 12:08 am on November 18, 2010 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Annoying Business Terms, , , , , , Language Arts, Overused phrases, Paula LaRocque, , The Book on Writing, Writers Resources, , Writing Well   

    Develop Your Writing Skills and Avoid Annoying Phrases 

    I often include tips for my students to become better writers.  If you are looking to hone your writing skills, I highly recommend a book by Paula LaRocque.  LaRocque is the author of The Book on Writing:  The Ultimate Guide to Writing Well.  I wanted to write a blog highlighting the most important points from her book.  However, it was difficult to choose from so many wonderful tips.  I would suggest reading the entire book.  For now, I’d like to include part of a quiz she uses to teach some common grammar mistakes.  Check out the following examples to see if you would write correctly:  

    • If I was rich, I’d do something about the homeless.  This is incorrect.
    • If I were rich, I’d do something about the homeless. This is correct.

    To find out why this is correct, check out her book or look up subjunctive clauses.  

    • The administration hopes the faculty will set their own goals. This is incorrect.
    • The administration hopes the faculty will set up its own goals. This is correct.

    Why is this wrong?  This is a pronoun/antecedent agreement problem.   

    • We feel badly that we missed your call. This is incorrect.
    • We feel bad that we missed your call. This is correct.

    This one might surprise some people.  It should be bad because it modifies “we” as the subject.  It isn’t badly because badly describes an action and therefore would only modify a verb.

    Her book contains more examples.  What I think is helpful, is that she explains why one is correct and the other is not. 

    I particularly liked the section in her book that she referred to as “much-hated words and expressions”.  She suggested that the following words have enjoyed enough undeserved fame:

    • Closure
    • Empowerment
    • Got Game
    • Having Said That
    • Litmus Test
    • Make No Mistake About It
    • Push the Envelope
    • Raise the Bar
    • That Said
    • 24-7

    Her list has many more excellent examples.  However, I have a  few more words and phrases I would like to add her list of things that I am personally tired of hearing:

    • SNAFU
    • Heads Up (this may be number one on my list)
    • From the Get Go
    • Think Outside the Box
    • Paradigm Shift
    • FYI or PDQ
    • My Two Cents
    • Taking it to the Next Level
    • Bring Your “A” Game
    • I’d Like to Pick Your Brain
    • No Pain No Gain
    • Throw it Against the Wall and See What Sticks
    • Low Hanging Fruit
    • Win-Win
    • There’s no I in Team
    • Let’s Touch Base
    • Let’s Run it Up the Flagpole
    • Less is More
    • Mum’s the Word
    • Onward and Upward

    If any of you would like to add a few of your own, I’m “all ears”.  Oh . . .add that to the list as well.

     
  • drdianehamilton 1:44 pm on October 14, 2010 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Linguistics, , , , , TimesDaily, , Writers Resources   

    Can Texting Damage Writing Skills? 

     

    I often talk to my students about whether they feel texting has caused people to have more difficulties with their writing skills.  I personally see a lot of first-year students who abbreviate quite a bit, lack punctuation skills and don’t write in complete sentences. 

    Young and younger children are receiving cell phones. It may make parents feel safer knowing they can reach their children. Tweens are learning to type in text abbreviations which may affect their ability to write well.  WJS.com reported “The average 13- to 17-year-old sends and receives 3,339 texts a month—more than 100 per day, according to the Nielsen Co., the media research firm. Adults are catching up. People from ages 45 to 54 sent and received 323 texts a month in the second quarter of 2010, up 75% from a year ago.” 

    Eudopia.org recently posted a survey asking the following question to see if text messaging is harming students’ writing skills:  “IYO txtng = NME or NBD?” If you have no idea what that means . . . Translation: “In your opinion, is text messaging the enemy, or no big deal?” 

    PiercePioneer.com asked, Mike Darcher, English instructor for 20 years if he felt texting was hurting our students’ writing ability.  He said he could not make the connection of bad texting habits being carried over into student’s writing. “In terms of writing skills, there is no way of measuring its impact,” Darcher said.

    TimesDaily reported the results of a report of a study from Pew Internet and American Life Project. “The study was prompted in large part because of growing concerns over how text-based electronic communications affect the writing ability of students who are immersed in electronic media. Out of 700 youth aged 12-17 who participated in the phone survey, 60 percent say they don’t consider electronic communications – e-mail, instant messaging, mobile text – to be writing in the formal sense; 63 percent say it has no impact on the writing they do for school and 64 percent report inadvertently using some form of shorthand common to electronic text, including emotions, incorrect grammar or punctuation.”

    Some linguists are mixed on the effect of texting on writing skills. There are those who think that this may not last and may just go the way of some slang words that are no longer used.  Some think that learning texting is just like learning another language.  As long as the students can keep them separated, then they see no problem with it. 

    Texting may be a passing thing, but it is definitely here for now.  If you are trying to figure out what that text is or that abbreviation that someone sent you, you might want to check out the following list from the Vancouver Sun:

    The top 10 commonly used abbreviations in texting — translated to plain English:

    • 411 — All the information
    • BBIAS — Be back in a second (also BBIF — be back in a few, and BBL — be back later)
    • BFN — Bye for now
    • ETA — Estimated time of arrival (used for deadlines and when to expect something/someone)
    • FYI — For your information
    • KK — Okay, okay (I understand what you’re saying)
    • LOL — Laugh out loud
    • OMG — Oh my God
    • TTYL — Talk to you later (also TTYS — talk to you soon)
    • UOK — Are you okay?

