Thursday, June 7, 2012

How to Write Good?

I found this article very helpful in honing my technical writing skills. I copied it from a post in the facebook by one of my friends. Then I dug deeper into the definitions and examples to fully elaborate the recommended dos and donts in writing... and come up with a good writeup.

Here it goes...

1.       Avoid alliteration. Always.
Alliteration is when you have multiple words with the same sounding prefix. Or it means beginning words with the same letter in a sentence. It is a figure of speech wherein the same sound is repeated in a sentence for comical effect or simply to gain the attention of the reader.
Example:             Bob Bought Big Blue Balls.
Ralph rarely ran round rugged rocks.
2.       Prepositions are not words to end sentences with.
A preposition links nouns, pronouns and phrases to other words in a sentence. The word or phrase that the preposition introduces is called the object of the preposition. It usually indicates the temporal, spatial or logical relationship of its object to the rest of the sentence as in the following examples:
·         The book is on the table.
·         The book is beneath the table.
·         The book is leaning against the table.
·         The book is beside the table.
·         She held the book over the table.
·         She read the book during class.
In each of the preceding sentences, a preposition locates the noun "book" in space or in time.
A prepositional phrase is made up of the preposition, its object and any associated adjectives or adverbs. A prepositional phrase can function as a noun, an adjective, or an adverb. The most common prepositions are "about," "above," "across," "after," "against," "along," "among," "around," "at," "before," "behind," "below," "beneath," "beside," "between," "beyond," "but," "by," "despite," "down," "during," "except," "for," "from," "in," "inside," "into," "like," "near," "of," "off," "on," "onto," "out," "outside," "over," "past," "since," "through," "throughout," "till," "to," "toward," "under," "underneath," "until," "up," "upon," "with," "within," and "without."
3.       Avoid clichés like the plague. (They’re old hat.)
A trite expression, often a figure of speech whose effectiveness has been worn out through overuse and excessive familiarity.
·         Live and learn.
        Stay the course.
        What goes around comes around.
        "That's the way with these directors: they're always biting the hand that lays the golden egg."  (Samuel Goldwyn)
4.       Employ the vernacular.
·         The standard native language of a country or locality.
·         a. The everyday language spoken by a people as distinguished from the literary language. b. A variety of such everyday language specific to a social group or region.
·         The idiom of a particular trade or profession: in the legal vernacular.
·         An idiomatic word, phrase, or expression.
·         The common, nonscientific name of a plant or animal.
·         Native to or commonly spoken by the members of a particular country or region.
·         Using the native language of a region, especially as distinct from the literary language: a vernacular poet.
·         Relating to or expressed in the native language or dialect.
·         Of or being an indigenous building style using local materials and traditional methods of construction and ornament, especially as distinguished from academic or historical architectural styles.
·         Occurring or existing in a particular locality; endemic: a vernacular disease.
·         Relating to or designating the common, nonscientific name of a plant or animal.
5.       Eschew ampersands & abbreviations, etc.
Ampersand is the symbol (&) representing the word and. In formal writing, the ampersand is primarily used in the names of some companies, such as "Johnson & Johnson."
Abbreviation is a shortened form of a word or phrase, such as Jan. for January.
6.       Parenthetical remarks (however relevant) are unnecessary.
1)      Either or both of the upright curved lines, ( ), used to mark off explanatory or qualifying remarks in writing.
2)      The insertion of some verbal unit that interrupts the normal syntactic flow of the sentence.
7.       It is wrong to ever split an infinitive.
A verbal--usually preceded by the particle to--that can function as a noun, an adjective, or an adverb.  An infinitive will almost always begin with to followed by the simple form of the verb. An infinitive will lose its to when it follows certain verbs.
Question: What is a "split infinitive" and what's wrong with it?
Answer: The so-called split infinitive is a construction in which one or more words come between the particle to and the verb--as in "to boldly go where no man has gone before." And there's nothing wrong with it.
8.       Contractions aren’t necessary.
A shortened form of a word or group of words, with the missing letters usually marked by an apostrophe. Contractions are commonly used in speech and in colloquial forms of writing. Words containing two contractional clitics marked with apostrophes (such as shouldn't've) are called double contractions. Double contractions are rarely seen in contemporary writing.
9.       Foreign words and phrases are not apropos.
The following list is a sampler of commonly used French phrases in modern English.
·         aide-memoire (literally: help-memory): a mnemonic device
·         ambiance (literally: surroundings): mood, character, atmosphere (e.g. of a location)
·         au courant (literally: in the current; and yes, the English word "current" is of French origin): up-to-date, fashionable
·         au naturel (literally: in the natural state): served plainly; nude
·         au poivre (French for "with pepper"): as in steak au poivre (served with a lot of ground pepper)
·         avant-garde (French for "the front guard"): a progressive artistic movement
·         bon voyage (literally: good journey!): farewell
·         bourgeois (French for "townsman"): member of the middle class
·         compte rendu (literally: account rendered): review, report, statement of account
·         cul-de-sac (French for "bottom of the bag"): blind alley
·         double entendre (literally: double meaning): ambiguity; an expression open to two interpretations, one of which is usually indecent
·         enfant terrible (literally: terrifying child): a person of unconventional, avant-garde behavior
·         entente (French for "understanding"): the agreement between France and Britain in 1904 (the full French phrase being "entente cordiale")
·         fait accompli (French for "accomplished fact"): done deal, irreversible fact
·         femme fatale (literally: fatal woman): an irresistibly sexy woman, a woman-siren
