How We Write

When you sit down to write make, sure that each sentence reflects what you mean. Use active verbs and write clear concise sentences that convey your ideas.

Active Voice

The subject comes first in an active sentence.

Example

Maine Republican Senator Susan Collins wrote a letter to explain why she will not vote for the latest bill to repeal Obamacare.

Always look for an active verb to give your writing more energy.

Example:

President Trump tweeted nine times in one day to criticize football players who kneel and refuse to sing the national anthem to protest police shootings of African-Americans.

Avoid the passive “to be” verbs: be, am, is, are, was, were, being, been.

Nine tweets were sent by President Trump in one day to criticize football players who kneel in protest and refuse to sing the national anthem.

Passive Voice

You can use the passive verbs be, am, is, are, was, were, being, been when the subject of the action becomes the object.

Example:

Many Washington Heights residents are forced to move to other neighborhoods because landlords found tenants willing to pay higher rents.

We use the “to be” verbs to describe a state of being.

Example:

Dayan is a junior in college.

Have

We use variations of the word have when we use it, like must, can or have.

Jorge has to reapply for DACA by October 5, 2017.

We might also use a passive verb when we talk about ongoing action.

Example

The student was reading a textbook when the alarm bell sounded and everyone had to leave the classroom.

Pretentious Language 

Sure, you may think it sounds better to use flowery language and fussy words. But you end up sounding pretentious.

Example

When the scions of the elderly gentleman thought he had a female paramour, they pondered about their fortunes if he were to suddenly become deceased.

Use language that says what you mean.

Example

The children of the older man thought he had a girlfriend and worried about their inheritance if he died suddenly.

Catch phrases, Cliches and Euphemism

You may think you can make a sentence sound important if you use phrases or words that only suggest what you mean. But fussy sentences confuse readers, listeners and viewers.

Fussy                                                  Clear

economically deprived                  poor

youths                                               teenagers, young men, young women, young people,

chemical dependency                  drug addiction

downsize                                          lay off

adult entertainment                      pornography

inner city                                          give the name of the neighborhood

 

You also want to avoid fussy words that connect ideas

however

furthermore

nevermore

nevertheless

 

Avoid the Negative

Write sentences that avoid the negative.

Example

President Trump not only picked a fight with NFL players who choose to protest, he ignored the hurricane victims in Puerto Rico.

Better

 

President Trump picked a fight with NFL players who chose to protest and ignored Puerto Rico’s hurricane victims.

 

Writing Numbers

Write out numbers one through nine.

Write number 10 and up as you would in math.

 

Writing Percentages

Write percent rather than %.

 

Full Names and Acronyms

When you write for print, TV or radio, you separate the full name of an organization and its acronym with the word or, or commas.

 

Example

The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACCA.

When you write for the web you put the acronym in parentheses.

The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

 

 

 

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