Articles about writing style

How Do You Find and Get Rid of Redundant Adverbs?

by ProWritingAid May 25, 2016

How Do You Find and Get Rid of Redundant Adverbs?

An adverb is redundant if you use it to modify a verb with the same meaning in its definition. Read more about how redundant adverbs clutter up your writing and how to get rid of them.

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How to Create Fantastic Metaphors

by ProWritingAid May 25, 2016

How to Create Fantastic Metaphors

Aristotle said a metaphor was “the act of giving a thing a name that belongs to something else.” It allows you to pack a powerful punch in a few words. Your reader can take their full understanding of one thing, and apply it to another thing. By writing, “my cubicle is a prison,” your reader understands how you feel about your job. With just that one word that they know you feel trapped, unhappy, desolate.

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How to use... The Diction Report

by ProWritingAid May 23, 2016

How to use... The Diction Report

The Diction Report helps you avoid unnecessarily complicated writing by analyzing your word selection and sentence construction.

When it comes to writing, less is more. Make every word count. If it's not essential, cut it. Too often when writers are trying to sound authoritative, they choose the wordy ways of saying something simple. Why write “has the ability to” when you can write “can”? You’re just using more words to say the same thing, which actually makes your writing much less clear.

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How to use... The Vague & Abstract Words Check

by ProWritingAid May 19, 2016

How to use... The Vague & Abstract Words Check

There are two types of words that muddy the waters for clarity and concise writing: vague and abstract words. Replacing them with strong specific words can make a huge difference to your document.

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How to use... The Pronoun Check

by ProWritingAid May 18, 2016

How to use... The Pronoun Check

When you are writing in creative mode, you often rely on pronouns to keep your narrative moving: “He did this,” “She did that,” “They ran there,” “I found out.” That’s fine. It’s more important to keep your writing momentum up than it is to get every sentence just right.

When you go back and edit, however, you should check your pronoun percentage. Ideally it should fall somewhere between 4% and 15%. Any more than this and your writing can feel dull. This is especially so with initial pronouns – those at the start of the sentence. Your initial pronoun percentage should be under 30%.

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How to use... The Thesaurus Check

by ProWritingAid May 18, 2016

How to use... The Thesaurus Check

Often, changing just one word in a sentence allows a writer to present a more nuanced or specific idea. The contextual thesaurus allows you to explore a wider vocabulary. Unlike most thesaurus suggestions, our report takes into account the context of the word in the sentence and offers replacement words that fit within that context.

The Thesaurus Report helps you expand your vocabulary and enrich your writing.

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How to use... The Consistency Check

by ProWritingAid May 17, 2016

How to use... The Consistency Check

The Consistency Check checks your writing for consistency in four key areas: 1) Spelling, 2) Hyphenation, 3) Capitalisation, and 4) Punctuation.

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How to Use Subplots to Bring Your Whole Story Together

by Kathy Edens May 17, 2016

How to Use Subplots to Bring Your Whole Story Together

Just like real life, your characters will have more than one thing demanding their time and attention. Romances, family life, work concerns, health issues, friendships, etc. These additional plot lines are subplots that give your story depth and help keep it moving.

And as with your main plot, all subplots should follow a narrative arc of conflict, crisis, and resolution, usually wrapped up before the main plot’s climax.

Subplots can be what’s happening to secondary characters or an internal conflict your main character is facing in addition to the main conflict of your story. The key to an effective subplot is how you work it into the main plot.

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How to use... Readability Scores

by ProWritingAid May 15, 2016

How to use... Readability Scores

Your ProWritingAid Summary Report will provide you with a variety of readability scores that have been calculated using some of the top tools out there. Each tool calculates their score in a slightly different way but the results should be within the same ballpark.

The Flesch Reading Ease Score is the most well-known readability test out there (even the US military use it to assess the readability of their technical manuals). It calculates the total number of words in each sentence, and then the total number of syllables in each word, and gives you two scores.

