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Better Writing, in 10 Slides: The Artful Dodge

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by

Doug Hales

on 6 February 2014

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Transcript of Better Writing, in 10 Slides: The Artful Dodge

Better Writing, in 10 Slides:
The Artful Dodge

Here's the thing.
Many times when writing in English, there is a conflict between writing what is grammatically correct and writing what "sounds good."
So what?
It's tempting to choose one side or the other—but inevitably, you'll alienate a portion of your readers: either by sounding unnaturally academic, or by offending the occasional grammarian stickler.
What do I do?
The best option is often to avoid the conflict entirely and write around it with an artful dodge.
"His/her" v. "their"
Consider this sentence:

Every athlete took ____ time stretching before the race.

What's correct here is "his or her." But that's clunky. Instead, try an artful dodge:

Every athlete knew that stretching before the race was important.
Our clients and their clients
Often, we need to talk about both our subscribers and the clients they serve:

Clients using Perkville saw their client base increase by 24% last year.

Here, the artful dodge can be as simple as using a pronoun (depending on the audience):

With Perkville, you can expect a boost in your client base: last year's average was 24%.

"Data is" v. "Data are"
Another example of subject-verb agreement:

Use our extensive reporting to see what the data ____ telling you.

The correct answer: "are." But that sounds overly scientific. Go for the artful dodge:

Our extensive reporting turns numbers into actionable trends.


Prepositions
We've all been taught that it's incorrect to end a sentence with one:

Who do I give this to?

The correct form is technically, "To whom do I give this?" But that's rather off-putting. An artful dodge can avoid it:

Where does this need to go? OR
Who will be receiving this?


Give it a try.
Here's the great thing about the artful dodge: there are countless ways to solve any grammatical snafus that arise.

As long as you preserve the original meaning of your sentence, the possibilities are endless.

Just think of awkward phrasing as a starting point, not a requirement.

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