Grammar Help: Active and Passive Voice

What does it mean to be active? Often, when people think of “active,” they imagine themselves doing some sort of physical activity, like exercise. Perhaps you think of someone dancing, running, or even doing chores around the house. In writing, an active voice has a similar meaning as well. A sentence that uses active voice is one where the subject is the one performing the action, or the verb. In contrast, passive voice works the opposite way, with the subject being acted on by the verb. To write effectively, you should avoid passive voice because it takes away from your overall clarity of ideas. Instead, use active voice to ensure that your ideas are written in the most concise way.

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Hyperbole: Exaggeration At Its Best

You must’ve used hyperbole a million times in your life. Your mom asked you 1,000 times not to leave your shoes out. Maybe your teacher even gave you a mountain of homework to finish tonight. Notice the pattern here? Everything is so exaggerated. That’s what hyperbole is! Hyperbole is a type of figurative language in which the writer exaggerates in order to emphasize an idea or create humor. Continue reading “Hyperbole: Exaggeration At Its Best”

Parallel Structure: Organizing Sentences and Essays

Good writing is clear. It’s focused, it offers insight into a meaningful topic, and it has strong organization. But, how do you organize an essay? One of the most effective tools you can use to ensure organization is to use parallel structure. This isn’t just one single tool, though. We can apply to a wide variety of writing situations, from single sentences to entire essays.

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Personification: Bringing a Human Spark to Your Writing

As a student, you’ll come across many fresh writing tools that can help your writing have a more natural feel. Some of these, you may already use without knowing what they are. For example, hyperbole is a method of expressing a fact or idea in an inflated way. We use hyperbole when we say things like “I’ve been walking all day,” when really, you only walked for about forty-five minutes.

Personification is also a writing tool, one that many authors use to share a more vivid image or emotion with their audience. Personification can also give your writing a little more pizzazz than it would with plain, gray descriptions.

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State of Being Verbs: To be Used or to be Avoided?

You might be asking yourself what “to be” verbs really are. There is a simple explanation. It is a group of verbs that are commonly used in all kinds of writing. You may have been using them without knowing it. You may be reading them right now as you are wondering why this paragraph seems so choppy.

We’re talking state of being (is, am, are, was, were, be, being, been). That’s what we call those “to be” verbs.

Overusing state of being verbs can give your writing some stubborn setbacks, like false impressions, vague generalizations, and confusing subjects. Here’s how to spot them, find the right substitution, and write with more illustration.

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Transitional Phrases: Helping Your Reader “Get There”

Readers are creatures of habit. As an author, you’ll form your own voice and technique—your habits—and your reader will learn to pick up on these. But, if you get into the practice of choppy writing, your audience will also notice that pattern and may lose interest before you can communicate anything important. That’s why it’s important to have a few tools in your back pocket, like transitional phrases. These phrases can help you move smoothly from one topic to another and keep an unfocused reader interested and engaged.

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Sensory Details: Letting the Reader Experience Your World

Have you ever been listening to the radio when a song came on that pulled you back to a particular moment of your life? Suddenly, you remember every detail of that time, memories flooding back, simply because you heard something you experienced during an important event. Listening to the radio, your brain made connections to a memory without conscious effort on your part.

You felt, simply from hearing.

You can do the same thing in your writing.  You can make someone feel simply from the details that you choose.  In fact, this is of the utmost importance, particularly in narrative writing. Leaving out sensory details can be like watching a movie and suddenly becoming very aware that there is no background noise in a scene—but there should be! We are a sensory species and crave that connection in all of our experiences; reading is no exception.

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Tone vs. Mood

Being a conscientious reader can make you a better writer. When you think about what you’re reading as you read, you absorb so much more information than when you just skim through. Your brain has a chance to turn things over and really consider what it’s storing, and you’ll begin to make stronger and more creative choices in your own writing.

As a thinking audience, you should always evaluate two elements of literature: tone and mood.

These elements help you understand the goal of the author and your reaction as the reader. You can tell the two apart by remembering this: tone is something you hear; mood is something you feel. Continue reading “Tone vs. Mood”

Dialogue: Tips for Creating Realistic and Engaging Conversations

Dialogue preparation

Achieving realistic dialogue in fictional and narrative writing can be a bit of a challenge. Great dialogue provides your writing with essential qualities, like plot progression and suspense, developing a character by designating voice, or setting the emotion of a chapter. Getting that intensity can be as simple as asking yourself a few questions:

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What is a Coach Conference?

One of the most integral steps of our writing process is the coach conference. With every essay, students complete at least one coach conference, and the feedback they get is invaluable. But, what exactly goes into this conference? What kind of information do students get? How does each conference help students improve? Here is a close look at what the process is all about.

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