Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Literary Terms You Should Know

Picaresque: 

Swashbucking adventure stories with a scrappy, ne’er-do-well scamp of a protagonist are a beloved narrative staple. Known as "picaresques," they’ve heavily influenced a diverse selection of authors and spawned some of the world’s most lauded works.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Story Writing

Story Writing
by Ali Hale

Since prehistoric times, when tales were told around fires and painted on cave walls, stories have been an essential part of our human experience. But what exactly is a story – and how can you write a great one?

A story is simply a tale of events that are linked by cause and effect. It can be true or it can be a work of fiction. We expect stories to have a beginning, middle and end; they involve at least two characters, and some events take place.

In this article, I’ll take you through three major contemporary types of written story:

  • The short story
  • The novel
  • The life story (biography or autobiography)

For each, I’ll explain what it is, and how to write it successfully. I’ll end with tips about story writing which will help you improve your writing, whether you’re a beginner or a published author.

Three Types of Story

1. Short Stories
A short story is a piece of fiction under 20,000 words. More typically, a short story will be 1,000 – 5,000 words. (Pieces under 1,000 words are “short short stories” or “flash fiction”, over 20,000 and they’re novellas.)

Short stories are published in magazines, newspapers and book anthologies. Short stories need:

  • A small cast of characters, with one main character
  • A compact time frame, with the story taking place over the course of a few days or weeks
  • A single plot without subplots, though longer short stories may have a subplot

The majority of writing competitions are for complete short stories, rather than novels or novel excerpts. If you do enter competitions, don’t be put off writing if you don’t win – judges have different likes and dislikes.

How to Write a Great Short Story
Like any story, your short story needs to have a beginning, middle and end:

  • The beginning is where we’re introduced to the characters, especially the main character and his/her problem
  • The middle is where the action and plot develops. The main character will face difficulties such as opposition from other people or a challenging environment.
  • The end is where the main character triumphs over his/her biggest challenge (or fails, in the case of a tragedy). The resolution should be satisfying and conclusive for the reader.

Even in literary and experimental short stories, it’s important that something should happen. Much of the action might take place inside the characters’ heads, but there should be a real change as a result.

By the end of your short story, your main character should have experienced an internal change. This means that they’ve grown and developed as a person – perhaps overcoming a fear, or recognizing an unacknowledged truth about himself or herself.

2. Novels
A novel is a piece of fiction that’s 60,000 words or longer (shorter books are novellas). The typical novel is around 80,000 – 150,000 words, depending on genre.

Novels and short stories share similar structural features, but novels give the author a much wider scope. A novel might have:

  • More than one main character (though attempt this with caution!)
  • A large cast of characters
  • A long time frame – potentially covering several centuries and several generations
  • Multiple subplots

Novels tend to be much more popular than short stories with the reading public, and almost all full-time authors are novelists rather than short story writers.

How To Write A Novel
A novel is a much bigger undertaking than a short story. Even if you are able to write short stories without much planning, you’ll need to plan out your novel in advance. There are a number of ways to do this, but whichever you choose, ensure:

  • You have enough plot to meet your word count target
  • Your main character (protagonist) is sympathetic – readers of short stories will put up with a dull or unlikeable character, but novel readers are stuck with the character’s viewpoint for much longer. As the writer, you’ll need to be able to become your characters.
  • You have an escalation of events throughout the plot. Things need to get worse and worse for your characters, until they finally overcome their problems or enemies.

3. Life Stories
A life story is a true story – though it shares features with fictional stories. Life stories are either “biography” (when you write about someone else) or “autobiography” (when you write about yourself).

Most biographies and autobiographies are book length, similar to a novel. Many writers draw on their own life experiences for newspaper columns and magazine articles, though. There is also a market for “true life” stories in magazines, which are told in a story-like way: writing about your own life is a simple way to write about what you know.

How To Write A Life Story
A life story needs to be engaging and interesting for the reader. Don’t include boring details just because they’re “true” – the reader doesn’t need to know everything that happened. In many cases, details of childhood or dull years can be summarized – or told through a few vividly-drawn incidents.

You will need to be careful when writing a biography or autobiography to:

  • Structure your piece as a story, focusing on interesting events and incidents.
  • Show the personality of the subject (yourself or the person you’re writing about), and making sure the reader will find them at least partly likeable.
  • Be conscious of the other people involved – try to be sensitive to how they might feel (and avoid getting sued for libel – make sure you’re certain of your facts).

There is often a fine line between life writing and fiction. If you are writing the story of your life, you will need to make decisions about whether you will alter or make up lines of dialogue, for instance.

General Story Writing Tips
Whatever type of story or stories you’re writing, and however experienced you are, there’s always room for improvement…

Share Your Story Writing Efforts
It’s hard to write in isolation, and sharing your work with other writers is a great way to get feedback and suggestions. Look for a local writers’ circle, or join an online forum. You want to find somewhere that’s supportive but where people aren’t afraid to offer advice about things that aren’t working in your story.

Keep Learning
Writing is a craft that you can learn, like any other. There are hundreds of books on all aspects of writing, from the nuts and bolts of grammar and punctuation to writing in specific genres. You can also find free advice on the Internet (on blogs like this one). You can even take a degree or post-graduate course in creative writing.

Keep Practicing
As well as learning about writing, you need to practice. That means writing regularly – ideally daily. As you write more, your stories will get better – your characters are more “real”, your plots are convincing, and your endings are deeply satisfying to readers. You’ll also find that writing itself becomes easier: you’ll spend less time struggling to find the right words, and more time enjoying seeing the story spill from your fingers.

Always Revise
All authors need to revise their work. Your first draft might have a lot of problems – inconsistent characterization, scenes which don’t really fit, holes in the plot, incorrect pacing or tension. Don’t worry if this is the case: most published authors have to extensively rewrite their first drafts too. Always allow time to revise your story, and if possible, do several rewrites. Most authors recommend letting your story sit unread for a few days or weeks when you complete a draft, so that you can come to it with fresh eyes.

Good luck with your story writing!


Monday, December 14, 2015

Creative Writing: Fiction

Creative Writing: Fiction
Writing Tips

Fiction Writers
Fiction writers learn to write by writing. Although writing is an art, there are skills, tools, and techniques that can be learned in order to develop talent. And constructive criticism and feedback can help this process.

