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Transcript of Effective Writing
What makes good writing?
A complete sentence has at least one independent clause.
What the ,?!
Common Grammar Mistakes
Effective Business Writing
Becoming a clear, concise, and effective writer
What's a clause?
Stands alone as its own sentence and complete thought
It was a dark and stormy night.
Cannot stand alone as its own thought or sentence
Because it was a dark and stormy night
Recipe for a Sentence
Step one: Add one independent clause
We received an alert for Drive C: at 95%.
Step one: Combine at least two independent clauses
Step two: Add conjunctions and commas as appropriate
We were able to log on to each server, and we verified that they did not reboot.
Step one: Combine one independent clause and one dependent clause in any order
Step two: Use punctuation as appropriate
If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us.
Please feel free to contact us if you have any questions.
Not Structurally Sound!
Take a Breath!
You cut me off!
Remember the last time you talked & rambled on without taking a breath? That's what a run-on is, except in writing.
A run on sentence occurs when two or more complete thoughts (independent clauses) are squished together without any punctuation.
We need commas to break up and separate ideas just as we need pauses in speaking.
We were able to log onto all the servers to verify that they did not reboot and the instances appear to be up and healthy so at this time the connection loss seems to have been caused by network issues.
Run-on sentences can be fixed easily with punctuation and conjunctions.
We were able to log onto all the servers to verify that they did not reboot, and the
instances appear to be up and healthy. At this time
the connection loss seems to have
been caused by network issues.
A comma splice occurs when a comma is needlessly placed in a sentence or used between two independent clauses without the conjunction.
While commas are used to indicate pauses, there are rules to using them, but we will get to those rules soon
This is a follow up to my phone conversation with John, we have been alerted to the C:/ drive reaching 100%.
We received an error message, stating that “The system administrator has set polices to prevent this installation.”
Place Commas with Caution!
Comma splices can be fixed by either including a conjunction, eliminating the comma, or starting a new sentence.
This is a follow up to my phone conversation with John, and we have been alerted.
We received an error message stating that "Blah blah blah."
A fragment is an incomplete sentence.
It might be missing a verb. It might be missing a subject. Or, it might be an incomplete thought (dependent clause) left to stand alone, shivering in the cold as a poor fragment.
Because the one I have now isn't working out too well.
Toys of all kinds thrown everywhere.
A fragment can be fixed by adding a subject, verb, or an independent clause to the sentence .
*Remember, if the sentence you wrote cannot stand alone as a complete thought, it may be a fragment.
Is it a Fragment?
With the ultimate effect of all advertising is to sell the product.
While some employees work diligently.
The best slice of pizza in the whole city!
The cat was stuck.
It wasn't the taxi's fault.
Slept through my alarms.
The commas are coming...
(commas save lives)
When do I use a comma?
After a Dependent Clause
Use a comma to separate two or more complete thoughts (independent clauses). This comma usage is coupled with a conjunction.
More Examples of Sentence Separation Commas
We logged onto each server, and we verified that they did not reboot.
There were no errors, but we double checked anyway.
You can pay for parking, or you can take the bus.
The plate is hot, so please be careful.
We logged onto each server we verified that they did not reboot.
Remember those pesky run-on sentences? Without the comma and conjunction, this becomes a run-on.
The comma comes after the first complete thought
and the comma is followed
by a conjunction before continuing with the second complete thought.
Use a comma following a dependent clause.
If you have any questions, please contact us.
When we ping the server, we are being met with 100% packet loss
Place a comma after each item in a list
(of three items or more).
Place commas around short phrases, which are generally just additional information, that interrupt the sentence.
Place a comma after any sort of phrase that introduces the sentence, such as:
After the meeting,
Use a semicolon to link two or more related independent clauses.
We logged onto each server; the servers did not reboot.
Quotation marks are used to indicate a direct quotation
; they are
used for emphasis
Colons are used to introduce a quotation or a list.
Ex: The message read: “Error.”
Ex: The problems are as follows: problem
one, problem two, and problem three.
Pin the Punctuation on the Sentence
The War with Words
For PMRC Eyes Only
Because the doors were locked, we couldn't get in the building.
The colors in an 8-count box of Crayola
crayons are red, yellow, green, blue, brown,
black, orange, and purple.
The Oxford Comma is used after the second to last item in a list right before the conjunction.
Do I have to use it?
You can embrace it or abandon it. It's your writing style, but remember to stay consistent with whichever you choose.
