Community Forum
Today's Posts
FAQ & Rules
Members List

Writing Forum
Recent Posts
Critique Guidelines

YWO Social Groups



Support YWO
YWO Merchandise
The Book Despository (US) (UK) (Canada)


Thread Tools
Old 01-11-2008, 01:44 AM View Post #1 (Link) Scotty's Guide to Effective Writing
ScottyMcGee (Offline)
Freelance Writer
ScottyMcGee's Avatar
Join Date: Nov 2007
Location: New Jersey
Posts: 1,754
Points: 30
Times Thanked: 176

Okay so SOME of it is based on my AP English Language and Composition textbook.
But let's say I decided to break it down my own style.
The book goes by "Principles," and I will do just that.
This guide is NOT necessarily a punctuation or grammar guide, but simply a guide to write effectively. From wordiness to passive voice, qualifications and useless jargon.

LAST EDIT: Jan. 27th, 2008
Sorry I've been slacking with the editing on this guys, I've been having a lot of crap to take care of. The new section I added is about cliches.


Principle 1: Be Active

We've all heard to embrace the active voice, but being passive doesn't necessarily mean it's grammatically incorrect. For those of you who wish to know when the passive voice SHOULD be used, read further.

Passive Voice is OKAY in these scenarios:

1. When the cause of the action is unknown. For example, "My bike was stolen today." We don't know who or what stole your bike, and therefore there is no need for a direct action.
2. When you don't wish to reveal the cause of the action. For example, "An error was made." But by whom or what? We don't know.

Other than those two scenarios, the active voice SHOULD be used. For those of you who don't know what an active sentence is, it's a sentence where the subject is doing the action. Whereas in a passive sentence, the subject is being acted upon. The passive voice is looked down upon because it can be wordy and hard to understand at a first glance. Active voices are short, clear, and concise.

Weak: The politician's rating was hurt by the recent scandal.
Strong: The recent scandal hurt the politician's rating.

Of course that's a simple example, you can go wild with stronger verbs and whatnot, but that's a simple example of active vs. passive.

Principle 2: Avoid Needless Qualifications

This I am sure we are all culprits of, I've seen it and I've done it. Needless qualifications can be both vague and excessive. What I mean by excessiveness and vagueness is when we add words and phrases like "very," "sort of," "kind of," and "seemed like."

Weak: John was a very good pianist.
Strong: John was a virtuoso pianist.
or John played beautifully.

Weak: It seemed like some sort of monster.
Strong: It was a hideous beast.

Again, not the best examples, these are very simple, but you get the point.

The only time I would be okay with this, and this is not coming from the book, is when you are writing dialogue or in first person view. When in those two situations, it's realistic, because we all talk like that. But when you're writing in the third person, omniscient view, try to be as clear and concise as possible. Be vivid.
"Good" and "well" are very vague. How is it good? How is it well? "Very good" is a very drab phrase that can mean anything. People also explain words excessively. For example:

Michael is more unique than John.

There are no degrees of uniqueness, you're either unique or you're not. Maybe try something such as, "Michael is unique, whereas John is not."
Here is a small list of common ones.

more unique
the very worst
completely full

the worst

The worst is simply THE worst. To say "very worst" is excessive.
Completely full is almost redundant. We already know it's full.

Principle 3: Don't Work for the Department of Redundancy Department

Redundancy is when a writer needlessly repeats an idea. It's redundant to say "a beginner lacking experience" because the word beginner already implies that there is no experience.
Here is a list of redundancies.

refer back
few in number
grouped together
end result


Principle 4: Don't be Vague

Don't simply ramble and drag on your writing. Choose specific and descriptive words. Vagueness weakens your writing because the reader guesses what you mean instead of concentrating on the full idea and style.

Weak: She is a great communicator.
Strong: She speaks persuasively.

The question with the weak sentence is how exactly is she a great communicator? There are thousands of ways to communicate, Internet, mail, e-mail, carrier pigeons. Does she communicate by force? By sucking up? How?
Ah, persuasively, there we go. She speaks persuasively. Now we know that she's good with words and speech.

Principle 5: Avoid Cliches

When I talk about cliches, I'm not talking story-wise, but writing-wise. Cliches are not only unoriginal, but they're boring and lack style. Don't ever use cliches, they're a cheap way to write instead of making up your own analogy or manner of expression.

Here are a few well known cliches, both writing and dialogue:

beyond a shadow of a doubt

it's like finding a needle in a haystack

"It's quiet, too quiet."

like peas in a pod

a ballpark estimate

in the blink of an eye

easy as one, two, three

play favorites

"Mi casa es tu casa."

"Mano y mano."

hanging by a thread

taken by storm

After I'm done with this, I am planning to write an entire thread about cliches to avoid in every genre. Fantasy, sci-fi, mystery, romance, etc.

More to come later.

Only thieves kiss with their eyes open.
						Last edited by ScottyMcGee; 01-28-2008 at 02:51 AM.
					Reply With Quote
Old 01-15-2008, 07:09 PM View Post #2 (Link)
The Incredible Night Elf (Offline)
Novice Writer
The Incredible Night Elf's Avatar
Join Date: Jan 2008
Location: Glasgow
Posts: 18
Points: 10
Times Thanked: 0
Hey, this is a pretty useful little post.

