From the blog

How to use... The Overused Words Check

by ProWritingAid Apr 25, 2016

How to use... The Overused Words Check

There are some words and sentence constructions that are fine to use occasionally, but become problematic when they are overused. They fall into five main categories:

1) Too Wishy-Washy

Words like “could”, “might” and “maybe” are indefinite in their meaning. “I could bring a salad to dinner” feels hesitant and unsure, whereas “I will bring a salad to dinner” feels resolute. If your writing is peppered with these non-specific words, it will feel unconvincing. Try to limit your use of these undefined words to times when they are really necessary and replace them with definite words when you are able.

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How to use... The Pacing Check

by ProWritingAid Apr 25, 2016

How to use... The Pacing Check

Pacing refers to the speed at which a story is told and how quickly the reader is moved through events. Good writing contains faster-paced sections, such as dialogue and character action, as well as slower-paced sections, such as introspection and backstory.

A book that is entirely composed of car chases without taking the time to make you care about the character being chased just won’t be effective at bringing readers into the story. Likewise, a story that has four chapters in a row dedicated to your main character’s Zen contemplation may need a bit of action to keep readers interested. Differently paced sections should complement each other, allowing the reader to move with you through the narrative.

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How to use... The Repeats Check

by ProWritingAid Apr 25, 2016

How to use... The Repeats Check

Repeating a word or phrase happens to the best of us, especially if you’re writing an article and using a specific vocabulary for your topic. You won’t even notice you’ve used the same word several times in the span of one paragraph because it’s foremost in your mind. But those repeats can set off an echo in the reader’s mind – that subconscious feeling of “Didn’t he just say that?” It can be irritating to read and, worse, it can detract from what you are trying to say. The more uncommon a word or phrase, the more likely it is to echo, even pages apart.

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How to use... The Sentence Length Report

by ProWritingAid Apr 25, 2016

How to use... The Sentence Length Report

Varied sentence length is an important feature of good writing. To maintain your readers’ interest, use a variety of sentence lengths: some short and punchy, others long and flowing.

The late Gary Provost illustrated it best. Click through to see how.

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How to use... The Sticky Sentence Report

by ProWritingAid Apr 25, 2016

How to use... The Sticky Sentence Report

A sticky sentence is one that is full of glue words.

Glue words are the empty space that readers need to get through before they can get to your ideas. Generally, your sentences should contain less than 45% glue words. If they contain more, they should probably be re-written to increase clarity.

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What is Passive Voice and How Do I Make It Active?

by ProWritingAid Apr 22, 2016

What is Passive Voice and How Do I Make It Active?

Passive voice occurs when you take the object of your sentence—the part that the action happens to—and make it the subject of your sentence.

Here are some examples:

  • Passive: The flag was raised by the troops.

  • Active: The troops raised the flag.

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What are simple, compound, and complex sentences?

by ProWritingAid Apr 15, 2016

What are simple, compound, and complex sentences?

One thing that ProWritingAid is great at pointing out is the variety of sentence lengths you use in your writing. You know that varying the lengths creates a more lyrical bend to your writing. You don’t want all short sentences. Nor do you want all long sentences that complicate your reader’s understanding.

Simple, compound, and complex sentences are all ways of varying the length. Let’s see how they work.

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Introducing the ProWritingAid Grammar School.

by ProWritingAid Mar 23, 2016

Welcome to the ProWritingAid Grammar School. Grammar School posts will take technical writing terms, rules and concepts and make them simple and understandable. Expand your knowledge and make your writing stronger.

If you have a question that you would like answered by our Grammar School pros, please send it to grammarschool@prowritingaid.com.

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Are You Ready to Draft Your Plot?

by Kathy Edens Mar 22, 2016

Are You Ready to Draft Your Plot?

Plot is what happens to your main character (MC). Things happen and your MC has to deal with or resolve these issues: they receive a mysterious message, they come home to find their spouse in bed with someone else, their house burns down, etc. One thing happens, then another, then another, and each event leads your character further along your narrative arc toward the climax.

Plot is what gives us action. The narrative arc, working in tandem with the character arc, gives us the reaction.

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How to Create a Compelling Character Arc

by Kathy Edens Mar 21, 2016

How to Create a Compelling Character Arc

The standard definition of a character arc is how your main character changes over the course of your story.

The most common form of character arc is the Hero’s Journey. An ordinary person receives a call to adventure and, at first, he or she refuses that call. There’s usually a mentor who helps the hero accept or learn how to attempt the adventure. Think of Yoda in Star Wars. But there’s more out there than just the good guy or gal who’s transformed by the end of the story. Not all characters undergo some major transformation. In some cases, they will grow, but not transform.

