Simple, clear help for your writing problems

This blog is about writing problems. More specifically, it’s about helping people to fix their writing problems. To that end, it presents writing-related topics including:

  • Grammatical writing problems: recognize and fix grammatical errors
  • Stylistic writing problems: make your writing clear and effective
  • Word-use writing problems: cut down on confusing jargon, and stop using the wrong words
  • Punctuation problems: learn how to use punctuation correctly.
  • Social networking writing problems: resist the debilitating influences Web 2.0 has on writers

Grammar-related Writing Problems

No Grammar-Speak Allowed

Many of us learned grammar in school. We diagrammed sentences, identified types of words and phrases, learned about tenses and how to conjugate verbs, and we used such terms as transitive, intransitive, adjective, adverb, participle, gerund, possessive, plural, contraction, subjunctive, fragment, preposition, and infinitive. Grammarians need to use those words (I call it grammar-speak); writers don’t.

Grammar-speak is the jargon of writing elitists. Sure, you can learn grammar-speak and use it to explain the rules of grammar, but you don’t need to. It’s possible to write engaging, flawless prose without knowing a single word of grammar-speak.

One mission of Writing Problems Explained is to teach the rules of grammar without resorting to the jargon of grammarians. On this web site, we discuss writing problems in jargon-free English, and explore strategies you can use to overcome the problems.

Here’s a crazy notion: I believe that most people who create internet content have good grammar. Unfortunately, many do not use good grammar in their web content. If you feel challenged by the rules of grammar, you know what I mean: When you’re having a conversation, most of what you say out loud is grammatically correct. For some reason, when you write, grammatical errors arise. Writing Problems Explained will help you overcome this common difficulty.

Stylistic Writing Problems

Most people who create internet content recognize good writing style. In fact, they produce a lot of well-structured sentences every day. Unfortunately for some, those sentences come out only in conversation. When it’s time to record thoughts for a blog, a wiki entry, advertising copy, or other web content, the words come out wrong. Writing Problems Explained will help you develop a relaxed, conversational writing style.

Word-Use Writing Problems

Even the best writers stumble over words. Some challenges arise from the similarities between words. For example, does the sentence you’re writing require the word there, their, or they’re? Other word-use challenges arise from your environment: if you constantly hear people misuse or abuse words, you might accidentally make the same mistakes. Writing Problems Explained helps you learn to make good word choices.

Problems with Punctuation

When we speak, we punctuate without thought. But it can be challenging to translate spoken pauses into written punctuation—particularly when there may be more than one acceptable way to punctuate a sentence. Writing Problems Explained helps you punctuate for clarity.

Social Networking Writing Problems

Web 2.0 is a remarkable experiment. It intends to let internet users, through the process of social networking, identify and promote the best web sites and web content. The dynamics that create successful writers within social networks actually encourage bad writing. Writing Problems Explained highlights the ways social networking can degrade the quality of your writing and helps keep you off of the slippery slope.

Visit Often. Ask Questions

I want Writing Problems Explained to become one of the most useful web sites you visit. Please help: Let me know when my posts or articles are useful to you. Tell me when you don’t agree with what I’ve said. Ask questions. I’m looking forward to a long, and spirited conversation about writing problems.

Here are links to other articles with encouragement to fix your writing problems:

  • 225 Ways To Drive Traffic Away From Your Blog – Lately, I’ve been trying to improve my blog traffic and increase the number of subscribers to my RSS feed. I’ve done all sorts of things like networking over MyBlogLog, digging my own posts, and writing catchy headlines. …

  • finding the right words – cash advance. good copywriting requires knowing the right words. but what are the right words, and how do you find them? there are three main factors. know your audience, don’t use the same words repeatedly, and understand the feelings …

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I’m convinced that the greatest of all writing problems is laziness. People simply don’t listen to the words they write, and they publish nonsense. Worse, people hear bad writing, and indiscriminately repeat it in their own projects. This exposes more people to the bad writing, and some of them repeat it, and so on. Eventually, the writing problems of the original hack writer become writing problems of us all.

If You Want to know More

I’ve heard this awkward announcement hundreds of times: More information is available by calling this toll-free number…

Radio newscasters often end public service announcements with such a sentence. They shouldn’t. The sentence is nonsense. It begins by telling us More information is available by calling… This is weird. Who or what is calling? The information certainly isn’t calling. Information can be available from a source, at a source, through a source… but not by an action.

By the same token, you can get information by carrying out an action: by reading, by listening, by asking, by making a phone call…

Write a Real Sentence

Here are four grammatically correct expressions that convey the desired message:

Get more information by calling this toll-free number…

To get more information, dial this toll-free number…

More information is available. Get it by calling this toll-free number…

Call this toll-free number to get more information…

As easy as it was to think of these, it awes me that so many people so often spew the nonsensical More information is available by calling… Don’t be one of those people.


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Be Clear About Who is Who

There’s a class of writing problems that are very subtle. They arise when you lose track of the person about whom you’re writing. Simple statements become, at best, silly, and at worst, gibberish when you make this type of writing error.

A classic example of these writing problems has been running in a television advertisement lately. The announcer says something like, Do you have a problem with intangible digiplasitosis? Talk to your doctor. I did. It’s pretty clear what the announcer meant, but what the announcer said is that she talked with my doctor: Talk to your doctor. I did.

Keep Track of Who’s Who

I hope the announcer never talked with my doctor. She could reassure me by suggesting: Talk to your doctor. I talked to mine. Her mistake was that she started talking about my doctor, then switched to talking about hers without telling me about that switch.

You’ve probably heard someone at least as confused expressing concern for you or others. People say such things as: As your boss, tell me what you need so I can get it for you, or the much more subtly incorrect, As your friend, let me help you with your writing problems.

Consider the first example. We’ll assume the person talking is the boss, so saying As your boss, starts the sentence talking about the boss. But the phrase, …tell me what you need… isn’t about the boss; it’s about you. Putting the two phrases together, the sentence begins by establishing you as your own boss: As your boss, you tell me what you need…

The boss should have said, As your boss, I want to know what you need so I can get it for you. But don’t stop with fixing only writing problems. There’s also an ego problem in the boss’s statement. Simplify and add humility so it reads, Please tell me what you need so I can get it for you.

The second example unravels the same way. In that sentence, who is whose friend? The confusion is subtle, but at the word let, the speaker switches from talking about himself or herself to taking about you—without telling you about the switch. The error becomes clear if you change the sentence to read As your friend, you let me help you with your writing problems.

Any number of rewrites can fix the mistake:

  • As your friend I want to help you with your writing problems.
  • I’m your friend. Let me help you with your writing problems.
  • Let me help you with your writing problems.
  • Let me, as your friend, help you with your writing problems.

Fix These Writing Problems

Each rewrite makes it clear who the sentence is talking about at every moment. The only way to eliminate writing problems involving who’s who is to stay vigilant. Make sure it’s clear who you’re taking about so your readers don’t think you’ve been visiting with their doctors.

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