To be a good writer you need to read a lot, listen and observe everything about you carefully, and write a lot. Writing a lot takes discipline, because writing can actually be hard work- but very satisfying. Setting up a routine for writing is important; it is very easy to find something else to do besides writing. A compulsion to write is very useful.

Fiction writers should have a good grasp of the language, but most of all they must bestorytellers. A really good story can compensate for less-than-brilliant writing, but brilliant writing will not save a bad story.

Readers of fiction want very much to find the writer's work to be believable. It is the task of the writer to produce a story that does not jolt the reader into recognizing that the narrative is just the writer talking, just fiction. The writer should write about what he or she already knows through experience or can learn about through research. The narrative should read as if the writer really knows what he or she is writing about.


Major Components of Stories
  1. Plot is the organization of events that will take place in the story.
  2. Characters are the people or animals who will be in the story.
  3. Setting is the physical time and place in which the story takes place.
  4. Dialogue is the spoken words of the characters in the story.
  5. Point of view is the relative identification of the narrator with the characters.
  6. Theme is the main idea or meaning behind a story.
  7. Style is the writer's use of the language.

Elaboration

Plot
Plot (and characters) carries the other elements of the story. The plot must be believable, plausible, and interesting. It is a sequence of events connected in a cause-and-effect manner. Generally the plot consists of a series of increasingly more intense conflicts, a climax (the most intense part of the story), and a final resolution. The plot must be advanced as the story unfolds. Usually the closer to the end of the story the climax is placed the better.

Long works like novels can have many subplots and secondary climaxes and resolutions. Avoid using subplots in order to have cliché characters. Avoid too many coincidences.

Flashbacks have been overused. A story is stronger when it runs chronologically.


Characters
The reader should be able to identify with and care about the characters in the sense that the characters seem real to the reader. The characters must do something, and what they do must seem reasonable for them to have done it.

Characters should be introduced early in the story. The more often a character is mentioned or appears, the more significance the reader will attach to the character. Also, the main character should be introduced before setting, so that the setting can be introduced from the point of view of the character.

The nature of characters can be brought out through minimal description and the actions, thoughts, and dialogue of the characters. The writer should allow the reader to make judgments about the characters; the writer should avoid making the judgments for the reader. The feelings of the character should be demonstrated rather than told by the narrator.

Yet, there are some very good stories in which much of the narration is about a character's feelings and thoughts or in which the narration goes into great detail and analysis of a character's feelings and thoughts at some point. So one rule about writing is that there are no rules, or maybe: If it works, it works.


Setting
Setting includes the place and time in which the story takes place. The setting should be described in specifics to make the story seem real, to set the atmosphere and mood of the story, to place limitations on the characters, or to help establish the basic conflict of the story. Weather can be an important part of setting.

The setting can be used for contrast, having something taking place in an unexpected place. Also, the more unfamiliar the reader is with the setting, the more interesting the setting.


Dialogue
Dialogue makes fiction seem real. However, dialogue that copies reality may actually slow down a story. Avoid unnecessary or repetitive dialogue.

Dialect in dialogue can be difficult to read. A small amount of it can be used to establish the nature of a character, but overuse will intrude on the story. The level of use of language by the characters- pronunciation, diction, grammar, etc.- is often used to characterize people in a story. Most often the main characters use the best English.

Profanity and vulgarisms can be used where they seem appropriate. Overuse amounts to author intrusion and can interrupt the reader's belief in the story.

Too much exposition through dialogue can slow down a story. Characters should not repeat in dialogue events which have already happened in the story.

Also, one character should not tell another character what the second character should already know just so the writer can convey information to the reader. The conversation will sound implausible: author intrusion. The information can be conveyed in simple narration or by having a knowledgeable character explain something to another character who reasonably should not know the information already.

The form of dialogue should be varied to keep the reader interested. However, don't try to find too many different ways to say "said."

Interior dialogue is what a character is thinking. Dramatic dialogue is a character thinking out loud, without response from other characters. Indirect dialogue is the narrator telling what a character said.
Dialogue should be used to develop character or to advance the story. It should not be used just to hear characters talk.


Point of View
First person point of view has the main character telling the story or a secondary character telling the main character's story. Everything that happens in the story must be seen or experienced by the character doing the narration. The reader's judgment of other characters in the story will be heavily influenced by the narrator. This can be very limiting. Also, a story written in first person usually means that the main character won't die in the story. However, first person point of view gives a sense of intimacy to the story.

Third person point of view can be objective or omniscient. An objective narrator describes actions but not the inner thoughts or feelings of the characters. An omniscient narrator can describe all the actions of all of the characters but also all of their inner thoughts and feelings as well.


Theme
The theme of a story is often abstract and not addressed directly in the narrative. It is imparted to the story by the concrete events occurring in the story.


Style
Style is the way the writer uses language. The longer the work the less important language becomes. Above all, the writer's work must tell a story. The writer should not be more concerned with the words used than with the story the writer is trying to tell. Don't be a fanatic about words. The language is less important than character and plot. However, a combination of a good story and good English will be a delight to read.

Mistakes in English amount to author intrusion and detract greatly from the story being told.
The most effective writing uses the active voice. Shorter, concrete words tend to be stronger. Long words tend to be abstract. Avoid wordiness. Write in a concise, precise, concrete, and specific manner. However, recognize that English has an enormous number of words in it, and the words can have very precise meanings. Sometimes no other word will do. And be specific. Don't mention just a tree; say what kind of tree it was.

The choice of words can help set the tone of the story.

Beginning writers may get defensive and touchy about their style. When offered constructive (or maybe destructive) criticism about their style, beginning writers may tend to say something like,"Well, that's just my style." The implication being that the reader must like whatever style the writer chooses to use. But that is backwards. It is up to the writer to please the reader, not the other way around.


Other Tips

In no particular order.

Be specific in your writing. The more specific the detail, the more real the story will seem to the reader.

The best fiction can come from the preposterous imaginations of writers who are good storytellers.

Becoming a skilled typist (on a word processor) is extremely useful to a writer.

Very few people make a living at writing fiction.

Revision is important. A writer can always do one more revision. At some point the writer has to stop revising and get the work published.

Show, don't tell.

Avoid starting a story with dialogue.

Don't use clichés.

The more detail in the story, the more interesting the story.