A lot of simple rules that we should all follow but often over-look...

"I'm just a musical prostitute, my dear"
~ Freddie Mercury

"The first time I heard Axl Rose, I thought 'Oh, whos that shrieking perv?'"
~ Paul Rodgers

"Ozzy Osbourne couldn't carry a tune if you put a radio in a suitcase and gave it to him in his hand"
~ Ronnie James Dio
  Reply With Quote
Old 01-17-2008, 01:43 AM View Post #3 (Link)
Shaun (Offline)
Dead Person
Shaun's Avatar
Join Date: Sep 2007
Location: Gainesville, FL
Posts: 5,691
Points: 11.33
Times Thanked: 142
Oh, I have some comments .

Passive voice is actually okay in a lot more scenarios than you gave. You can use passive voice as a way to pull down the tension from an action sequence or other scene in which there is some form of tension. Its a way of using language to pull the reader back a little. Otherwise you leave the reader with a heightened emotional state (or at least heightened attention) only to leave the reading wondering when the change happened. It's okay to use passive voice if you use it properly. Never use it in action or moments of tension.

On the subject of vagueness, I guess it depends on how you use it. If you use vagueness in such a way that it forces the reader to think, then it could work very well, but if you're just being vague in moments which need development, then it doesn't work.

Good post nonetheless!
The Viking Amoeba Army is here! Run for your lives!


Read my published fiction and non-fiction!

And check out The World in the Satin Bag novel podcast. Help me become rich and donate!

My Random Stuff:
--The World in the Satin Bag: My science fiction, fantasy, and writing blog!
--Check out Cheese & Crackers Original and Cheese & Crackers Superheroes
--The Skiffy and Fanty Show
--Duke and Zink Do America (Political Podcast)

YWO Stuff:
--Buy Survival By Storytelling Magazine (Issue One is available!) Support fellow YWO writers!
--And don't forget to buy something from YWO's Zazzle Store!
--Follow YWO on Twitter.

This is a call to arms, gather soldiers,
Time to go to war.
This is a battle song, brothers and sisters,
Time to go to war.
  Reply With Quote
Old 01-25-2008, 11:46 PM View Post #4 (Link)
Andy (Offline)
Andy's Avatar
Join Date: Sep 2007
Location: At home
Posts: 2,478
Points: 32
Times Thanked: 99
Great post, Scotty! Very thorough!

  Reply With Quote
Old 02-21-2008, 03:20 AM View Post #5 (Link)
asian-fanatic (Offline)
Novice Writer
Join Date: Feb 2008
Location: heaven.
Posts: 23
Points: 10
Times Thanked: 1
ooh principle 2 and 3 felt directed at me. ahaha. i shall watch out for those ones.
4... seems harder to do... I was always taught in essay writing to 'state things' so it's a strong sentence like 'She is a great communicator," which was your example of a weak one. Oh dear, I will definitely try~~
  Reply With Quote
Old 07-23-2008, 01:45 PM View Post #6 (Link)
Litharukia (Offline)
Idea Scribe
Join Date: Jul 2008
Posts: 52
Points: 9
Times Thanked: 0
The only time extra words in writing are permissible are in first drafts, especially when said first draft is written during Nanowrimo...
  Reply With Quote
Old 07-26-2008, 10:57 PM View Post #7 (Link)
Simmi (Offline)
Freelance Writer
Simmi's Avatar
Join Date: Jul 2008
Location: mind palace
Posts: 518
Points: 12.07
Times Thanked: 53
This helps LOTS thanks sooo much!
  Reply With Quote
Old 07-27-2008, 12:57 AM View Post #8 (Link)
Ichigo (Offline)
Freelance Writer
Ichigo's Avatar
Join Date: Oct 2007
Location: Pallet Town
Posts: 1,313
Points: 20
Times Thanked: 32
I saw a t-shirt with Principle #3 written on it before...
Thanks Scotty it was really informative!
"Honesty is the cornerstone of all success, without which confidence and ability to perform shall cease to exist."

PM me for Poetry crits!! I've been super neglectful of this site for so long. Put me to work.
  Reply With Quote
Old 07-27-2008, 02:19 AM View Post #9 (Link)
ScottyMcGee (Offline)
Freelance Writer
ScottyMcGee's Avatar
Join Date: Nov 2007
Location: New Jersey
Posts: 1,754
Points: 30
Times Thanked: 176
Ichy. . .you JUST saw this?
Only thieves kiss with their eyes open.
  Reply With Quote
Old 07-27-2008, 04:00 AM View Post #10 (Link)
Rouge (Offline)
Join Date: May 2008
Location: Hailsham
Posts: 1,372
Points: 26
Times Thanked: 227
I just saw this.

Is that a problem?
  Reply With Quote
Thread Tools


All times are GMT. The time now is 01:16 PM.
Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.7 - Copyright ©2000 - 2018, Jelsoft Enterprises Ltd.
All writing Copyright © its author(s). All other material Copyright © 2007-2012 Young Writers Online unless otherwise specified.
Managed by Andrew Kukwa (Andy) and Shaun Duke (Shaun) from The World in the Satin Bag. Design by HTWoRKS.