Be Thankful for These Writing Tips

Today is Thursday, so this post is on communication skills.

Happy Thanksgiving to those of you in the US.

Today, in addition to too many things too numerous to mention here, I am thankful for an article called Five Effective Ways to Improve Your Writing that I received from Barbara McNichol.  Barbara has most graciously allowed me to post her article here.  Barbara writes and edits articles, books, and book proposals for authors, speakers, and entrepreneurs. You can get in touch with her by logging on to her website: or via e mail at

Five Effective Ways to Improve Your Writing – Barbara McNichol

When you write, you have a message to share and a story to tell and you want to accomplish that as clearly as possible. When I see patterns of unclear writing, I recommend using the following five ways to change them. When you apply these techniques consistently, you’ll see instant improvement in your writing.

1. Make verbs dance.
The meaning of a sentence comes across effortlessly and clearly when its verb is “alive.” Compare these sentences:
Passive  – “The juicy watermelon was eaten by the boy.”
Active  – “The boy chomped into the watermelon’s belly, enjoying each juicy bite.”

2. Get agreements.
When you put a singular subject with the plural form of the verb, you weaken your writing, confuse your reader, and make grammarians groan. Example sentence: “A group of writers were in town.” Note that the subject of the sentence “group” is singular while the verb “were” belongs with a plural subject. Instead, write this: “A group of writers was in town” or “Several writers were in town.” Better yet, liven up the sentence with an active verb: “A group of writers landed in town” or another more imaginative verb.

3. Watch for mixed modifiers and dangling participles.
“When thinking about a good place to eat, many choices are available.” Are the “many choices” doing the thinking? I don’t think so! Mixed modifiers and dangling participles get in the way of crisp, intentional communication. Write this instead: “When thinking about a good place to eat, the organizer had many choices.” It’s now clear who is doing the thinking – the organizer!

4. Stay on a parallel path.
Don’t let a mixed bag of sentence structures wiggle into your writing. Here’s what I mean: “His attitude makes a difference in changing, succeeding, and when he wants to move on.” The writer forces the reader’s mind to shift gears too abruptly by throwing in a non-parallel phrase toward the end of the sentence. It broke an expected pattern. Instead, the sentence needs a parallel structure, in this case, three “ing” words: “His attitude makes a difference in changing, succeeding, and moving on.” That keeps those mental gears from grinding.

5. Select the right word when it matters most.
Do certain words tend to trip you up? Do you write “further” when you mean “farther” or “accept” instead of “except?” Selecting the correct word from similar-but-different options saves confusion for the reader and embarrassment for you as the writer. Jump into your dictionary when you’re not sure if “choose” or “chose” is correct within the context of your paragraph. Better yet, keep a reference guide handy, one that specializes in clarifying trick combos such as than vs. then, stationery vs. stationary, loath vs. loathe and so on. Choose the perfect word when it matters most.

That’s it for today.  Thanks for reading.  Log on to my website for more common sense.  Check out my other blog: for common sense advice on leading people and running a small business.

I’ll see you around the web, and at Alex’s Lemonade Stand.


PS: Speaking of Alex’s Lemonade Stand – my fundraising page is still open.  Please go to to read Alex’s inspiring story and to donate if you can.

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