Revise, revise, revise, revise, . . .

Avoid author intrusion.

Write what you like to read.

Don't use exclamation points.

Use surprise and irony.

The shorter the story, the more important each word becomes.

Descriptions and technical details must be authentic; when the reader suddenly realizes that the writer made a mistake, the reader is jarred out his or her temporary acceptance of the story as reality, i.e., author intrusion.

Avoid overused words.

Success breeds success. The more published you are, the easier it is to get published again.

Every word can be used appropriately somewhere in some story.

Don't tell what happened; recreate what happened.

The beginning of a story must be interesting. Readers can be lost on page one.

Scorning the work of a writer does not make that writer a better writer.


A Final Observation
Whatever rules or tips you read about writing you will be able to find some published work that violates them. Sometimes the violation is glaring and amounts to author intrusion. Other times the violation may actually help the story. Usually the latter occurs when the writer actually is an excellent wordsmith and deliberately, with great specific purpose, violates some rule or tip.

URL: http://homepages.dsu.edu/jankej/writing/tips.htm

Thursday, December 10, 2015

51 Incorrect Pronunciations That You Should Avoid

51 Incorrect Pronunciations That You Should Avoid
by Maeve Maddox

Fred Astaire drew laughs back in the Thirties with his song “Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off” in which the lovers can’t agree on the pronunciation of words like
 either, neither, and tomato.

On a personal level, I cringe when I hear someone sound the “t” in often or pronounce pecan with a short “a,” but I have to acknowledge that both these pronunciations are widely accepted alternate pronunciations that can be justified by the spelling.

Alternate pronunciations, however, are a different matter from out-and-out mispronunciations. The latter, no matter how common, are incorrect, either because of the spelling that indicates another pronunciation, or because of what is widely agreed upon to be conventional usage. Word of caution: I’m writing from an American perspective.

Here are 50 frequently mispronounced words. The list is by no means exhaustive, but provides a good start.

1. aegis – The ae in this word is pronounced /ee/. Say EE-JIS/, not /ay-jis/. In mythology the “aegis” is associated especially with the goddess Athene. It is her shield with the Gorgon’s head on it.

2. anyway – The problem with this word is not so much pronunciation as the addition of an unnecessary sound. Don’t add an s to make it “anyways.” The word is ANYWAY.

3. archipelago – Because the word is from Greek, the ch is pronounced with a /k/ sound. Say /AR-KI-PEL-A-GO/, not /arch-i-pel-a-go/.

4. arctic – Note the C after the R. Say /ARK-TIK/, not /ar-tik/.

5. accessory – the first C has a “hard” sound. Say /AK-SESS-OR-Y/, not /ass-ess-or-y/.

6. ask – The S comes before the K. Say /ASK/ not /aks/.

7. asterisk – Notice the second S. Say /AS-TER-ISK/, not /as-ter-ik/.

8. athlete – The word has two syllables, not three. Say /ATH-LETE/, not /ath-uh-lete/.

9. barbed wire- Notice the AR in the first syllable. Say /BARBD/, not /bob/.

10. cache – The word is of French origin, but it does not end with an accented syllable. A cache is a hiding place or something that is being hidden: a cache of supplies; a cache of money; a cache of drugs. Say /KASH/, not /ka-shay/.

11. candidate – Notice the first d. Say /KAN-DI-DATE/, not /kan-i-date/.

12. cavalry – This word refers to troops that fight on horseback. Say /KAV-UL-RY/, not /kal-vuh-ry/. NOTE: Calvary refers the place where Jesus was crucified and IS pronounced /kal-vuh-ry/.)

13. chaos – The spelling ch can represent three different sounds in English: /tch/ as in church, /k/ as in Christmas, and /sh/ as in chef. The first sound is heard in words of English origin and is the most common. The second sound of ch, /k/, is heard in words of Greek origin. The third and least common of the three ch sounds is heard in words adopted from modern French. Chaos is a Greek word. Say /KAY-OS/, not /tchay-os/.

14. clothes – Notice the TH spelling and sound. Say /KLOTHZ/, not /kloz/.

15. daïs – A daïs is a raised platform. The pronunciation fault is to reverse the vowel sounds. The word is often misspelled as well as mispronounced. Say /DAY-IS/ not /dī-is/.

16. dilate – The word has two syllables, not three. Say /DI-LATE/, not /di-a-late/.

17. drowned – This is the past participle form of the verb drown. Notice that there is no D on drown. Don’t add one when using the word in its past form. Say /DROWND/, not /drown-ded/.

18. et cetera – This Latin term is often mispronounced and its abbreviation is frequently misspelled. Say /ET CET-ER-A/, not /ex cet-er-a/. For the abbreviation, write ETC., not ect.

19. February – Just about everyone I know drops the first r in February. The spelling calls for /FEB-ROO-AR-Y/, not /feb-u-ar-y/.

20. foliage – The word has three syllables. Say /FO-LI-UJ/, not /fol-uj/.

21. forte – English has two words spelled this way. One comes from Italian and the other from French. The Italian word, a musical term meaning “loud,” is pronounced with two syllables: /FOR-TAY/. The French word, an adjective meaning “strength” or “strong point,” is pronounced with one syllable: /FORT/.

22. Halloween – The word for the holiday Americans celebrate with such enthusiasm on October 31 derives from “Hallowed Evening,” meaning “evening that has been made holy.” The word “hallow” comes from Old English halig, meaning “holy.” Notice the a in the first syllable and say /HAL-O-WEEN/, not /hol-lo-ween/.

23. height – The word ends in a /T/ sound, not a /TH/ sound. Say /HITE/, not /hith/.

24. heinous – People unfamiliar with the TV show Law and Order: S.V.U. may not know that heinous has two syllables. (The show begins with this sentence: “In the criminal justice system, sexually based offenses are considered especially heinous.”) Say /HAY-NUS/, not /heen-i-us/.

25. hierarchy – The word has four syllables. Say /HI -ER-AR-KY,/ not /hi-ar-ky/.

26. Illinois – As with Arkansas, the final “s” in Illinois is not pronounced. Say /IL-I-NOY/ (and /Ar-kan-saw/, not /il-li-noiz/ or /ar-kan-sas/). NOTE: Some unknowledgeable folks may still be trying to pronounce Arkansas as if it had something to do with Kansas. The pronunciation /ar-kan-zuz/ is waaay off base.

