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How to Improve Writing Style

To Split Infinitives

Split Infinitives

Many would argue that writing style is very personal and varies from author to author. After all, who wants to read everything in the style of, say, Hemingway? However, writing style is not just subjective. Indeed, good writing style does have objective rules to follow. Here are the key rules of writing style, written with tongue-firmly-planted-in-cheek examples. Explaining the humor will help your students understand the writing style concept and/or rule.

1. Avoid intentional fragments. Right?

2. Avoid formulaic phrases in this present day and age.

3. I have shown that you should delete references to your own writing.

4. Be sort of, kind of specific.

5. Don’t define terms (where a specialized word is used) using “reason is,” “because,” “where,” or “when” because this writing style is boring.

6. Avoid using very interesting, super nice words that contribute little to a sentence.

7. Prepositions are not good to end sentences with.

8. It is a mistake to ever split an infinitive.

9. But do not start a sentence with a coordinating conjunction.

10. Avoid using clichés like a bad hair day.

11. Always, avoid attention-getting alliteration.

12. Parenthetical remarks should (most always) be avoided.

13. Also, never, never repeat words or phrases very, very much, too.

14. Use words only as they are defined, no matter how awesome they are.

15. Even if a metaphor hits the spot, it can be over-played.

16. Resist exaggeration; it only works once in a million years.

17. Writers should always avoid generalizations.

18. Avoid using big words when more utilitarian words will suffice.

19. What use are rhetorical questions?

20. The passive voice is a form to be avoided, if it can be at all helped.

21. Never write no double negatives.

22. There are good reasons to avoid starting every sentence with There.

23. Always, absolutely avoid overstating ideas.

24. Keep pronoun references close to subjects in long sentences to make them clear.

Also, check out Mark Pennington’s articles on writing unity, coherence, and parallelism.

Find 8 complete writing process essays (4 argumentative and 4 informational-explanatory) with accompanying readings, 42 sequenced writing strategy worksheets, 64 sentence revision lessons, additional remedial worksheets, writing fluency and skill lessons, posters, and editing resources in Teaching Essay Strategies. Also get the e-comments download of 438 writing comments to improve written response and student revisions. Plus, get these classroom posters: Editing Marks, Essay Writing Rules, Transition Words, Essay Writing Terms, and Writing Style.

Get the Writing Style Posters FREE Resource:

Pennington Publishing's Teaching Essay Strategies

Teaching Essay Strategies

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How to Improve Writing Unity

How to Improve Writing Unity

Writing Unity

Writing unity refers to how well sentences and paragraphs stay focused on the topic sentences and thesis statement. From the reader’s point of view, writing unity means that there are no irrelevant (off the point) details and that the tone of the writing remains consistent.

Most writing is structured. The structure changes according to the domain of the writing, but when an author consistently follows a plan, the reader can clearly follow what the author intends to share or to prove. Avoid including details that take the reader away from this plan and lead to confusion.

To know how to improve writing unity, is is helpful to examine examples of poor writing unity.

Paragraph without Unity Writing Model

It has been said that history repeats itself. Who first said this quote is not important. Although circumstances may change, and they frequently do, and the cast of characters will differ, human response to crisis situations remains consistent over time. The lessons gained from past events should affect present decisions. People rarely change their behaviors based upon past experience. Sometimes they do, but not often do they change their actions. Indeed, it sometimes seems as if people are willing to challenge the influence of the past when they repeat mistakes or misjudgments. Why people would want to challenge the influence of the past remains unknown.

Now, study the same paragraph content written with good writing unity.

Paragraph with Unity Writing Model

It has been said that history repeats itself. Although circumstances may change, and the cast of characters will differ, human response to crisis situations remains consistent over time. The lessons gained from past events should affect present decisions, but people rarely change their behaviors based upon past experience. Indeed, it sometimes seems as if people are willing to challenge the influence of the past when they repeat mistakes or misjudgments.

So what makes the second paragraph so much better than the first? What lessons can be derived to improve writing unity?

  1. Eliminate irrelevant details.
  2. Make use of effective writing transition words (“Although,” “but,” “Indeed” in the paragraph above.
  3. Follow a predictable paragraph structure: topic sentence-major details-minor details.

Also, check out Mark Pennington’s articles on writing coherence and parallelism.

The author’s Teaching Essay Strategies provides 11 Transition Worksheets, one for each purpose. Each worksheet requires students to identify, select, and apply the

Pennington Publishing's Teaching Essay Strategies

Teaching Essay Strategies

transition words in the context of sentences and paragraphs. Great practice! Check out the free samples below.

Get the Transition Worksheets FREE Resource:

Teaching Essay Strategies includes 42 essay strategy worksheets corresponding to teach the Common Core State Writing Standards, an e-comment bank of 438 prescriptive writing responses with an link to insert into Microsoft Word® for easy e-grading, 8 on-demand writing fluencies, 8 writing process essays (4 argumentative and 4 informative/explanatory), 64  sentence revision and 64 rhetorical stance “openers,” remedial writing lessons, writing posters, and editing resources to differentiate essay writing instruction in this comprehensive writing curriculum.

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