Tag Archives: copy

Creating Style Guides for Professional Documents


You have a document, and it has special formatting. Perhaps it has heading styles, block quotes, references, and the like. Maybe you need to use APA style or MLA style. Perhaps your document has special chapter titles. Keeping track of these styles—and using them consistently—can be a chore. 

What Is a Style? 

As discussed here, a style is basically the format for a particular type of text. A style sheet will help you keep track of the various text formats in your document, whether it’s a business letter, a technical manual, a dissertation, or a novel. 

The style for a particular type of text can have many attributes. Common attributes include font size and face, text color, indentation, paragraph spacing (space or blank lines before and after the paragraph), line spacing, paragraph spacing, justification (right, left, center, block), capitalization style, and text styling (bold, italics, underlined, superscript, etc.). 

With so many attributes to remember, you may have difficulty applying them consistently. I see this often. A client will have a subheading in bold text, another one in italics, and even a third in bold and underlined. Some paragraphs will have a 0.5-inch first line indent with left justification, and others will have no indent with block justification.  Continue reading

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Ending Paragraphs at the Right Place


Hmmm. Is that the right paragraph length?

Although paragraph structure challenges writers, it is essential not only to help organize the content logically but also to keep the reader interested to the end of the document. On the other hand, if paragraphs are not structured well, the reader will have difficulty understanding the ideas being presented and will be unlikely to respond as you wish.

You need to know when to break the paragraph. Two of the most common problems I encounter when editing academic papers are paragraphs that are incomplete and paragraphs that are too expansive. While editing a graduate student’s paper recently, I came across a paragraph that was nearly 1.5 pages long. That, alone, is not a problem. A paragraph can be quite long, or quite short, and still accomplish its purpose—but only if it follows two essential principles.

1. A paragraph discusses one, and only one, idea.
2. A paragraph provides a transition to the next idea. Continue reading

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Rhetorically Speaking


Day 9: Use the rhetorical action as the main verb.

A sentence may have several verbs. However, the verb in the “verb’s place” following the subject is generally the main verb upon which the rest of the sentence hangs. Consider this sentence:

“Julie thinks Tom is silly.”

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Hyphens and Compound Adjectives


"Old, oak tree" OR "Old oak tree"?

Take a noun, any noun, and stick two adjectives in front of it. Do you need to connect them with a hyphen? Or can you simply leave them alone?  

The answer is “depends.” More accurately, it depends on what they’re doing to the noun, and what they’re doing to each other.   Continue reading

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10 Words to Avoid When Writing


Writing is a combination of art and craft. The art comes from lots of reading, talking, thinking, dreaming, and writing. The craft is primarily technique. Some techniques are complex, but a few are very simple and will instantly strengthen your writing. In many cases, however, strengthening writing simply means avoiding those things that weaken it.

We have identified 10 words that nearly always weaken writing. In no particular order, they are as follows.

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There Can Be Only One


Chocolate is my most favorite ice cream flavor. Pistachio is my least favorite flavor. Most of the best ice cream is made with chocolate, and most of the worst ice cream is made with candied fruit. All in all, most of the best flavors have some type of chocolate. 

Although it’s true that chocolate is the best of all ice cream flavors, the statements above are wrong. They have logic problems with the use of superlative terms. A superlative term is a word that indicates the penultimate level of some characteristic. That’s a fancy way of saying “the most.” Continue reading

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Commas for Lunch


Learn to use commas correctly, leading to professional and clear writing. “Commas for Lunch,” a live, 1-hour online course by David Bowman, chief editor of Precise Edit.

Topics include the 6 major uses of commas and the 3 most common places where people use commas when they shouldn’t. Participants’ questions will also be discussed and answered.

Date: February 4, 2011
Time: 11:00 a.m. EST
18 seat maximum
Free

The course PDF is $0.99 (not required to participate).
Click here to register, or visit PreciseEdit.com for more information.

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