27. interpret – The word has three syllables. Don’t add one! Say /IN-TER-PRET/, not /in-ter-pre-tate/.

28. incident – Something that happens is an “incident.” Don’t say “incidence” when you mean a specific event. There IS a word “incidence,” but it has a different meaning.

29. “irregardless” – See the real word, regardless.

30. jewelry – The word has three syllables. Say /JEW-EL-RY/, not /jew-el-er-y/. The pronunciation /jewl-ry/ is common but not correct, as it removes one syllable from the word.

31. library – Notice where the R comes in the word. Say /LI-BRAR-Y/, not /li-ber-ry/.

32. medieval – The word has four syllables. The first E may be pronounced either short [med] or long [meed]. Say /MED-EE-EEVAL/ or /MEE-DEE-EEVAL/, not /meed-eval/.

33. miniature – The word has four syllables. Say /MIN-I-A-TURE/, not /min-a-ture/.

34. Mischievous – This is the adjective form of mischief whose meaning is “calamity” or “harm.” Mischievous is now associated with harmless fun so that the expression “malicious mischief” has been coined as another term for vandalism. Mischievous has three syllables with the accent on the first syllable: /MIS-CHI-VUS/. Don’t say /mis-chee-vee-us/.

35. niche – The word is from the French and, though many words of French origin have been anglicized in standard usage, this is one that cries out to retain a long “e” sound and a /SH/ sound for the che. Say /NEESH/, not /nitch/.

36. orient – This word has three syllables. As a verb it means to place something in its proper position in relation to something else. It comes from a word meaning “east” and originally meant positioning something in relation to the east. Now it is used with a more general meaning. Say /OR-I-ENT/, not /or-i-en-tate/.

37. old-fashioned – This adjective is formed from a past-participle: “fashioned.” Don’t leave off the ED. Say /OLD-FASHIOND/, not /old-fashion/.

38. picture – There’s a K sound in picture. Don’t confuse picture with pitcher. Say /PIK-TURE/, not /pitch-er/. Pitcher is a different word. A pitcher is a serving vessel with a handle.

39. precipitation – This is a noun that refers to rain or snow, or anything else that normally falls from the sky. As withprescription (below), the prefix is PRE-. Say /PRE-CIP-I-TA-TION/, not /per-cip–i-ta-tion/.

40. prescription – Note the prefix PRE- in this word. Say /PRE-SCRIP-TION/, not /per- scrip-tion/ or /pro-scrip-tion/.

41. preventive – The word has three syllables. A common fault is to add a syllable. Say PRE-VEN-TIVE/, not /pre-ven-ta-tive.

42. pronunciation – This word is a noun. It comes from the verb pronounce, BUT it is not pronounced like the verb. Say /PRO-NUN-CI-A-TION/, not /pro-nounce-i-a-tion/.

43. prostate – This word for a male gland is often mispronounced. There is an adjective prostrate which means to be stretched out facedown on the ground. When speaking of the gland, however, say /PROS-TATE/, not /pros-trate/.

44. Realtor – The word has three syllables. Say /RE-AL-TOR/, not /re-a-la-tor/.

45. regardless – The word has three syllables. Please don’t add an IR to make it into the abomination “irregardless”.

46. sherbet – The word has only one r in it. Say /SHER-BET/ not /sher-bert/.

47. spayed – This is a one-syllable word, the past participle form of the verb to spay, meaning to remove the ovaries from an animal. Like the verb drown (above) the verb spay does not have a D in its infinitive form. Don’t add one to the past participle. Say /SPADE/, not /spay-ded/.

48. ticklish – The word has two syllables. Say /TIK-LISH/, not /tik-i-lish/.

49. tract – Religious evangelists often hand out long printed statements of belief called “tracts.” That’s one kind of “tract.” Houses are built on “tracts.” Then there’s the word “track.” Athletes run on “tracks.” Animals leave “tracks.” Don’t say /TRAKT/ when you mean /TRAK/, and vice-versa.

50. vehicle – Although there is an H in the word, to pronounce it is to sound hicky. Say /VEE-IKL/, not /vee-Hikl/.

51. wintry – Here’s another weather word often mispronounced, even by the weather person. The word has two syllables. Say /WIN-TRY/, not /win-ter-y/.


Tuesday, December 1, 2015

6 Foreign Expressions You Should Know

6 Foreign Expressions You Should Know

Whether you like it or not, foreign expressions represent an integral part of the English language (and of many other languages, too). Knowing the meaning and usage of the most used ones is very important. First of all because it will enable you to understand pieces of text that include them. Secondly, because you might also need to use those expressions on particular situations (avoid using them just to sound smart though). Below you will find 6 foreign expressions commonly used in English, enjoy!


1. De Facto
De facto is a Latin expression that means “actual” (if used as an adjective) or “in practice” (if used as an adverb). In legal terms, de facto is commonly used in contrast to de jure, which means “by law.” Something, therefore, can emerge either de facto (by practice) or de jure (by law).
And what of the plastic red bench, which has served as his de facto home for the last 15 years and must by now be a collector’s item? (NY Times)

2. Vis-à-Vis
The literal meaning of this French expression is “face to face” (used as an adverb). It is used more widely as a preposition though, meaning “compared with” or “in relation to.”
It’s going to be a huge catalyst in moving the whole process forward and it really strengthens the U.S. position vis-a-vis our trading partners (Yahoo! News)

3. Status quo
This famous Latin expression means “the current or existing state of affairs.” If something changes the status quo, it is changing the way things presently are.
Bush believes that the status quo — the presence in a sovereign country of a militant group with missiles capable of hitting a U.S. ally — is unacceptable. (Washington Post)

4. Cul-de-sac
This expression was originated in England by French-speaking aristocrats. Literally it means “bottom of a sack,” but generally it refers to a dead-end street. Cul-de-sac can also be used metaphorically to express an action that leads to nowhere or an impasse.
But the code of omerta was in effect for two carloads of fans circling the cul-de-sac to have a look at the house. (Reuters.com)
A cul-de-sac of poverty (The Economist)

5. Per se
Per se is a Latin expression that means “by itself” or “intrinsically.”
The mistake it made with the Xbox is that there is no game console market per se; there are PlayStation, GameCube, and Xbox markets. (PCMag.com)

6. Ad hoc
Ad hoc, borrowed from the Latin, can be used both as an adjective, where it means “formed or created with a specific purpose,” and as an adverb, where it means “for the specific purpose or situation.”
The World Bank’s board on Friday ordered an ad hoc group to discuss the fate of President Paul Wolfowitz (CNN)

 

Saturday, November 21, 2015

10 Rules for Writing Numbers and Numerals

10 Rules for Writing Numbers and Numerals
 
How do you express numbers in your writing? When do you use figures (digits) and when do you write out the number in words (letters)? That is, when do you write 9 and when do you write nine?