    If you want to know what your kids are saying to each other, here are some common text abbreviations to watch for. Parent alerts include:

    • PAW or 9 — Parents are watching
    • POV — Parent over shoulder
    • CD9 — Code 9, meaning Parents are around
    • P911 — Parents coming into room alert
    • PIR — Parents in room
    • PSOS — Parent standing over shoulder
    • KPC — Keeping parents clueless
    • NP — Nosy parents (But this is also used as “no problem”)

    Want to know your kids’ relationship status? Nothing to be alarmed about if they text:

    • LYLAB — Love you like a brother
    • LYLAS — Love you like a sister
    • LDR — Long distance relationship

    But you don’t want to see:

    • 420 — Let’s get high/marijuana use
    • LGH — Let’s get high
    • LH6 — Let’s have sex
    • LHOS — Let’s have online sex
    • LIK — Liquor

    How is their day going? Here are a few common indicators:

    • 2MTH — Too much to handle
    • ADIH — Another day in hell
    • ADIP — Another day in paradise
    • LTHTT — Laughing too hard to type
    • HHIS — Head hanging in shame
    • CWOT — Complete waste of time
    • IMSB — I’m so bored
    • BOOMS — Bored out of my skull
    • 121 — One to one (private chat invitation)

    If your son or daughter texts you a status report, you should be familiar with:

    • BHL8 — Be home late
    • CUL8R — See you later
    • G2G — Got to go
    • G2R — Got to run
    • ILBL8 — I’ll be late
    • TTYL — Talk to you later
     
  • drdianehamilton 3:36 pm on September 17, 2010 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , spell checker problems, , , , Word Games, Writers Resources   

    Can Spell Check Make Things Worse? The Most Misspelled Words 

    Today’s Ask Dr. Diane:  What are some of the mostly commonly misspelled words?
    I post a lot of information about spelling and grammar for my students.  There are certain words that many people tend to misspell.  For a list of the top 100 misspelled words, click here.  I often ask students to quiz their family and friends to see how they do with some of the more commonly misspelled words . . . For fun, ask people to spell the following words that seem pretty simple and basic to see how well they do.  I think you’ll be surprised at how many times people misspell these:

    Calendar

    Embarrass

    Questionnaire

    Accommodate

    Definitely

    I think a lot of students tend to rely heavily on the spell check function.  The problem is, if you don’t really have a good idea of how the word you are looking for is spelled in the first place, spell check may offer solutions that are not even close to the word you had intended.  I often have students send me an email saying something like, “I apologize for the incontinence.”  I kind of think they were looking for the word inconvenience .  .  . but I guess you never know.

    For some extra tips on improving your spelling, check out an article by powa.org by clicking here.  Here are some tips from that article that may be helpful to you:

    Suggestions for Spelling Improvement

    1. Don’t look words up while you’re composing. Wait until your thought-flow runs its course. As you write, highlight or mark any words you aren’t absolutely sure about. Then later when editing, your attention will go right to these words and you can look them up all at once without interrupting and losing track of your thoughts. By looking up words later, you also can concentrate on learning to spell them correctly so you won’t have to look them up again. You might even consider keeping a list of Target Words to concentrate on.

    2. Every time you write a word ask yourself whether you know how to spell it. There are only two possible answers to this question: yes and no. Maybe, probably, and I think so all count as no. If the answer is yes, keep on writing, but if the answer is no, mark the word to look up. Most spelling errors come not on words like “cataclysmic,” which you know you need to look up, but on words like “front,” where you think the odds are with you.

    3. Notice what part of the word you’ve spelled wrong. Hardly ever do you spell a whole word wrong. Usually one or two letters need to be changed. Find the trouble spot by comparing the dictionary version with the version you’ve already written down. Sometimes a memory prod will help you get those letters right next time. For example, you might learn to spell “environment” by remembering that it has the word “iron” in it.

    4. Watch out for words that sound like other ones. Here the problem isn’t so much spelling as using the wrong word, as when someone says, “I don’t care weather it rains.” Besides “whether” and “weather,” some other frequently confused words are listed below. These words are especially treacherous because computer spell-checkers won’t pick them up.

    a — an — and
    our — hour — are
    accept — except
    personal — personnel
    cite — site — sight
    quiet — quite — quit
    cloths — clothes
    roll — role
    desert — dessert
    soul — sole
    do — due
    than — then
    led — lead
    there — their — they’re
    loose — lose
    to — too — two
    moral — morale
    wear — where — were
    new — knew
    who’s — whose
    no — know
    your — you’re
    past — passed

     
    • Bill Peace 4:37 pm on September 17, 2010 Permalink | Reply

      Hey Diane,
      One trick I have learned regarding spelling after spell check and all that is to take time and read your memo, letter, paper backward so you only see and hear the word. This forces you to look at the word rather than skim over them when reading in the ordinary manner. Takes time but you can find some gems!

      • drdianehamilton 7:13 pm on September 17, 2010 Permalink | Reply

        Hi Bill . . . That is a great suggestion. Thanks for the tip! 🙂 Diane

      • Kathie Freeman 3:10 pm on October 24, 2010 Permalink | Reply

        Spellcheckers also won’t pick up things like “form” insted of “from” which is one of my most common errors. I always have to go back and look for things like that.

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