Two Tips to Improve your Writing (Plus Resources!)

Ladies and Gentlemen, this is a blog post about writing well. The following are two tips that I think you might find useful in improving the quality of your writing! Without further ado:

Use a variety of sentence types. Variety is exciting. Reading a bunch of long sentences in a row can get tiring and confusing. Similarly, only short sentences can make a paper quite mundane and monotonous. So my suggestion is to vary the types of sentence structures that you use in your papers! There are four main types of sentences: simple, compound, complex, and compound-complex. Each type of sentence can be long, but usually simple sentences tend to be the shortest. Conversely, compound-complex sentences are usually the longest type. I will now write a sentence of each construction to give you an example of each or to refresh your memory.

Simple: I am writing a blog entry.

Compound: I am writing a blog entry, and my computer is low on battery.

Complex: While writing a blog entry, I noticed that my computer was low on battery.

Compound-Complex: Though my computer is low on battery, my goal is to finish this blog entry tonight, so I will keep writing.

For further clarification on the grammar behind the sentence types, please refer to your favorite grammar book or online reference source! See below for some recommendations.

Now that you are (hopefully) familiar with the four sentence types and they are completely at your disposal, have fun using them! Throw in a short, simple sentence after a series of longer ones, or vice-versa, to create dynamic and engaging prose.

Use correct grammar. One of the most distracting things about a piece of writing is when it is grammatically incorrect. So why do grammar mistakes happen? The fact that colloquial English is sometimes not grammatically correct makes it harder for writers who write the way they talk. Another reason for errors is a simple lack of familiarity with the rules. It is hard to know whether or not to place a comma in any given location without knowing what the comma use rules are. Also, beware that Microsoft Word grammar check is not always right. Now behold: a list within a list. Some of the most common and/or flagrant grammar errors in my experience:

  • Incorrect comma use
  • Incorrect apostrophe use
  • Unnecessary verb tense shifts
  • Confusion between singular and plural pronouns “he or she” vs. “their”
  • Confusion of you’re vs. your (In an academic setting, writers are usually pretty good with this one, but once things hit the internet, this mistake seems to be everywhere! End rant.)
  • Improper semicolon use

There are some common errors that I omitted from this list on purpose because most writers that I’ve worked with have a strong sense of the rule, such as their vs. there vs. they’re.

And as promised here is a list of some resources that you can use to become more familiar with grammar rules and become a shameless grammar nerd like I am!

  • Diana Hacker’s A Writer’s Reference. This text can be found either in print or online at http://www.dianahacker.com/student.html.
  • Purdue OWL, http://owl.english.purdue.edu/. For those who are not familiar with OWL, it is particularly helpful for formatting in text citations and works cited pages.
  • Grammarly Handbook, www.grammarly.com/handbook/. This website breaks the rules down by parts of speech, punctuation, mechanics, and sentence style & clarity. It also features the “world’s most accurate grammar checker”! I have not tried it so I cannot endorse it, but if you do, let me know what you think.
  • Your friendly campus Writing Center! Self-explanatory shameless plug.

-Yulia Podolny

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About BentleyWritingCenter

This is the official blog of the Bentley University Writing Center staff.
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