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Grammar Tips and Common Writing Mistakes

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Tim Marks

on 19 September 2016

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Transcript of Grammar Tips and Common Writing Mistakes

Grammar Tips and Common Writing Mistakes
What is a Good Writer?
How to get started
Common Problems
Long sentences
Writing with Density
Misused Words
A Look Ahead
Getting Started
Organizing your Document
Common Mistakes
Sauls Lecture Hall- Sept. 19, 2016
Read more!- #1 way to improve writing. How?
Read items like the following:
General documents. Examples?
Items specific to your trade. Examples?
Items specific to your audience. Examples?
Science writing award winners
How to get started
Who is my reader?
What does my reader need to know?
What is my purpose?
What is the goal I hope to accomplish?
Consider your reader
Make some notes/outline before you start
Choose a style guide
Tips to Deal with Wordiness and Clutter
Lack of clarity = WORDINESS
Write to communicate, not impress. Use simple, plain English.
Use specific nouns and strong verbs instead of a string of weaker adjectives.
Keep sentences short. Sentences longer than 17 words discourage readers.
Avoid pretentious language. Ex: surgical intervention becomes operate.
Use specific words. Don’t write “car” when you mean “BMW.”
More tips to deal with wordiness
Reduce the number of words in a phrase:
a limited number = one
An overwhelming amount = most
A proportion of = some
In spite of the fact that = although
Don’t repeat words or ideas
Be aware that the words who, which, and that often clutter sentences
Avoid the careless use of the word this
Sharpen your words with precise meaning
Get rid of excess words
Beware of prepositional phrases. Most can be reduced to one word or removed altogether.
Limit “to be” phrases
am, are, be, been, is, was, and were
Active voice = fewer words and is generally the way we speak: subject, then verb, then object
Long Sentences
Rule of thumb: 1 idea per sentence
Ex: Though renal artery stenosis has been rarely associated with hypokalemia secondary to hyperreninemic hyperaldosteronism there are very few reports that have actually evaluated the pathophysiologic changes in such a patient with renovascular hypertension.
Ex: The problem of separating dementia from the depression can be seen in DSM-III-R by the fact that these critieria allow for a subtype of dementia with coexisting depression and the fact that they require that organic disorders be excluded when making the diagnosis of depression.
What Classifies a Good Writer?
Clear, Concise Well-organized material

How can you become a better writer?
Replace nouns that end in –ance, -ing, -ment, -sion, or –tion with corresponding verbs
Instead of: We need stabilization of the market before we can have a modification of our sales approach.
Write: The market needs to stabilize before we can modify our sales approach.
Using active voice is helpful because the reader doesn’t have to reread or search for the information
Avoid modal verbs that cast doubt on your claim
Select words carefully
Even more Wordiness Tips
Write with Density
What does that mean?
Allow time to edit and rewrite your documents
Write to build support for your ideas
Start new paragraphs often
Organize your document in a logical manner
Most people write in chronological order instead of priority order
Think about the order in which you read scholarly articles: title, abstract, conclusion, and, if the topic is worthy, introduction, methods, and results
You jump ahead to get the punch line and go back for the details if you need them.
Your reader wants the same thing: easy access to the final point
Put the main message 1st
Divide your material into short sections and use headings and subheadings
Use white space!!!
Group related ideas together
Change lists of items separated with commas into bulleted or numbered lists
What's easier to read?
Form a bridge between paragraphs.
Makes your writing much easier to understand by the reader because it ties together paragraphs.
See http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/574/1/
Writing an effective paragraph is like assembling a puzzle. Transitions are the connectors
Use repetition and transition to weave your paragraphs together
Misused Words
Your vs. You’re
It’s vs. Its
Their vs. There
Affect vs. Effect
Affect is usually a verb that means “to influence.”
Affect can also be used as a noun that means “behavior.”
Effect is usually a noun that means “result” or “outcome.”
Effect can also be used as a verb meaning "to bring about".
i.e. vs. e.g
Between vs. Among
Grammar and Punctuation Problems
Subject-verb agreement
Quotation Marks
Periods, commas, and exclamation points go INSIDE the last quotation marks
Ex: Patients are often terrified when they hear the word “cancer.”
Question marks go INSIDE the last quotation mark UNLESS the sentence starts with a question but ends with a quotation that is not a question
Ex: Did Dr. Smith say, “Our health care system needs an overhaul”?
Semicolons and colons go OUTSIDE quotation marks.

Punctuation and Grammar Problems- Commas (Correct Usage)
Use a comma before "and, but, yet, so, and for" between two independent clauses.
Put a comma after an introductory clause beginning with "after, before, if, although, because, since, when, where, and while."
To separate elements so as to clarify meaning
To separate a nonrestrictive clause from the rest of the sentence.
After an introductory phrase with a verb.
When month, day, and year are all present, put in a comma after the day.
If one of the 3 elements (month, day, year) is missing, you can omit the comma. Do not use –rd, -nd, -st unless you omit the month
Punctuation and Grammar: Commas (Incorrect Usage)
To separate an independent clause and a dependent clause connected by a coordinating conjunction
To set off a short introductory phrase or clause if the comma would not contribute to the clarity or ease of reading.
To set off a restrictive appositive (a defining word/phrase needed for the desired meaning)
To separate digits in a page #, year, patent #, or address
To separate a noun clause from the predicate (modifies the noun) of a sentence.
When the clause comes at the end of the sentence.
Semicolons and Colons
Stronger than comma, weaker than colon
When words "however, therefore, moreover, or consequently" are used b/w 2 ind clauses, use semicolon before and comma after
Use b/w 2 ind clauses not joined by a connecting word (and, but, for, so)
Use to separate a series of phrases that already have commas
Colons are stronger pauses than semicolons: they imply that the reader needs to pay close attention to what comes next
If a sentence contains a long list, you can help the reader by introducing it with a colon (:); however, you must have a complete sentence (subject and verb) before the colon.
Use a colon b/w 2 independent clauses when the second independent clause explains or summarizes the first independent clause.
More Organizational Tips
Think Conceptually as you write each section
Allow enough time!
Leave yourself time to edit after taking a break from the paper/project
Ask someone else to proofread
Read it out loud (the ear can sometimes pick up things the eye is missing)
Print a hard copy for editing
More Writing Tips
Place the most important info at the end of sentences in the stress position.
Researchers agree that the end of the sentence is the stress position because it’s the last thing the reader comprehends, and it sticks.
Ex: The drug has significant side effects but is highly effective.
Ex: The drug is highly effective but has significant side effects.
Which drug would you take?
Use short sentences for important points
Amid paragraphs of long sentences, the short one always stands out.
Overcoming Writer's Block
Jot down something, even if it seems unimportant.
Use mind mapping- What is this?
Continually refer to the text you have previously written, the research you have gathered in preparation to write, or a well-written document that motivates you.
This helps you keep on task, stimulate thinking, and refine your ideas.
Upcoming Schedule
Quiz over Grammar on Fri, Sept 18 at beginning of class
Look on Blackboard for a practice run-through of what will be covered on the Grammar Quiz under the "Week 2" tab.
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