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“Show. Don’t Tell.” What do they mean?

by ProWritingAid Mar 17, 2016

“Show. Don’t Tell.” What do they mean?

You’ve heard it before, most likely from a teacher, an editor, or your agent. But Anton Chekhov said it most eloquently:

Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.

It may seem apparent when Chekhov says it, but sometimes it’s hard to put that advice into practice. There are times when your reader needs to be “told” because brevity is called for. On the other hand, no one wants to read your brain dump on every little matter.

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Win a publishing package worth over $5000!

by ProWritingAid Mar 15, 2016

Our good friends over at Standoutbooks love helping writers succeed as much as we do and they've put together a publishing package giveaway worth $5222. To be in with a chance of winning, all you have to do is answer a simple question before May 1, 2016.

Click here for find out more about the prize package and to enter!

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Before You Start Writing: 5-Step Prep to Make Essay Writing As Painless as Possible

by Kristin Fracchia Mar 14, 2016

Before You Start Writing: 5-Step Prep to Make Essay Writing As Painless as Possible

Many of you are probably familiar with the panic or dread that can accompany the act of having an essay topic dropped in front of you on your desk. Nothing’s been written, nothing’s even been thought of; all you have in front of you is a topic, a blank page, and the instructions to “write.” As a former high school English teacher, I’m convinced the anxiety of not knowing what to write is the reason why so many of my students wait until the last possible minute to write an essay. Under pressure, you have no choice but to get started. But by then, it’s too late to write the best essay you could.

The solution is to start as soon as possible. Check out this 5 step prep process that you can apply to any essay you write.

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FREE EBOOK: 20 Editing Tips from Professional Writers

by Lisa Lepki Mar 10, 2016

FREE EBOOK: 20 Editing Tips from Professional Writers

This practical guide contains 20 important writing tips and techniques from a wide range of professional writers. Some focus on the minutia of specific word selection; others focus on the more complex ideas like finding the right metaphor, policing your work for Purple Prose, or figuring out when it’s time to send it off to potential publishers.

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5 Ways to Develop an “Ear” for English Grammar

by Saga Briggs Mar 08, 2016

5 Ways to Develop an “Ear” for English Grammar

Most forms of English instruction emphasise rules and memorisation; however, I recommend a more instinctual method of mastery. Rather than mapping out sentences or memorising confusing and often inconsistent rules, you can improve your communication skills by simply tapping into the logic of rhythm and structure.

Let’s take a look at five ways you can start tuning your ear:

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Are You a Couture Writer? Or a Word Spewer?

by Wynsum Wise Mar 07, 2016

Are You a Couture Writer?  Or a Word Spewer?

Words are the raw fabric: weave, knit, or bonded leather. We cut and combine words into phrases, and the phrases are the pieces that you stitch to reach your goal of the narrative package.

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What’s Wrong with an “ly” Adverb After a Dialogue Tag?

by ProWritingAid Mar 04, 2016

What’s Wrong with an “ly” Adverb After a Dialogue Tag?

When you paint a picture with your character’s actions instead of using an “ly” adverb to try to set the mood, you give your reader a much deeper understanding and pull him or her closer into the drama.

It all comes down to “He said, She said” eventually. Professional editors and authors agree that you want your dialogue tags to be invisible to the reader so that it doesn’t slow him or her down or bring notice to the writing itself.

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Past…Present…What are Participles?

by ProWritingAid Mar 02, 2016

Past…Present…What are Participles?

Sometimes verbs get confusing, so here’s a little trick to help you figure out participles:

Participles, both past and present, are verb forms that can be used as an adjective or a noun.

Take a common verb like jump. It can be used as a noun as in:

  • Jumping over the hedgerows is exhausting.

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What Are Infinitives? And Can We Split Them or Not?

by ProWritingAid Feb 24, 2016

What Are Infinitives? And Can We Split Them or Not?

Infinitives are verbs preceded by the word “to” that function as nouns, adjectives, or adverbs in a sentence. An infinitive does not function as a verb. This means you can never add s, es, ed, or ing to the end.

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Attention Writers: We Need Your Help!

by ProWritingAid Feb 15, 2016

We want our blog to be your first stop for any questions you have about writing. Our goal is to take complicated technical elements of writing and make them clear and easy to understand. We need your help coming up with topics. What have you always wondered? What do you find that people are always misunderstanding or getting wrong?

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