Saturday, January 30, 2016

My 10 Personal Writing Tips

I am not the grammar police. Half of my writing makes zero sense (see number 2 below). There are probably mistakes in this paragraph. I cannot claim to know it all when it comes to writing tips. I have never taken a writing class, but I have written a lot of papers. Here are a few things I try to personal live by when writing, just like I try to remember certain photography tips when I take photos. I am always trying to improve.

By the way, I was in COLLEGE when I finally realized it's "would have" or "could have" and NOT "would of" and "could of." I must have driven my professors crazy.

1. BIGGEST PET PEEVE: A person is a WHO, not a that! I know someone WHO has a new car. The little girl in the pink jacket, WHO lives next door. My son, who goes to college, play hockey. I don't know why this drives me insane. But seeing a sentence such as "Here is my cousin that is twelve" makes me want to grind my teeth. I see it everyday on Facebook. I am sure I have made the same mistake too though.

2. Do not write when tired. Or sick. Or in a chemotherapy induced fog. Get some sleep and try again later. And make sure to reread what you tried to write earlier. It might be quite hilarious. This is hard for me, because I am tired and groggy 80% of the day, and the other 20% I try to save for Brycen.

3. Limit the use of the words "got" and "get." Even as a child I was told this one. Still, I catch myself all the time overusing them - Charlotte got three inches of snow. Does Charlotte received three inches of snow sound better? Yes. When I taught advanced first grade we made a graveyard for overused words like "get/got" and "good" and "make/made" and "said" and some other overused words. which brings me to number 4 . . .

4. Use a thesaurus. I love the thesaurus tool on most computer programs. Especially since I am not one to know big words. And it is worse lately, with chemo, I have words on the tip of my tongue, or so they say, and cannot quite retrieve it from memory.

5. Limit the use of that. Instead of saying "My car that is going to win the race," try "my car is going to win the race." I find almost 95% of the time, I do not need to use the word that.

6. Know the difference between you/you're, its/it's, they're/their/there and here/hear. I will admit, if I have a typo, it is almost always with the wrong they're/there/their. I know the difference, but if I am typing too fast I get it wrong, which leads me to number 7 . . .

7. REREAD your writing before you hit  the publish or post button. I do this and I still have mistakes. The piece I wrote about Kodiak Island? I must have reread it 9 times, and I am sure someone else could read it and find more errors.

8. For the love of all things sacred, there is NO A in definitely! You are spelling defiantly, and spell check won't catch it.

9. Something I need to work on - a little fourth or firth grade lesson for life - use the 5 senses when writing. What did you smell? What did you taste? Etc.

10. Another thing I am trying to improve on: staying in the same tense throughout a story. I usually write stories in the past tense, then realize I'm suddenly in the present. This has always been an issue with me.

After writing all this I want to take a writing class!

What are your writing tips or pet peeves?


  1. Omg I find my grammar has become worse over time! I *try* to not use too many "to be" verbs, avoid using "went," and write in the correct tense but I'm often in a hurry to write/finish a post and skip proofreading. I'm sure people cringe when they read my stuff!

    Things that bother me: constantly writing in all lower case, like all the time, using trendy phrases (in a non-ironic way) like "I can't even," and using words/phrases that don't exist/are incorrect like "conversate," "honing in," "irregardless," etc.

    But I also really hate when people think they are THE grammar police. Sorry but if you're not an editor, English teacher or copywriter then bye. I also hate when people resort to "you spelled _______ wrong" as an insult on blogs or social media. It's so holier-than-thou and makes me roll my eyes.

    I'm all for good grammar but I often overlook or don't notice it as much if the person writes intelligently and/tells a good story.

    1. V, I never notice mistakes in your writing!

      There has to be some kind of age:trendy phrase usage ratio, because the older a person is, the more it annoys me when they say "just sayin'." I have friends near 60 who constantly use "my bad" and "just sayin'." I have friends in their 20s and 30s who do it too, and it annoys me, but not as much as older generations trying to look younger. And yet I hold my tongue. Because as you say, I am not the grammar police. I make way too many mistakes to even think I have the right. I didn't even have the courage to tell my past co-worker, a literacy facilitator, that he used the wrong here/hear on a recent post.

      Unless someone spells Brycen wrong. Then I get point it out!

    2. I agree with the age-phrase ratio. It's one of my (many) pet peeves. I especially hate it when the trendy phrase is drawn from tv references, like "hot mess," or anything that comes of of a Kardashian mouth. Auuugghhhhh. Cringe. I'm not righteous enough to ever point it out but it does make me gnash my teeth.

      And do NOT get me started on spelling names correctly. Another huge pet peeve especially when a) you're corresponding via email and you're name is RIGHT THERE or b)when you've interviewed someone and give them your card and they still do not get it right. But the worst is when people just call me any old "V" name they can think of -- Vanessa,Victoria etc -- and then when I correct them have the audacity to say something like "oh your name isn't _____? I thought it was _____." I have had that conversation many times via EMAIL where again, my name was displayed in the email address as well as my signature. I'm not so bothered when people don't get it right like at starbucks or if I was just introduced but come on. And then when I correct someone - not rudely just directly - it's like *I* was somehow in the wrong. Grrrrr.

      Over time I have used it as a litmus test for hiring people or befriending people in general. My feeling is if you can't get someone's name correct then said person most likely lacks attention to detail (and common basic social graces) and therefore should not be hired / a friend. It's so far held pretty true.

  2. I absolutely despise shortened words such as:
    "That outfit is adorbs." or "Text me your addy."

    I am not hip enough to understand the use of phrases like "I'm dead" or "I can't even". I always want to say, "You can't even finish that sentence?"

    My other big pet peeve is misuse of literally. My sister and I like to text each other hilariously bad misues that we find published. It's awful!

    1. Hahaha, Bonnie! I mean, I'm just sayin' I can't even. I totes can't even.

      Do you watch "How I Met Your Mother?" They had to have an intervention with one of the characters, I think it was Ted, because he was literally always saying literally.

      And how about Facebook posts where all vowels are removed? Gt nw cr, thx!!

    2. "Adorbs" is a personal favorite of mine that makes my skin crawl. If a 15 yr old says it, it's forgivable. When 45+ people say "adorbs", I may vomit. Just a warning.
      Karen, the way you write is YOU. Your style, your grammer, sentence structure is all you. There are tons of texts out there on the art of editing. Just let it flow! Don't agonize.
      I read the Elizabeth Gilbert book on creativity and am certain she has a valid point about ideas in the cosmos seeking someone to bring them to fruition. If we don't get around to developing an idea that comes to us, it may just look for another writer, artist, musician, inventor, etc.
      That's my input!


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