1. Number versus numeral. First things first, what is the difference between a number and a numeral? A number is an abstract concept while a numeral is a symbol used to express that number. “Three,” “3″ and “III” are all symbols used to express the same number (or the concept of “threeness”). One could say that the difference between a number and its numerals is like the difference between a person and her name.

2. Spell small numbers out. The small numbers, such as whole numbers smaller than ten, should be spelled out. That’s one rule you can count on. If you don’t spell numbers out it will look like you’re sending an instant message, and you want to be more formal than that in your writing.

3. No other standard rule: Experts don’t always agree on other rules. Some experts say that any one-word number should be written out. Two-word numbers should be expressed in figures. That is, they say you should write out twelve or twenty. But not 24.

4. Using the comma. In English, the comma is used as a thousands separator (and the period as a decimal separator), to make large numbers easier to read. So write the size of Alaska as 571,951 square miles instead of 571951 square miles. In Continental Europe the opposite is true, periods are used to separate large numbers and the comma is used for decimals. Finally, the International Systems of Units (SI) recommends that a space should be used to separate groups of three digits, and both the comma and the period should be used only to denote decimals, like $13 200,50 (the comma part is a mess… I know).

5. Don’t start a sentence with a numeral. Make it “Fourscore and seven years ago,” not “4 score and 7 years ago.” That means you might have to rewrite some sentences: “Fans bought 400,000 copies the first day” instead of “400,000 copies were sold the first day.”

6. Centuries and decades should be spelled out. Use the Eighties or nineteenth century.

7. Percentages and recipes. With everyday writing and recipes you can use digits, like “4% of the children” or “Add 2 cups of brown rice.” In formal writing, however, you should spell the percentage out like “12 percent of the players” (or “twelve percent of the players,” depending on your preference as explained in point three).

8. If the number is rounded or estimated, spell it out. Rounded numbers over a million are written as a numeral plus a word. Use “About 400 million people speak Spanish natively,” instead of “About 400,000,000 people speak Spanish natively.” If you’re using the exact number, you’d write it out, of course.

9. Two numbers next to each other. It can be confusing if you write “7 13-year-olds”, so write one of them as a numeral, like “seven 13-year-olds”. Pick the number that has the fewest letters.

10. Ordinal numbers and consistency. Don’t say “He was my 1st true love,” but rather “He was my first true love.” Be consistent within the same sentence. If my teacher has 23 beginning students, she also has 18 advanced students, not eighteen advanced students.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Writing Tips - Part 2

Writing Tips

www.writershelpers.com


Follow these writing tips so your book will be the highest quality possible.

People respect high quality writing. If you deliver your work in a strong and error-free package, people take you seriously. Your message comes through clearly.


Your words reach people's hearts and minds. Your writing is more powerful than the sword. It inspires, educates, entertains.

If the writing is weak, readers say, "So what?" If the writing has errors, readers are confused or distracted.

Compelling, clear, error-free writing is what people expect when they buy a book. Give them what they expect. Readers will recommend your book to their friends, give it as a gift, and wait expectantly for your next publication.

Reader by reader you will change your world.

What an awesome responsibility! What a wonderful privilege!

With respect for language I offer these writing tips.The first tip may sound strange coming from an editor....

Writing Tip #1: Put off editing

Each of us works at writing on two levels:a creative, unconscious level and a critical, conscious level.

The unconscious produces creative and powerful words and images. It makes surprising and original connections. It shuts down if the critical "editor" part of your mind goes to work too soon.If your High School English teacher's voice runs through your mind as you write, if you worry about spelling, grammar, or how to sell your book while you write, you are writing with a dull pencil.

There are many books written on how to unlock your unconscious and let the writing flow. Here are just a few ideas

  • Brainstorm words or images about your topic. Don't stop to evaluate their worth. Keep writing down ideas. When you can't think of another word, wait a while. Often the most powerful idea will surface after you have cleared all the less valuable ideas out of the way.

  • Write a page or two with your eyes shut. It doesn't matter if you can't read what you've written. You are giving your mind permission to make "mistakes" and just get on with it.

  • Write with music in the background. Experiment to find the style that you like. I prefer baroque or classical music. One of my writing teachers needed country and western.

  • Give yourself permission to be emotional. If your writing begins to move you, experience the full emotion. Before your writing changes others it will change you.

Edit your work only when you have drawn deeply from the well of your unconscious.

Spelling counts. So does good grammar. They support vibrant writing. They do not create vibrant writing. There are a great many correctly written lifeless sentences.

The best writing comes to life, and then is refined just enough to make it crystal clear.

First, give it life.

Writing Tip #2: Write what you know

Given the chance, what do you talk about endlessly? What drives you to seek out information? What are your passions? When you write what you know, you write with authority. People listen to you because you are one who knows. You are interesting because you are interested. Your knowledge is a gift to share.

Writing Tip #3: Research

Deepen the well. No matter what you know about the subject, there is always more to learn. Make sure you have the latest information available on your subject.

If there are differences of opinion in the area you are writing about, acknowledge the other side. Your statements will come across more strongly if the reader knows you have addressed the arguments others would raise.

Once you write something, at least some of your readers are going to believe you. You owe them accuracy.

"Yes, but...


I'm writing my autobiography."
Or, "This is my family history. I know this story like no one else."

That's true, but others have a perspective not like yours. Memories, even yours, can be faulty.

"Yes, but...

I'm writing fiction."


O.K. The details of fiction need to be as accurate as the details of nonfiction. Margaret Atwood won The Booker Prize for her novel The Blind Assassin. Her work is powerful on many levels. She took no chances with the details. At the back of her book is a list of acknowledgements 2 1/2 pages long: libraries, archives, museums...

"Yes, but...

My story is a fantasy."