·         force majeure (literally: superior force): irresistible force, unpredictable and uncontrollable event
·         je ne sais quoi (French for "I don't know what"): used to describe an elusive impression or quality
·         laissez-faire/laisser-faire (UK variation) (literally: let (the people) do): an individualistic approach to economic regulation; avoiding interference in the affairs of others
·         noblesse oblige (literally: nobility obliges): the belief that members of the upper classes are bound to honorable behavior
·         nom de plume (French for "pen name"): (writer's) pseudonym, pen name
·         soi-disant (literally: saying (about) oneself): so-called, self-styled, self-proclaimed
·         tour de force: a remarkable feat (plural: tours de force)
·         volte-face (literally: turn-face): a reversal in attitude, a U-turn in policy
10.   One should never generalize.
Transitive Verb
1.       a. To reduce to a general form, class, or law. b. To render indefinite or unspecific.
2.       a. To infer from many particulars. b. To draw inferences or a general conclusion from.
3.       a. To make generally or universally applicable. b. To popularize.
Intransitive Verb
1.       a. To form a concept inductively. b. To form general notions or conclusions.
2.       To deal in generalities; speak or write vaguely.
11.   Eliminate quotations. As Ralph Emerson once said: “I hate quotations. Tell me what you know.”
The act of quoting. A passage quoted. An explicit reference or allusion in an artistic work to a passage or element from another, usually well-known work: "Direct quotations from other paintings are fairly sparse" (Robert Hughes).
12.   Comparisons are bad as clichés.
A rhetorical strategy and method of organization in which a writer examines similarities and/or differences between two people, places, ideas, or things.
13.   Don’t be redundant; don’t use more words than necessary; it’s highly superfluous.
Redundancy means superfluity or using words unnecessarily or using words for a second time.
        If all of us cooperate together, we will succeed.
In this sentence, the words cooperate and together have been used. But both these words convey the same meaning. One of the two words should be dropped in order to make the sentence a correct one.
        If all of us cooperate, we will succeed.
        If all of us work together, we will succeed.
        The accused was guilty of false misstatement.
This sentence uses false and misstatement whereas both these words convey the same meaning. The correct sentence is:
        The accused was guilty of misstatement.
        It was the general consensus of opinion that we must go to the movie.
The two words which convey the same meaning are consensus and opinion. One word should be removed to make this sentence correct one. The correct sentence is:
        It was the general opinion that we must go to the movie.
        The three brothers had nothing in common with each other.
Here also two phrases in common and with each other have been used to convey the same meaning. The correct sentence is:
        The three brothers had nothing in common.
These examples might have made it clear for you how to avoid Redundancy in your sentences.
        I am enclosing herewith my bio-data.
Enclosing and herewith are the two words which convey the same meaning. The correct sentence is:
        I am enclosing my bio-data.
        There was an ovation when the minister rose up to speak.
The two words (rose and up) convey the same meaning.  The correct sentence is:
        There was an ovation when the minister rose to speak.
        Do not return back home without completing the work.
In this sentence also, two words, conveying the same meaning have been used. The correct sentence is:
        Do not return without completing the work.
These examples might have made it clear for you how to avoid Redundancy in your sentences.
14.   Profanity sucks.
Bad Words according to BBC Ranking
a.       Cunt
b.      Shit
c.       Motherfucker
d.      Dickhead
e.      Fuck
f.        Pissed off
g.       Wanker
h.      Arse
i.         Nigger
j.        Bugger
k.       Bastard
l.         Balls
m.    Prick
n.      Jew
o.      Bollocks
p.      Sodding
q.      Arsehole
r.        Jesus Christ
s.       Paki
t.        Crap
u.      Shag
v.       Bloody
w.     Whore
x.       God
y.       Twat
z.       Piss off
aa.   Spastic
bb.  Slag
15.   Be more or less specific.
16.   Understatement is always best.
A figure of speech in which a writer or speaker deliberately makes a situation seem less important or serious than it is. Contrast with hyperbole.
17.   Exaggeration is a billion times worse than understatement.
A figure of speech (a form of irony) in which exaggeration is used for emphasis or effect; an extravagant statement. Hyperbolic. Contrast with understatement.
18.   One-word sentences? Eliminate.
Any command, which is an imperative with the subject (you) understood.
19.   Analogies in writing are feathers on a snake.
An analogy is "reasoning or explaining from parallel cases." Put another way, an analogy is a comparison between two different things in order to highlight some point of similarity. As Freud suggested, an analogy won't settle an argument, but a good one may help to clarify the issues.
20.   The passive voice is to be avoided.
Passive voice is used when the focus is on the action. It is not important or not known, however, who or what is performing the action.
Example: My bike was stolen.
In the example above, the focus is on the fact that my bike was stolen. I do not know, however, who did it. Sometimes a statement in passive is more polite than active voice, as the following example shows:
Example: A mistake was made.
In this case, I focus on the fact that a mistake was made, but I do not blame anyone (e.g. You have made a mistake.).
Form of Passive: Subject + finite form of to be + Past Participle
Example: A letter was written.
When rewriting active sentences in passive voice, note the following:
·         the object of the active sentence becomes the subject of the passive sentence
·         the finite form of the verb is changed (to be + past participle)
·         the subject of the active sentence becomes the object of the passive sentence (or is dropped)
Examples of Passive
Simple Present
Active: Rita writes a letter.
Passive: A letter is written by Rita.
Simple Past
Active: Rita wrote a letter.
Passive: A letter was written by Rita.
Present Perfect
Active: Rita has written a letter.
Passive: A letter has been written by Rita.
Future I
Active: Rita will write a letter.
Passive: A letter will be written by Rita.
Hilfsverben (Modal Auxiliaries)
Active: Rita can write a letter.
Passive: A letter can be written by Rita.
Present Progressive
Active: Rita is writing a letter.
Passive: A letter is being written by Rita.

