Simplify Your Verbs

A good copyeditor is always on the lookout for language that is imprecise. But what exactly is imprecise language, and how can subject matter experts or technical writers learn to find it on their own? More importantly, once it’s found, how do you replace it without using jargon or $5 words? Well here’s one place […]

Writing to Teach

The following summarizes and extends our bi-weekly Tweet Chat #WrMatters from Thursday, August 9th. I’d love to hear your feedback, since this is an idea I’m still developing. And big thanks to Shakirah Dawud and Michelle Walkden for their contributions! Writers are lifelong learners. And not just in the ever-changing realm of style guides. Because […]

Gaining Greater Focus

As you’ve probably noticed from my sporadic blog posts, I can’t walk and chew gum at the same time. When I’m teaching, I’m teaching. My focus is on the writer in front of me and whatever tools that person needs to become the best writer he can possibly be. When I’m developing curriculum, my only […]

Shall We Use Will?

The difference between will and shall is the stuff of editorial legend – part nuance, part fading mood, and part shibboleth. 1) Nuance. Like may and can, shall and will convey subtly different messages that the average writer will leave to the pundit to debate. But those whose writing contains legal or regulatory implications should pay […]

Writer’s Block – Myth or Malady?

This was the question bandied about in the #WrMatters Tweet Chat on Thursday June 28th. And just in case you missed it, here are the topics that we discovered along the way. Unfortunately, what we did not discover was an answer to the question: does writer’s block exist as a real phenomenon? Michelle Walkden of […]

Ante-Who?: Pronoun Usage in Technical Writing

Despite their small size, pronouns cause a world of trouble for writers of technical documents. First, if pronouns aren’t placed correctly, they can cause serious misunderstanding, and when documents are being revised often by multiple authors, these tiny words can get lost in the shuffle. Second, the many different classes and sub-classes of pronouns each […]

Proofreading 101

Proofreading is the final stage in the Writing Cycle. It seems like it should be the easiest of the six stages – just read through a document and be sure you haven’t made a complete fool of yourself. Yet we can all find numerous examples of the foolhardy, in ourselves as well as others, particularly […]

Pruning Overgrown Sentences

In a recent blog post, Fun Things to Do with Sentences, I suggested a few ways writers could avoid the tyranny of the subject-verb-object sentence structure. Oh, that all of us lived in such a despotic realm! Some of us wander the dark forests, wide prairies, and vast deserts of wild abandon where no such […]

The Little Things We Write

The Thursday May 31st edition of #WrMatters featured a discussion of the short messages that dominate our work days. We’re all professional writers throughout our working day as we jot down to-do lists, create status updates, tweet, draft headlines, and of course respond to email. Most of us on the chat realized how important the […]

Fun Things to Do with Sentences

In linguistic terms, English is an isolating language. That means word order matters, unlike say Latin, which is a highly synthetic language. In Latin, the function of a word can be deduced from its form. So a writer like Virgil could place the same words in any order, and the reader would still arrive at […]