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Grammar

Auntie Barbara's Writing Guide


(Take another sip of your tea or whiskey or whatever, you poor dear. It'll help you get through it!)

. Write only in complete sentences.

. Make sure that there is a verb.

. Keep your sentences short, if you can.

. Avoid ending a sentence with a preposition (to, for, with).

Not "They were the audience he wrote it for."But "They were the audience for whom he wrote it."

(Yes, we all do that in speech, and in informal writing. But be aware of what it is so that you can avoid it in more formal writing.)

. Keep infinitives intact.

(Some literary figures are claiming that this is no longer necessary, but there are still many of us around who cringe when we encounter a split infinitive.)Ok, so what is an "infinitive"? An infinitive is simply the most basic form of any verb."To run," "to love" (rather than "runs," "ran," "running," etc.)The infinitive of any verb is simply how you say the verb when you're talking about that activity."I like to run." "I love to love you."

In other languages, these verbs are often expressed in a single word:E.g. Spanish: "comer" = "to eat." (as in "I want to eat.")E.g. Latin: "amare" = "to love." (As in "You are easy to love.")

Since infinitives are expressed as single words in many other languages,it's easiest for people for whom English is a second or third language if we keep our English infinitives intact.E.g.: "I want to eat quickly so that we can make the film." Not "I want to quickly eat."

( Avoid the dreadful old "to better serve you" that surprisingly many people mistake for good English, and avoid Star Trek's "to boldly go.")

. Keep number consistent. (I promised we'd get back to this!)

Sickieface.gifNOT "When somebody takes a job, they are agreeing to the terms of the implicit contract"unless this person taking the job suffers from Multiple Personality Disorder.

Either use a plural and stick to the plural:"When people take jobs, they are agreeing to the terms of the contract."

Or use a singular and stick to the singular:"When somebody takes a job, he or she is agreeing to the terms of the contract.""When someone takes a job, she is agreeing to the terms of the contract.""When someone takes a job, he is agreeing to the terms of the contract" or"When one takes a job, one is agreeing to the terms of the contract."

. In a paper, show how the content fits together!

If you are, for example, writing a paper about one of Plato's arguments for the immortality of the soul, show how each claim is related to the others.

Always avoid the old "He then goes on to say." Ouch!!!

Instead, make it clear whether, for example, one point follows from an earlier point or points (and if so, how)

(E.g.: "First point . . . Therefore, second point . . ." )

(E.g.: "First point . . . Because of this, we can also claim second point . . ." )

(E.g.: "First point . . . It follows from this, since . . . that second point . . ." )

(E.g.: "Now, if that first point is true (we'll determine whether it is or not later on), then this second point must be true also, because . . .")

Or whether one point is just being added to another earlier one(s), as a sort of list:

(E.g.: "First point . . . Now, here is a second case also supporting Plato's claim: second point . . .")

Or whether one point is being presented as an alternative, or a competing hypothesis, etc., to an earlier one or earlier ones:

(E.g.: "So either first point . . . or else second point . . . , one or the other must be true.")

There. That wasn't terrifying at all.

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