Crayola also has silly scented crayons, like Alien Armpit, Sasquatch Socks, and Sunburnt Cyclops.
Dennis’ fanny pack, which he wears at all times, was deteriorating.
Dennis, who was one of my English professors, wore a fanny pack to class every day.
Do you see how separating interrupting phrases and ideas, which can be pesky, with commas add clarity to your sentence?
we found four red Skittles and three yellow Skittles.
the red Skittles were melting in the sun.
the yellow Skittles were stuck to the inside of the bag.
we threw them all away.
This is an independent clause that can stand on its own.
This is also an independent clause that can stand alone *without* its predecessor, but it is still related.
Therefore, this semicolon can link the two independent thoughts.
Note: No conjunction is needed.
We received this error message: “An error has occurred.”
Introduce your quote
Preface your quote with a comma or colon
Capitalize the first letter in the quote
End punctuation goes
*inside* the quotation marks
It's not the Apostrophe's Fault!
Apostrophes are used for contractions to indicate a missing letter(s) or the combination of two words. They are also used to indicate possession.
When should you use an apostrophe? If it's plural, don't use an apostrophe unless you want to demonstrate possession.
Although you may have lost one point for every contraction you used in an academic paper, using contractions is not bad.
Typically, the more formal the writing, the more you should avoid using contractions. Otherwise, using them is (or not using them) is totally up to your personal writing style.
Despite the name the koala bear is not a bear at all. In fact the koala is a marsupial. Koalas live mostly in the trees of eastern Australia their sharp claws keep them aloft easily in these trees. A typical koalas diet consists of eucalyptus leaves. Koalas eat about two and a half pounds of leaves per day but they dont drink much water. Koalas sleep during the day often tucked into the nooks of trees for up to 18 hours at one time. Koalas are plump fuzzy and generally adorable.
Your vs. You're
Than vs. Then
To vs Too
Lose vs. Loose
Are vs. Our
A vs. An
Saw vs. Have Seen
Your is possessive.
You're is a contraction for "you are."
Your system is down, and your password should be changed.
*This refers to your system and your password.
You're not allowed to keep the same password.
*In other words, "You are not allowed...."
Than is used to show a comparison.
Then is used to show time.
Source: The Oatmeal
Source: The Oatmeal
Source: The Oatmeal
Source: The Oatmeal
The hare was in first place, but then the tortoise passed the hare.
The hare is faster than the tortoise
*This is comparing the speed of the hare to the speed of the tortoise.
* This indicates a sequence of events.
To with one "o" is used in infinitive verb phrases and prepositions.
Too is used to demonstrate something that is in addition or in excess.
I'm going to the store.
The car needs to be washed.
I want to go, too!
You're driving too fast.
Pittsburgh and its surrounding area tends to omit the necessary "to be" from sentences.
That is, we tend to say "The room needs cleaned" or "My water bottle needs filled."
When communicating with someone outside of the Pittsburgh area, remember to use "to be," as in "The room needs to be cleaned" and "My water bottle needs to be filled."
Ask yourself, do I mean extra or in addition to? If so, use "too." Otherwise, use "to."
Unless, of course, you mean the number 2. Then you should use "two."
Lose with one "o" is the opposite of winning and finding something.
Loose with "oo" is the opposite of tight.
Don't lose the data.
The doorknob was loose.
Are is a verb.
Our is a possessive.
Are you going?
The checks are coming back clear.
That's our chair.
*Are can be replaced with its singular verb 'is' and the sentence will still retain its structure.
*Our can be replaced with another possessive, such as your, and it will still make sense.
A is used before a word beginning with a consonant.
An is used before vowels.
There's an exception to the rule!
If the word sounds like it begins with a vowel, use an. For example, “An hour.”
When in doubt, say it aloud and use whichever sounds more correct.
Source: The Oatmeal
Use saw to demonstrate a specific point in the past when you saw something.
Use have seen to demonstrate something you have seen before in the past.
I saw you yesterday.
I've seen that movie seven times already.
Whatever you do, DO NOT use the word "seen" without preceding it by "have."
It's not "I seen her before."
It's "I have seen her before."
Spot the Errors!
"There" should be "They're"
"Your" should be "You're"
"Their" should be "They're"
"It's" should be "Its"
These are all plural, not possessive.
The apostrophes don't belong here.
Since it is at the expense of the owner, owners is possessive. Therefore, it should be "at owner's expense."