Past Progressive
Active: Rita was writing a letter.
Passive: A letter was being written by Rita.
Past Perfect
Active: Rita had written a letter.
Passive: A letter had been written by Rita.
Future II
Active: Rita will have written a letter.
Passive: A letter will have been written by Rita.
Conditional I
Active: Rita would write a letter.
Passive: A letter would be written by Rita.
Conditional II
Active: Rita would have written a letter.
Passive: A letter would have been written by Rita.
21.   Go around the barn at high noon to avoid colloquialisms.
An informal expression that is more often used in casual conversation than in formal speech or writing. A colloquialism is a linguine phrase that is characteristic of or only appropriate for casual, ordinary, familiar, and/or informal written or spoken conversation, rather than for formal speech, standard writing, or paralinguistics. Dictionaries often display colloquial words and phrases with the abbreviation colloq. as an identifier. Words such as y'all, gonna, and wanna.
22.   Even if mixed metaphor sings, it should be derailed.
A succession of incongruous or ludicrous comparisons. Although many style guides condemn the use of mixed metaphors, in practice most of the objectionable combinations (as in the examples below) are actually clichés or dead metaphors.
A speech by Boyle Roche in the Irish Parliament: "Mr. Speaker, I smell a rat. I see him floating in the air. But mark me, sir, I will nip him in the bud." This sort of mixed metaphor may occur when a speaker is so familiar with the figurative sense of a phrase ("smell a rat," "nip in the bud") that he fails to recognize the absurdity that results from a literal reading.
·         •"That's awfully thin gruel for the right wing to hang their hats on." (MSNBC, Sep. 3, 2009)
·         •"Her saucer-eyes narrow to a gimlet stare and she lets Mr. Clarke have it with both barrels." (Anne McElvoy, London Evening Standard, Sep. 9, 2009)
·         •“I conclude that the city’s proposal to skim the frosting, pocket the cake, and avoid paying the fair, reasonable, and affordable value of the meal is a hound that will not hunt." (a labor arbitrator, quoted by the Boston Globe, May 8, 2010)
23.   Who needs rhetorical questions?
A form of rhetoric that describes a statement or word asked merely for effect with no answer expected. Examples: Is the Pope Catholic? Do bears live in the woods?
A question is "rhetorical" if it is asked merely for effect with no answer expected. The purpose of this figure of speech is not to secure a response but to assert or deny a point implicitly. A rhetorical question may serve as a subtle way of insinuating an idea that might be challenged by an audience if asserted directly.
1.       Marriage is a wonderful institution, but who would want to live in an institution?
2.       If practice makes perfect, and no one's perfect, then why practice?
3.       How many roads must a man walk down before you call him a man?

No comments:

Post a Comment