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101 (or maybe just 3) Ways to Improve Your Writing

101 (or maybe just 3) Ways to Improve Your Writing

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101 (or maybe just 3) Ways to Improve Your Writing

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  1. 101 (or maybe just 3) Ways to Improve Your Writing Perry Cumbie and Tracy Constantine for the Teaching-Learning Center Tuesday, November 14, 2006

  2. A matter of style . . . Grammarphobes, fear not! This session will cover three simple strategies -- and none of them involves a semicolon -- for strengthening any kind of writing. Bring along a pen or pencil, or work at a computer for easier revision.

  3. Getting started Compose a brief paragraph in which you recommend a specific co-worker for the Excellence in Support Services Award or the Excellence in Teaching Award. -or- Compose a brief paragraph in which you recommend a specific student for employment, for transferring to a four-year college/university, or for a scholarship award.

  4. Step 1 – Eliminate I/you Circle all of the first-person personal pronouns (I, we, my, our) and second-person pronouns (you). Rework those sentences to eliminate the circled pronouns.

  5. Step 1 – Eliminate I/you Why? • “Hedge” statements like “in my opinion,”“I think,” or “my feeling is” suggest a lack of confidence. • First-person pronouns shift the focus from the subject to the writer. • Second-person pronouns speak directly to the reader, sometimes inappropriately.

  6. Step 1 – Eliminate I/you Example (before) In my opinion, Jack is one of the best students I have ever had the pleasure of teaching. You just don’t see a hard-working student like him every day. (after) In addition to achieving exceptional grades, Jack demonstrates an uncommon work ethic.

  7. Step 2 – Replace Verbs “to be” Circle all forms of the verb “to be,” including is, are, was, were, am. Count how many you circled! Strive to eliminate half of your circled verbs by replacing them with action verbs.

  8. Step 2 – Replace Verbs “to be” Why? • Verbs “to be” show no action or motion; they are static. • They sometimes indicate the use of passive voice, a weak and indirect alternative to active voice.

  9. Step 2 – Replace Verbs “to be” Example (before) Andre Agassi is a tennis player.

  10. Step 2 – Replace Verbs “to be” Example (before) Andre Agassi is a tennis player.

  11. Step 2 – Replace Verbs “to be” Example (after) Andre Agassi plays tennis.

  12. Step 2 – Replace Verbs “to be” Example (after) Andre Agassi returns balls that others only watch go by them.

  13. Step 2 – Replace Verbs “to be” Example (after) Andre Agassi returns balls that others only watch go by them.

  14. Step 2 – Replace Verbs “to be” Example (before) "Mistakes were made."

  15. Step 2 – Replace Verbs “to be” Example (after) “________ (fill in the blank) made a mistake.”

  16. Step 3 – “Show! Don’t Tell” Identify vague words, like “wonderful,”“good,”“things,”“nice,”“super,”“great,”“bad,”“very,” and “really.” Identify imageless and/or ambiguous descriptions. Replace those words with specific, concrete words to create clarity.

  17. Step 3 – “Show! Don’t Tell” Remember grade school? Teacher: “Tell the class what you did last summer.”

  18. Step 3 – “Show! Don’t Tell” Remember grade school? Teacher: “Tell the class what you did last summer.” Student: “I went to the beach and collected interesting things.”

  19. Step 3 – “Show! Don’t Tell” Remember grade school? Teacher: “Tell the class what you did last summer.” Student:

  20. Step 3 – “Show! Don’t Tell” Example (before) She’s a really good typist. (after) She types 300 errorless words per minute.

  21. Step 3 – “Show! Don’t Tell” Use RENNS to “Show”: Reasons Examples Names Numbers Sensory Images

  22. Step 3 – “Show. Don’t tell.” Why? • “A picture paints a thousand words.” Using descriptive language helps you to communicate more accurately what you are thinking in your head. • Readers have different standards and experiences. Words like “great” or “nice” do not take into account different perceptions.

  23. Step 3 – “Show. Don’t tell.” Example (before) Miguel is a great boss.

  24. Step 3 – “Show. Don’t tell.” Example (after) Miguel’s department wins annual recognition for its productivity, but he earns greater recognition from his employees for running efficient meetings, sending regular birthday cards, and taking time to write personal notes of appreciation for work well done.

  25. Summary Strengthen your writing by 1. Eliminating I/you, 2. Replacing verbs “to be” with action verbs, and 3. Using RENNS to show instead of tell.