Even when you invent a universe, you invent it to be understood by earthlings. If you are going to have impossible things happening, you need to offer some explanation that will make sense.

Writing Tip #4: Use a structure

For some writers, having a structure in place first makes the writing easier. These writers prefer to think things out ahead of time and then build to a plan.

Other writers put down all their ideas in a glorious profusion of words. Papers may be spread all over the house, the car, the office desk, in fishing tackle boxes.... These writers like to see all the material and then build the structure.

Both approaches work well depending on the personality of the writer. Both kinds of writers need to end up with a structure that supports the reader's understanding.

There is no one right structure for a book any more than there is one right structure for a house. Some will be linear, and take the reader step by step directly through to a conclusion like a long hallway opening into an inner courtyard.

Others will feature a spiraling staircase that takes the reader around and around the topic, always climbing higher to the secret chamber at the top, or to the rooftop view where everything becomes clear.

The fair thing to do is to use a reasonable route to the destination. It's unfair to take your reader up the staircase to the fourth floor and then to push him out a window so he can enjoy the inner courtyard.

Writing Tip #5: Use strong verbs and nouns

The verbs are the action words. They put things in motion. Make yours as strong as possible.

The verb to be (am, is, are, was, were) puddles on the floor. Eliminate it wherever possible. I spent a year in Ukraine and experienced Russian, where the verb to be exists, but almost never appears. People simply leave it out and I found the effect powerful. In English we can't leave verbs out of our sentences, but we can make those we use work hard for us.

Nouns name the people, places, and things in our world. English has multiple words for almost everything. A male parent can be father, dad, pop, daddy, the old man, pater, progenitor, sire, begetter, conceiver, governor, abba, papa, pa, pap, pappy, pops, daddums, patriarch, paterfamilias, stepfather, foster father, and other family nicknames. Choose the noun that does the best work for you.

Short words are usually best. They have more punch. They hit the gut hard.

The paragraph above has only one word with more than one syllable.

Writing Tip #6: Be wary of adverbs and adjectives

If your verbs and nouns are strong, you can get rid of many adverbs or adjectives. Don't know what they are? They are the "describing words" your elementary school teachers told you to use to make your writing "more interesting."

The boy ran to the store.

The tall, tanned boy ran quickly to the store. 

The teacher gives you a check mark.
The reader goes to sleep.
Wake up your reader with

The surfer raced to the store.

Be particularly wary of words ending with -ly.

Writing Tip #7: Use correct spelling, punctuation, and grammar

Yes, there is a time to turn on the proofreader.A book is like housework.

No one notices when it is done well, but they see your mistakes clearly.

The guest who comes for tea concentrates on conversation and a developing friendship--unless the windows are streaky or a cobweb hangs in the corner. She is polite so she says nothing, but her attention is divided.

Those pesky flaws in your book will make some readers turn away in disgust. Mistakes distract even the most sympathetic reader. The reader does not necessarily even know the rule you've broken, but he feels uneasy.

The best reference book with writing tips about troublesome grammar, punctuation, and word choice is small, simple, and inexpensive. Affectionately called "Strunk and White" by generations of writers, it is still a required text in many writing classes. 

Writing Tip #8: Work the details

Your ideas come through more clearly when they are supported by details. Sensory details bring a scene clearly to mind. Most of us rely on sight, so visual details are most common in writing. But use other senses, too. Psychologists tell us the most evocative sense is smell.

Give specific names for things.

The pine is better than the tree. 

Give evidence for your point of view. Anecdotes, quotes from reputable sources, statistics, all add credibility.(See Writing Tip #12.)

Writing Tip #9: Cut, cut, cut

Writers often fall in love with their own words and phrases. Cutting them can feel like killing a person.

It only feels like that.

Cutting words from writing is like pruning in the garden. When we get rid of the dead, diseased, and ugly, we are left with a stronger, more beautiful, fruitful plant.

Be ruthless with your writing. Chop out every unnecessary word.

How do you know what can go?

Read what you've written leaving out parts you question. If the piece still makes sense, leave out the excess. Compressed writing packs a punch.

Writing Tip #10: Use active voice

Technically, active voice puts the active agent first, followed by the verb (the action), followed by the object of the action.

Passive voice reverses the order.

Active - The boy hit the ball.

Passive - The ball was hit by the boy.

If you take care of the verb to be (See Writing Tip #5) you will be using active voice more often. (Notice was in the example.)

Active voice is stronger and moves the action along. Passive voice sounds like someone is trying to hide something or to avoid responsibility. We find passive voice in many government documents.

Hm-m-m. Do you aspire to write like the government?

Writing Tip #11: Use parallel structure

Doing the same thing in the same way creates a pattern that helps a reader follow along.

On this page I've used a parallel structure for the tips. Each one is written as a command. I used the imperative mood (the command) because these tips are vital parts of writing. I used it in each case because that creates a pattern your brain picked up by the time you reached Writing Tip #3.

If I had changed Writing Tip #8 to "Details are important," your brain would have registered the shift in structure and for a moment would have flickered away from what I want you to do:

keep reading,
accept these tips,
use them,
become a stronger writer,
sell lots of books,
advance the general quality of written English in the world.

Human brains love pattern. Give your reader's brain a pattern and your ideas will come through like sunshine through a window. Your reader will

keep reading,
take you seriously,
recommend your book,
change the world...

Writing Tip #12: Show, don't tell

If it's a sermon your reader wants, there are churches to oblige.

What does it look like, sound like, feel like, taste like, smell like? When you describe a person or event, your reader is there with you. When you tell, the reader relaxes to the point of mental slumber.

Not sure of the difference?

Telling: John was sad after Susan broke up with him.

Reader: Yawn!

Showing: John shut his cell phone and leaned against the wall. He heaved a sigh and dropped his head into his hands.

Hear the reader's mind working:

"What's with John? Oh, I get it, he feels Susan let him down."

In nonfiction, details show, generalities or opinions tell.

Telling: Children are out of shape these days.

Reader: "I don't think that's true. My neighbor's kid plays Little League."

Showing: Forty percent of 5 to 8-year olds are obese.

The reader's mind kicks in:

"Wow! Children are out of shape these days!"

