Commas: we either love them or hate them. Unfortunately, comma use is not a ‘take it or leave it’ issue. Although some people would love to litter their sentences incessantly with commas and others would love to never see a comma again, accurate writers do not usually have the luxury of choice. Commas serve specific purposes; to disregard those grammatical purposes for the pleasure of our personal desires only invites confusion.
The comma battle–it doesn’t have to be like this!
This advice is very dear to my heart, for as an editor I find myself suggesting it to nearly every writer I meet. It is age-old wisdom, handed down from teacher to student since the dawn of time (or thereabouts).
“Show, don’t tell.”
The essence of this advice is that, wherever possible, you should focus on creating illuminating description (show) rather than flat-out explaining things (tell). The main reason behind it is that it helps the writer to engage with the story in such a way that encourages realistic moments and characters and a consistent perspective; these cradle the reader inside the story world so that they feel like an essential part of it—almost as if they are living the story.
“Tell” can occur through use of a single word or a series of sentences.
My favorite piece of writing advice is this:
When my creative writing professor first recommended it to our class, I felt as though a huge weight had been lifted from my chest. I had been in the habit of listening in on other people for years, and always felt pretty guilty about it. As he spoke, I suddenly realized that there was nothing to feel guilty about. It wasn’t eavesdropping, after all. It was research!
So, why spy?
Listening in on other people’s conversations can give you inspirations for new stories and new characters, for one thing. More importantly, it gives you a better understanding of natural speech cadences and dialog progression. There is nothing like listening to two people having a real conversation to make you realize three key elements of writing interesting dialog:
Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about disintermediation. Mostly, I suppose, because it’s such an excellent word. (If I ever manage to spell it out in a Scrabble tournament I think I’ll retire and ride the wave of renown all the way to the bank.)
If you’re an aspiring writer, chances are you’ve been thinking about it also, and just didn’t realize. It came up for me, as I’ve recently been asked to fill in as a tutor for a university course on publishing. One of the key concepts in the course so far has been the recent change in media distribution. Today, of course, it’s possible to write a book and use online platforms to print and distribute it to any manner of public. That’s disintermediation: you could call it cutting out the middleman (or middlewoman) if you didn’t care about winning at word games.
WordsRU is not only a proofreading service! We also help writers to develop their narrative, and can even write documents from scratch. We can work with all the stages of a document, from the very beginning to the final step before publication.
Welcome to the WordsRU blog! We’ll be sharing some of our experience and tips to help you improve your writing, and keep you informed of WordsRU news. We hope you will respond and share your thoughts and ideas, as well!
I have been an editor for students for over 16 years. Along the way, I’ve noticed some mistakes that students from every level tend to make. One of the biggest—and easiest to correct—is not reading the directions for the assignment. So many students come to WordsRU for proofreading or editing of a paper, theses, or dissertation because they have received negative feedback from a professor, supervisor, or Chair that their paper has not met the requirements of the assignment. In almost every instance, the problem is that he or she has not followed the directions. Take the time to read—really read!—the assignment requirements or the theses/dissertation guide!