7 Reasons to Take Part in NaNoWriMo

NaNoWriMo mug

You might need a lot of coffee to write 50,000 words in one month, but the sense of accomplishment you’ll feel at the end is sure to be worth it.
Photo by qrevolution (Flickr)

It sounds mad: thousands of writers dedicated to the idea of writing a 50,000-word novel in one month. November is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), and as many veterans of this annual practice are getting their index cards and outlines ready, we at Online Writing Jobs thought we might encourage our awesome writers to take part. According to the official website, “NaNoWriMo is for anyone who has ever thought fleetingly about writing a novel.” If you’ve been thinking about writing your novel, here are the top seven reasons why you should join in: Read more ›

Posted in Fun Stuff

Onward(s) and Upward(s): Unnecessary Letters

Esses

Keep it ssshort and sssweet: Don’t add an extra S, or any other letter, where it sssshouldn’t be!
Photo by =>Clement<= (Flickr)

Usually, when you’re considering the spelling of a word, there’s a right spelling and a wrong spelling, plain and simple. But sometimes, a word can have more than one spelling that’s technically correct, much like a word can have more than one pronunciation (such as “read,” for example). A secondary spelling of a word isn’t necessarily always wrong: It’s just less right, less common — and therefore less likely to look correct to the reader. Here are a few examples we’ve spotted in freelance writing pieces: Read more ›

Posted in Writing Tips

Using Your Braaaaains: Active vs. Passive Voice

Zombies

Don’t write mindless sentences: Strive to avoid the passive voice whenever possible.
Photo by Lindsey Turner (Flickr)

In the field of freelance writing (and writing in general), the 98-pound weakling of sentences is the one written in passive voice. It’s a wimp, a sentence in which the subject doesn’t want to step up and take responsibility for its action. Consider this sentence:

“The last ice cream sandwich was eaten earlier today.”

Sure, this is an informative sentence if I’m headed toward the freezer (and disappointment) looking for a snack. But it’s passive, an indirect and more wordy way of stating this fact. It also leaves out the subject that did the action: Who ate the last ice cream sandwich? I might want to go tell them to save me one next time, but I can’t do that if the only information I have is this passive-voice sentence. Read more ›

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Posted in Writing Tips

Avoiding the “Teal Deer”: Too Long, Didn’t Read

Too many words...

When you ramble on too long about a topic, sometimes, the reader just won’t keep reading.
Photo by RobertG NL (Flickr)

Ever see someone comment under a post with “TL;DR”? These spammy comments pervade the Internet. The only thing more annoying than seeing a “TL;DR” comment in your feed is to see the ridiculous and out-of-fashion “First!” The comment simply conveys that instead of staying to read your meticulously written and well-thought-out piece, the audience member (usually a Reddit lurker hopped up on Monster energy drinks) thought that your article was too long to read, too verbose, too detailed to spend time actually reading it. Perhaps you’ve been pelted with this odd, rude, and unhelpful phrase. Here’s the thing:

TL;DR has absolutely nothing to do with length. Read more ›

Posted in Writing Tips

7 Mistakes That Most Spell-Checkers Won’t Find

Dictionary

Don’t rely on your spell-checker to catch everything for you: Give your copy a second read!
Photo by Michael Mandiberg (Flickr)

Sometimes, when they’re rushed, writers don’t proofread. In some instances, we simply forget. However, relying exclusively on a word processor’s spell-checker is a dangerous game. Here are seven reasons why proofreading is so important and seven mistakes that spell-checkers usually won’t find:

Misused Words

Is it supposed to be “affect” or “effect”? Should you be using “lead” or “led”? Is the museum “historic” or “historical”? Are you “ensuring” someone’s safety or “insuring” someone’s apartment? It’s important to have a grasp on which words are appropriate. Check out some of Mindy’s blog posts for more articles about misused words.

Common Apostrophe Placement Issues

We all know them, but by not proofreading, they just slip by us sometimes. Here’s a reminder of common issues:

  • Dudes, dude’s, or dudes’The first refers to more than one dude. The second is used to note one dude owning something: It’s the dude’s surfboard. The last refers to more than one dude owning something: The dudes’ surfboards sparkled in the sunlight.
  • It’s, its The rules for “it” can be a bit confusing. “It’s” means “it is”: It’s a nice day. It is a nice day. “Its” refers to the possessive of something: The college has many sports teams. Its basketball team brings in a big crowd. It’s important to use its meaning correctly.
  • There, their, they’re “There” usually refers to a place. “Their” is a possessive for them: Their thing is not our thing. “They’re” refers to the words “they” and “are”: They’re going to go get their monster over there.
  • You’re, your – “Your” is possessive. “You’re” is for “you are”: You’re great at playing your piano, but not my piano.

Most Problems with Grammar

The majority of grammar problems are not picked up by spell-checkers. These could include tense problems, misused punctuation, or misplaced modifiers. If you have a basic or working knowledge of grammar, you’ll know that no computer or software system can really grasp the English language. If a sentence sounds odd, draw out a sentence diagram. Make sure you’re consistent with your tenses and look up any problems you have with punctuation.

Incorrect Client Names or Brand Statements

If you happen to be writing for a client or a brand, it’s imperative that you spell their name and their brand statements correctly. Spell-checkers may even tell you that the name is wrong; however, a client’s needs have to come first. This may seem obvious, but it’s important to copy the spelling of a brand according to its site and requests.

Repeating Sentence Structures

This might not be a mistake. It feels like one, though. You don’t know it’s a problem. Then you read your work. The sentences sound repetitious. There’s no change of flow. Reading is more laborious. Your paragraph needs something else. The problem eludes you. However, there is a simple way to improve your paragraph: Throw in some different sentence structures. Now, doesn’t that feel better?

Incorrect Compound Words

Bed room should be bedroom, note book should be notebook, and counter attack should be counterattack. There are plenty of other examples of commonly misspelled compound words, such as altogether (which has a different meaning than all together), everyday, and awhile. Also, be aware of words that can make up a compound word in certain situations. I need to back up my hard drive because I really need a backup of those files. Also, a somewhat-related issue ties to the use of a hyphen. Hyphens can change the meaning of sentences and are usually used for compound adjectives before a noun. Ask yourself if the compound adjective you’re hyphenating is actually one word. This can create problems if you’re not careful. Is it spell checker, spell-checker, or spellchecker?

Missing Articles and Words

Most spell-checkers won’t find missing articles. There is mistake in this sentence. No, there is a mistake in this sentence. Check for missing instances of “the,” “a,” or “an.” Also check for missing conjunctions like “and,” “but,” “or,” “yet,” or “so.” Did you use an instead of and? This is possibly one of the most difficult aspects of proofreading, as the mind will sometimes automatically insert words that aren’t there. Proofreading backwards can help with this.

For more proofreading fun, check out The The Impotence of Proofreading (please be aware of strong language).

 

Posted in Writing Tips