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Why We Love the Oxford Comma

by ProWritingAid May 09, 2016

Why We Love the Oxford Comma

What is the Oxford comma? And why is there so much debate around whether it should be used? ProWritingAid advocates a nuanced approach to the Oxford comma depending on the clarity of the sentence.

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How to use... The Grammar Check

by ProWritingAid May 09, 2016

How to use... The Grammar Check

The Grammar Check is similar to the grammar and spelling checkers that you have probably used in within your word processor. It highlights any word that’s not in our dictionary in case it’s misspelled. It also looks at the construction of the sentence to make sure that the structure, punctuation and tense are correct.

But, in addition to these standard grammar checks, our team of copyeditors have been inputting thousands of specific checks that they have come across in their years of editing. Our goal over the next couple of years is to have a simple explanation associated with every grammar issue that the software picks up.

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How to use... The Writing Style Check

by ProWritingAid May 03, 2016

How to use... The Writing Style Check

The Writing Style Check is one of the most popular and comprehensive reports that ProWritingAid offers. It highlights several areas of writing that should be revised to improve readability, including passive voice, overuse of adverbs, hidden verbs, overused words, clunky phrasing, repeated sentence starts, and more.

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The Drafts Your Novel Needs (and Why You Probably Won't Use a Single Word of Your First Draft!)

by Katja L Kaine Apr 26, 2016

The Drafts Your Novel Needs (and Why You Probably Won't Use a Single Word of Your First Draft!)

The way I draft is an extension of the way I approach novel planning as a whole - which is to start with a simple concept and then add more and more detail until I have a fairly comprehensive outline.

With drafting that means starting with a rough outline and slowly fleshing it out and adding detail, tweaking and weaving until it is finished, polished prose. I try to approach each draft with different priorities in mind so I can focus on tackling particular elements of story-telling at each stage while setting aside other aspects for later so I don’t get bogged down trying to do too much at once.

In this article, I give details about the objective I assign to each draft, how I prepare for that draft (i.e. what I do in advance) and then the technique I use when actually writing it. I’ve also added a very rough guide to projected timescales and a bullet point summary of each stage.

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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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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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Are You Ready to Draft Your Story Arc?

by Kathy Edens Feb 15, 2016

Are You Ready to Draft Your Story Arc?

Last month, we focused our articles on how to begin writing your novel in 2016, and we mentioned story arc in the article Start With Your Idea. In this month’s article, we’re going to delve a little deeper into creating your story arc.

The story arc (or sometimes called the narrative arc) is a more poetic way of saying that each story must have a beginning, a middle, and an end—or Act One, Act Two, and Act Three. This has been the guiding template of stories since the ancient Greeks started writing them, and holds true whether you’re writing fiction or non-fiction.

Where authors fall apart in their story arc is that nothing much happens to the main character by the end of the book. He hasn’t been tested in some profound way.

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What are Overused Words Anyway?

by ProWritingAid Jan 13, 2016

What are Overused Words Anyway? Substitute 'damn' every time you're inclined to write 'very'; your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be. - Mark Twain

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What is a Cliché? And Why Should You Avoid Them?

by ProWritingAid Jan 10, 2016

What is a Cliché?  And Why Should You Avoid Them?

A cliché is a tired, stale phrase or idiom that, because of overuse, has lost its impact. What was once a fresh way of looking at something has become a weak prop for writing that feels unimaginative and dull. Clichés are what you write when you don’t have the energy or inspiration to think of a new way to express an idea.

George Orwell in his Rules of Writing said: “Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.” Be creative and come up with something fresh. A new analogy or metaphor will make much more of an impression on your readers than a dusty old cliché.

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Why You Need Great Transitions in Your Writing

by ProWritingAid Dec 23, 2015

Why You Need Great Transitions in Your Writing Imagine a road with no street signs to point the way. How would you follow the right route if you didn’t have a sign showing you which way to go?

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