10 Insightful Writing Rules A Tutor Can Help You Understand

    Good writing is essential to earning high grades, competing in the workforce, and giving a positive impression. Whether you’re still in school or have already graduated, you always have room to improve your writing.

    Are you thinking of using a tutoring service or downloading a grammar checker? WriteAhead offers review of your work by a tutor in addition to a built-in writing mastery tool that offers immediate, automated feedback on grammar and spelling.

    Most grammar checkers work continuously to help you improve your writing, but a tutor adds personalized attention to your work. Want to know what to expect from working with a tutor? Read about these 10 rules of great writing as motivation to become a brilliant writer.


    1. Be Positive

    Whether you’re in school or on the job, your writing will be more accessible if you write in a positive voice.

    A positive voice makes your writing likeable, and it’s more straightforward. Try eliminating words like isn’t, don’t, shouldn’t, can’t, and others that say what something is “not.” Instead of saying it’s not raining outside, say the sky is clear. This conveys more information.

    Eventually, you will need to use the negative in your writing. It’s better to use it than to write an awkward sentence. But keeping the negative to a minimum will elevate your writing.


    2. Master Your Apostrophes

    Apostrophes serve two purposes: showing possession and denoting contractions. If you’re using an apostrophe in any other way, you’re mistaken.

    Here are some examples of sentences that require apostrophes:

    • My teacher’s instructions were clear.
    • Amy’s presentation gave me an idea.
    • They’d like to understand the book.

    Many people use apostrophes incorrectly. Here are some examples that are wrong:

    • The paper revealed it’s thesis.
    • My essay is better than her’s.
    • The hospital cafeteria was full of RN’s and MD’s

    In all cases above, you should drop the apostrophe. “It” shows possession with just an “s” added after, which is a tricky rule to remember. Hers, his, and theirs are already possessive. And you make acronyms plural without an apostrophe. For example: The hospital cafeteria was full of RNs and MDs. 


    3. Use Descriptive Verbs

    Let’s say your boss or teacher asks you to give a presentation, and you email them to ask a question about your slide deck. Which sounds stronger?

    Hello Dr. Smith,
    I’m making my slide deck, and I have a question.


    Hello Dr. Smith,
    I’m drafting my slide deck, and I have a question.

    If you chose the second option, you’d be right! “Drafting” is a more descriptive word than “making.” It tells your boss or teacher you’re in the early stages of creating your slide deck, writing your ideas down, and planning to take it through at least two iterations.

    Conversely, “making” is vague. You could have just opened PowerPoint and chosen a template or be nearly complete.

    Use verbs that describe actions clearly to make your writing stronger. This also will allow you to avoid using too many adverbs, which slows down your writing. For example, don’t write, “The girl walked to the table clumsily.” Write instead, “The girl stumbled to the table.” The second sentence is shorter and more exciting.


    4. Correct Run-On Sentences

    You can identify run-on sentences if you see two complete sentences joined by a comma. If you have a very long sentence, that doesn’t necessarily make it a run-on. However, you should try to avoid long sentences as well by breaking your thoughts into two separate sentences.

    Here’s an example of what a run-on sentence looks like:

    My college professor grew up in Paris, she’s teaching me how to speak French fluently.

    You can correct this sentence in one of three ways: add “and” after the comma, replace the comma with a period and break the sentence in two, or place a semi-colon between the two sentences.

    My college professor grew up in Paris, and she’s teaching me how to speak French fluently.

    My college professor grew up in Paris. She’s teaching me how to speak French fluently.

    My college professor grew up in Paris; she's now teaching me how to speak French fluently.


    5. Minimize Punctuation

    A semi-colon can inspire wonder. However, too many semi-colons will give the impression that you’re forcing your writing to sound more important and educated.

    Similarly, a hyphen can add a powerful pause for readers who are skimming your writing – and draw attention to a point that might be lost at the end of a sentence. But you want to avoid using too many hyphens, or your writing will sound staggered.

    Minimize punctuation as much as possible. You can often replace complex punctuation with commas or by splitting one long sentence into two.


    6. Remove Redundancies

    Many people fall into the habit of using two words that have the same meaning. This is especially common when using adjectives. For example, the following sentence features redundancies:

    “The freezing cold temperature made her shiver.”

    Both “freezing” and “cold” describe that the temperature is low. It would be better to write:

    “The freezing temperature made her shiver.”


    7. Find A More Precise Word Than “Thing”

    Using the word “thing” is usually a way to get around specifying what it is you’re talking about. If you’re writing a paper or report, you may not want to look up a term because you’re in a rush to finish as soon as possible.

    However, your writing will be much stronger if you properly reference the noun. So, take the time to look it up. Your reader will appreciate the clarity.


    8. Write In The Active Voice

    The passive voice is grammatically correct, but when you use it too often, your writing sounds weak. The active voice is clearer and more direct. It also allows you to write shorter sentences.

    If you’re not sure what the difference is between the active and passive voices, think of it this way: In the active voice, the subject is doing the action. In the passive voice, the target of the action becomes the subject. Here’s an example:

    Active Voice: “Harry wrote a book report.”

    Passive Voice: “The book report was written by Harry.”

    See how the first sentence is shorter and more action-oriented? The active voice will keep your reader engaged whereas the passive voice tends to be boring.


    9. Ensure Your Subjects And Verbs Agree

    Even experienced writers catch themselves making this mistake sometimes. Your subjects and verbs have to agree with one another in number. That means if a subject is singular, the verb has to be singular. If a subject is plural, the verb must be plural.

    Sometimes, it can be confusing to determine if a subject is singular or plural. Here’s an example of a common error:

    Incorrect: Everyone in my class want extra credit on the assignment.

    Correct: Everyone in my class wants extra credit on the assignment.

    Everyone implies a group of people, but if you break the word down, you see that it’s referring to every one (individual). So, for the above example, think of the subject as “every individual.”

    “Every individual in my class wants extra credit on the assignment.”

    If this rule is tricky to understand, using a grammar tool and talking with a tutor can help you identify errors in your subject-verb agreement.


    10. Limit The Word “That”

    The word “that” rarely improves the clarity of a sentence. It’s an extra word you often don’t need. For example, the previous sentence could have said “It’s an extra word that you often don’t need.” But most likely, you understood the sentence without “that.”

    When you’re writing, pretend you have a spending limit on the amount of words you’re allowed to use. If you think like this, you’ll be more careful about how you structure your sentences.

    Becoming a great writer is a matter of practice. You need to write often to learn how to write well. However, you also need corrections to your work to improve it. And you may need to speak with a tutor if you have complex questions.

    WriteAhead is a tutoring service offered with CorrectEnglish, a continuous writing mastery tool. To learn more, visit www.writeahead.com.



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