Writing Tip #13: Use humor when you can

Not everyone cracks jokes all day long. But a light touch from time to time lowers a reader's guard and opens her to your ideas. Be careful that your humor is kind and tasteful, unless of course you are writing for seven-year-olds, when bodily function humor is high on the list.

Writing Tip #14: Build to the end

In English we expect the most important item to be at the end. When you write a list, put the most important, unusual, or powerful item last.

The final sentence in a paragraph ties up your ideas in a neat package or hints at what is to come.

Your most powerful paragraph comes at the end of the chapter.

Poets labour over their final word. Let yours linger in the mind.

Writing Tip #15: Choose a beckoning title

A good title is catchy and says, "Read me." Depending on your topic, you may want to steer clear of a "cute" or "witty" title in favor of one that makes a clear promise of what is inside.

Writers often discover a title as they write. Sometimes a phrase or reference in the book comes to stand for the whole work.

Take your time to find a good title. You want one that calls to a reader, insisting on a purchase.

Writing Tip #16: Print out a hard copy

 

Many people compose directly onto a computer. That's what I'm doing as I write this. Even if your printing company wants an electronic file, and most do, print yourself a hard copy. It is easier to read and to find your mistakes on paper.

Worried about the trees? So am I. I print my work on the backs of pages as often as possible. I use flyers, form letters, fax cover sheets, any piece of paper with a blank side. I've discovered even loose leaf paper will go through my printer.

Writing Tip #17: Read your work aloud

Really.

No cheating.

Read all the words out loud in the order in which you've written them.

This is the single best self-editing technique.

You will find awkward places or unclear references as soon as the words are out of your mouth. Some writers stop immediately to fix the problem. Others mark their paper and keep reading, going back later to fix things.

Either way, read every word out loud.

After you've fixed the problems, read it aloud again.

Keep doing this until you can't find any more problems.

Writing Tip #18: Find an editor



Professional writers edit their own work, share it with trusted friends, and then submit it to a publishing house. There another editor is selected to read the work closely, looking for areas that need improvement or a special polish. In fact, more than one editor will check every book. Professional editors know these 18 writing tips and many more. Furthermore, they recognize strengths and weaknesses in writing.

As a self publishing author you are in the precarious position of making the final decision about when to go to print. If you go too soon, your book will not be all it could be. No one wants to have an inferior product attached to his or her name. Once a book is printed it's there forever.

You are a writer and you are close to your own work; that closeness can blind you to its flaws. Trusted friends can encourage you and those with good English skills can find mistakes. If the friendship is robust and the friend fearless, you can get good feedback from a friend.

If you can find a writing group where people critique each other's work, I strongly recommend attending.

  • You will learn from other writers as you watch their work evolve.
  • You will have help with your own writing.


Most groups are free or have a nominal charge for renting space. Ask at the library or bookstore or put an ad in the paper. If you can't find a group, start your own.

You may choose to hire someone for some or all of the editing your book needs. You can hire an editor at any stage of your writing. There are as many ways for an editor and writer to work together as there are editors and writers.

Choose your editor carefully.
Knowledge,
skill,
and personality enter into the relationship.

What you look for in an editor depends on your personality and your personal development as a writer.

I am a writer as well as an editor.

I want an editor to be
  • kind towards me
  • ruthless towards my words.


I am confident in my abilities so I care much more about the ruthlessness than the kindness. I get cuddles from my cat.

Not everyone feels the same way. Contact an editor to get a feel for how you might work together. This is a personal relationship that works best when based on trust.

Your writing will be strongest if at some point you separate yourself from your writing. The editor wants to make it better. If that is your goal, too, you will be a great team.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Literary Term You Should Know

Mise en scene: While mostly used in cinema or theatre critique, literary aficionados can still (and often do) use "mise en scene" to describe the setting, mood and atmosphere of a text.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Literary Terms You Should Know

Meta: Though meta as a word and a prefix usually means an abstract offshoot of a concept, many critics today use it to mean a self-referential text. This list is meta because it’s aware of its list status. Also, it’s kind of scared of this newfound awareness, and its lack of maturity may cause a lashing out at those trying to help. Please teach it to love.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Writing Tips

1.       Cut the boring parts

I try to leave out the parts that people skip. ~Elmore Leonardhttps://ci6.googleusercontent.com/proxy/DZy1V7AuVzuwiprJPcx4A4KOxWRmBCYvxH4Q3qkt7ChNCiv6-9iTqeQi02weNKn-dIGsJxdJIUYpP0ra7-Rqh0qSbyvM_syp68ExROKZLywTM-Y=s0-d-e1-ft#http://www.assoc-amazon.com/e/ir?t=picthebrawita-20&l=ur2&o=1

Unless you’re writing for personal reasons alone, you need to consider the attention of your readers. There’s no point is publishing content that isn’t useful, interesting, or both.

2.       Eliminate unnecessary words

Substitute “damn” every time you’re inclined to write “very;” your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be. ~Mark Twainhttps://ci6.googleusercontent.com/proxy/DZy1V7AuVzuwiprJPcx4A4KOxWRmBCYvxH4Q3qkt7ChNCiv6-9iTqeQi02weNKn-dIGsJxdJIUYpP0ra7-Rqh0qSbyvM_syp68ExROKZLywTM-Y=s0-d-e1-ft#http://www.assoc-amazon.com/e/ir?t=picthebrawita-20&l=ur2&o=1

I used to feel that using words like “really”, “actually”, or “extremely” made writing more forceful. It doesn’t. They only get in the way. Cut them and never look back.

3.       Write with passion

Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart. ~William Wordsworthhttps://ci6.googleusercontent.com/proxy/DZy1V7AuVzuwiprJPcx4A4KOxWRmBCYvxH4Q3qkt7ChNCiv6-9iTqeQi02weNKn-dIGsJxdJIUYpP0ra7-Rqh0qSbyvM_syp68ExROKZLywTM-Y=s0-d-e1-ft#http://www.assoc-amazon.com/e/ir?t=picthebrawita-20&l=ur2&o=1

It’s not hard to realize that unless you’re excited about your writing no one else will be.

4.       Paint a picture

Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass. ~Anton Chekhovhttps://ci6.googleusercontent.com/proxy/DZy1V7AuVzuwiprJPcx4A4KOxWRmBCYvxH4Q3qkt7ChNCiv6-9iTqeQi02weNKn-dIGsJxdJIUYpP0ra7-Rqh0qSbyvM_syp68ExROKZLywTM-Y=s0-d-e1-ft#http://www.assoc-amazon.com/e/ir?t=picthebrawita-20&l=ur2&o=1

Simply stating something is fine, but when you need to capture attention, using similes, metaphors, and vivid imagery to paint a picture creates a powerful emotional response.