Quotation marks are used incorrectly.
"To" should be "Too"
Exercise your sentence...
For crafting clear and concise writing.
Make every word count!
Avoid repeating phrases, words, or ideas unless you are trying to make a point.
We found that
had X GB free space remaining
on the drive
Cut it out!
Each word you write should be significant and essential to your sentence. Cut unnecessary words.
Dead Weight Modifiers
Eliminate words like:
Instead of "I'm very happy," try "I'm thrilled."
Instead of "I'm really hungry," try "I'm ravenous."
Unless you're using “that” to refer to something specific, such as “I’m sitting in that chair,” then chances are "that" is unnecessary.
Have you read the email that I sent?
"That" is unnecessary.
Remove "that" and it becomes:
Have you read the email I sent?
Do you see how removing one word can improve a sentence?
Don't Not Avoid Multiple Negatives
Too many negatives leads to misunderstanding and confusion for the reader.
Use positive language when possible.
Nobody doesn’t like Sara Lee.
Everyone likes Sara Lee.
It's better to use positive language when communicating with customers for reasons besides clarity. Avoid stating what you cannot do when possible, and instead state what you can do.
Instead of: We are not able to continue the process until the our account has the correct permissions.
Try: We will be able to continue once our account has the correct permissions.
with sentence variations.
Remember the simple, compound, and complex sentences from earlier? Mix it up! Use a variation of those sentences structures as you write.
Coincidentally, David and I ended up sitting right next to each other at the Super Bowl.
In an amazing coincidence, David and I ended up sitting next to each other at the Super Bowl.
Sitting next to David at the Super Bowl was a tremendous coincidence.
But the biggest coincidence that day happened when David and I ended up sitting next to each other at the Super Bowl.
When I sat down at the Super Bowl, I realized that, by sheer coincidence, I was directly next to David.
By sheer coincidence, I ended up sitting directly next to David at the Super Bowl.
Try something new...
Vary your sentence openings, too!
Six different ways to write the same sentence:
The subject is being acted upon.
Here, the fish are passively being eaten by cats.
The subject is actively doing something.
The cats are actively eating fish.
Transform the Passive Voice to an Active Voice
The glass was broken by a rock.
An alert was received by us.
The password was stolen by an employee.
A rock broke the glass.
We received an alert.
An employee stole the password.
Keep your voice active!
Always keep in mind who you're writing for.
Watch Your Tone
Tone refers to the writer's attitude toward the reader and the subject of the message. Just like a tone of voice would affect a listener, your tone of reading certainly affects the reader.
Slang demonstrates carelessness.
Keep your tone professional yet conversational.
Less is More
The more clutter, the more likely the reader will misinterpret your message.
Be direct, clear, and to the point while still including all of the necessary information.
Defining Your Purpose & Audience
The writer should consider several things when preparing to write. The following questions will help you to determine the appropriate tone for your message.
Why am I writing this document?
Who am I writing to and what do I want them to understand?
Are the techs literate?
Do not use PMRC/Company only lingo
What kind of tone should I use?
Be courteous and sincere
Not: You didn't read the instructions carefully, thus your system has shut down.
But: The system may automatically shut down if any installation errors occur.
Write to express your idea,
then edit instead of writing it write the first time.
Ways to Revise
Use spell check
Force yourself to read each single word
Read your work aloud
Have someone else read your work
Read your work backwards
Separate proofreading tasks
Font & Formatting
About 2-4 sentences per paragraph
Check for correctness and completeness
Re-read cut & pasted information
Re-read your email AT LEAST ONCE before hitting send.
Pump's Are Not Taking Debit Card's
Please Fill Up Gas And pay In Side
With You're Debit Card OR Use As
Credit At Pump. Thank you
Sorry for Inconvenius.
Sources, references, and helpful links:
Grammar Girl (Good for quick reference):
Purdue OWL (Good for in-depth explanations):
The Oatmeal (Silly comics to help you remember):
Organization of an email
State the purpose for your email
Include key points and explain any attachments
Explain any action items or the next steps
The subject line should be short and to the point.
Keep it Simple
Focus on 1 or 2 issues per message.
If an email requires a response, respond within 24 hours.
Re-read before Sending!
A few things to check for:
Include screen shots and a link to the BB page*
Introduce screen shots with a caption
The following screen shot shows x, y, and z:
Most importantly, read the documentation thoroughly.