5.       Keep it simple

Vigorous writing is concise. ~William Strunk Jr.

Maybe it was all those late nights, struggling to fill out mandatory 10 page papers, but many people seem to think that worthwhile writing is long and drawn out. It’s more difficult (and effective) to express yourself in the simplest possible manner.

6.       Do it for love

Write without pay until somebody offers to pay. ~Mark Twainhttps://ci6.googleusercontent.com/proxy/DZy1V7AuVzuwiprJPcx4A4KOxWRmBCYvxH4Q3qkt7ChNCiv6-9iTqeQi02weNKn-dIGsJxdJIUYpP0ra7-Rqh0qSbyvM_syp68ExROKZLywTM-Y=s0-d-e1-ft#http://www.assoc-amazon.com/e/ir?t=picthebrawita-20&l=ur2&o=1

When you’re just starting out it’s hard to decide where to begin. So don’t. Just start writing. A blog is a good place to start. The most valuable benefit is the feedback.

7.       Learn to thrive on criticism

You have to know how to accept rejection and reject acceptance. ~Ray Bradburyhttps://ci6.googleusercontent.com/proxy/DZy1V7AuVzuwiprJPcx4A4KOxWRmBCYvxH4Q3qkt7ChNCiv6-9iTqeQi02weNKn-dIGsJxdJIUYpP0ra7-Rqh0qSbyvM_syp68ExROKZLywTM-Y=s0-d-e1-ft#http://www.assoc-amazon.com/e/ir?t=picthebrawita-20&l=ur2&o=1

Writing means putting yourself at the mercy of anonymous hecklers and shameless sycophants. Learn to make the most of the insults and distrust the praise.

8.       Write all the time

Quantity produces quality. If you only write a few things, you’re doomed. ~Ray Bradburyhttps://ci6.googleusercontent.com/proxy/DZy1V7AuVzuwiprJPcx4A4KOxWRmBCYvxH4Q3qkt7ChNCiv6-9iTqeQi02weNKn-dIGsJxdJIUYpP0ra7-Rqh0qSbyvM_syp68ExROKZLywTM-Y=s0-d-e1-ft#http://www.assoc-amazon.com/e/ir?t=picthebrawita-20&l=ur2&o=1

The way you define yourself as a writer is that you write every time you have a free minute. If you didn’t behave that way you would never do anything. ~John Irvinghttps://ci6.googleusercontent.com/proxy/DZy1V7AuVzuwiprJPcx4A4KOxWRmBCYvxH4Q3qkt7ChNCiv6-9iTqeQi02weNKn-dIGsJxdJIUYpP0ra7-Rqh0qSbyvM_syp68ExROKZLywTM-Y=s0-d-e1-ft#http://www.assoc-amazon.com/e/ir?t=picthebrawita-20&l=ur2&o=1

9.       Write what you know … or what you want to know

If any man wish to write in a clear style, let him be first clear in his thoughts; and if any would write in a noble style, let him first possess a noble soul. ~Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

https://ci6.googleusercontent.com/proxy/DZy1V7AuVzuwiprJPcx4A4KOxWRmBCYvxH4Q3qkt7ChNCiv6-9iTqeQi02weNKn-dIGsJxdJIUYpP0ra7-Rqh0qSbyvM_syp68ExROKZLywTM-Y=s0-d-e1-ft#http://www.assoc-amazon.com/e/ir?t=picthebrawita-20&l=ur2&o=1Learn as much by writing as by reading. ~Lord Actonhttps://ci6.googleusercontent.com/proxy/DZy1V7AuVzuwiprJPcx4A4KOxWRmBCYvxH4Q3qkt7ChNCiv6-9iTqeQi02weNKn-dIGsJxdJIUYpP0ra7-Rqh0qSbyvM_syp68ExROKZLywTM-Y=s0-d-e1-ft#http://www.assoc-amazon.com/e/ir?t=picthebrawita-20&l=ur2&o=1

Successful writing is all about trust and authority. It makes sense to write about your area of expertise. If you don’t have an expertise, reading and writing is the best way to develop one and put it on display.

10.   Be unique and unpredictable

I owe my success to having listened respectfully to the very best advice, and then going away and doing the exact opposite. ~G.K. Chestertonhttps://ci6.googleusercontent.com/proxy/DZy1V7AuVzuwiprJPcx4A4KOxWRmBCYvxH4Q3qkt7ChNCiv6-9iTqeQi02weNKn-dIGsJxdJIUYpP0ra7-Rqh0qSbyvM_syp68ExROKZLywTM-Y=s0-d-e1-ft#http://www.assoc-amazon.com/e/ir?t=picthebrawita-20&l=ur2&o=1

Consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative. ~Oscar Wildehttps://ci6.googleusercontent.com/proxy/DZy1V7AuVzuwiprJPcx4A4KOxWRmBCYvxH4Q3qkt7ChNCiv6-9iTqeQi02weNKn-dIGsJxdJIUYpP0ra7-Rqh0qSbyvM_syp68ExROKZLywTM-Y=s0-d-e1-ft#http://www.assoc-amazon.com/e/ir?t=picthebrawita-20&l=ur2&o=1

Zest. Gusto. How rarely one hears these words used. How rarely do we see people living, or for that matter, creating by them. Yet if I were asked to name the most important items in a writer’s make-up, the things that shape his material and rush him along the road to where he wants to go, I could only warn him to look to his zest, see to his gusto. ~Ray Bradburyhttps://ci6.googleusercontent.com/proxy/DZy1V7AuVzuwiprJPcx4A4KOxWRmBCYvxH4Q3qkt7ChNCiv6-9iTqeQi02weNKn-dIGsJxdJIUYpP0ra7-Rqh0qSbyvM_syp68ExROKZLywTM-Y=s0-d-e1-ft#http://www.assoc-amazon.com/e/ir?t=picthebrawita-20&l=ur2&o=1

Following what works will only get you so far. Experiment with new styles, even if it means taking criticism. Without moving forward, you’ll be left behind.