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Free Writing Style Resources

Writing style is an umbrella term that includes writing rules and conventions, the voice or personality of the writer, how the writer interacts with his or her audience, what the author says, his or her purpose for writing, and how the author says what is said (including form, word choice, grammar, and sentence structure). Writing style also includes the personal agenda and collective experience of the writer. Writing style is all about the writer and his or her choices.

English-language arts teachers tend to argue about whether writing style is caught or taught. In my mind it’s both. Exposure to and recognition of unique writing styles through wide reading of a variety of prose and poetry provides a context for developing writers to experiment with their own voices. Teaching accepted writing rules, practicing sentence combining, requiring different grammatical sentence structures, etc. all impact what and how students write.

Following are articles, free resources, and teaching tips regarding how to teach essay strategies from the Pennington Publishing Blog. Bookmark and visit us often. Oh, and don’t forget to copy down the 10% discount code found only on this blog to purchase the quality curricula and resources offered by Pennington Publishing.

Writing Style

How to Improve Writing Style

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Writing style is personal, but also follows a traditional, widely agreed-to form. Indeed, good writing style does have objective rules to follow. Here are the key rules of writing style, written with tongue-firmly-planted-in-cheek examples. This article lists 24 writing style rules in a truly memorable way.

How to Improve Writing Unity

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Writing unity refers to how well sentences and paragraphs stay focused on the topic sentences and thesis statement. From the reader’s point of view, writing unity means that there are no irrelevant (off the point) details and that the tone of the writing remains consistent. This article gives good and bad examples of writing unity and provides strategies to improve your writing.

How to Improve Writing Parallelism

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Writing parallelism refers to the repeated pattern of words and grammatical structures. Parallel structures assist the comprehension of the reader and provide a memorable rhythm to the writing. Improve your writing style and readability by incorporating parallelism in your writing.

How to Improve Your Writing Style with Grammatical Sentence Openers

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To improve writing style and increase readability, learn how to vary sentence structures. Starting sentences with different grammatical sentence openers is the easiest way to add sentence variety. This article lists, explains, and provides clear examples for grammatical sentence openers.

Using Music to Develop Authentic Voice

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Music creates the passion, commitment, and authentic voice that we want to see in our students’ writing. Connecting to student experience with their own music can transform the way they write essays, reports, narratives, poetry, and letters.

How to Develop Voice in Student Writing

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For students to develop voice, they need to practice voice in specific teacher-directed writing assignments. Here are 13 teaching tips to help students find their own voices.

Teaching Essay Style: 15 Tricks of the Trade

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“Never start a sentence with But.” Countless middle school and high school English-language arts teachers cringe when their students faithfully repeat this elementary school dictum. “Never use I in your five-paragraph essay.” Now university professors similarly cringe and shake their heads at the straight-jacketed rules placed upon their students. However, maybe there is a method to our madness. Perhaps these writing absolutes serve a useful purpose for developing writers. Perhaps the little white lies that we teach our students are actually our tricks of the trade.

How to Teach Rhetorical Stance

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Students need to practice the elements of rhetorical stance to improve their writing. This article provides clear definitions and a great sample lesson with useful links to learn how to teach voice, audience, purpose, and form to your students.

Ten Tips to Improving Writing Coherency

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Writing coherency refers to how well sentences and paragraphs are organized into an understandable whole. Good writing coherency is reader-centered. From the reader’s point of view, the train of thought must be connected, easy to follow, and make sense.

How to Eliminate “To-Be” Verbs in Writing

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Every English teacher has a sure-fire revision tip that makes developing writers dig down deep and revise initial drafts. One of my favorites involves eliminating the “to-be-verbs”: is, am, are, was, were, be, being, and been. Learn the four strategies to revise these “writing crutches.”

How to Teach Helping Verbs

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English teachers learn early in their careers that strong nouns and “show-me” verbs are the keys to good writing. Of these two keys, verbs give developing writers the most “bang for their buck” in terms of writing revision. As a plus, revising weak and imprecise verbs, such as helping verbs (also known as auxiliary verbs), with active “show-me verbs” is quite teachable and less vocabulary-dependent than working with nouns. Learn when to use and when not to use helping verbs and how to eliminate them to improve writing.

The Seven Essay Writing Rules

http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/writing/the-seven-essay-writing-rules/

Essays have certain traditional rules that help maintain a fair and balanced writing style. This article details the seven key essay writing rules with clear examples.

More Articles, Free Resources, and Teaching Tips from the Pennington Publishing Blog

  • English-language Arts Standards
  • English-language Arts Instruction
  • Essay Strategies
  • The Writing Process/Writers Workshop
  • Writing Style
  • Grammar and Mechanics
  • Spelling
  • Vocabulary
  • Structural Analysis/Syllabication/Oral Language
  • Teaching Reading in the ELA Classroom
  • ELA/Reading Assessments
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  • Differentiated Instruction (RtI)
  • Critical Thinking
  • Study Skills
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  • Educational Issues and Teaching Trends
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  • ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

    Teaching Essay Strategies is the comprehensive writing curriculum, designed to teach your students how to write coherent multi-paragraph essays. Students progress at their own pace through 42 sequential essay strategy worksheets and  skill lessons (including writing style, parallelism, coherency, unity, and writing evidence) to compose 8 complete essays in the different essay genres. Also get 64 sentence revision (sentence combining and grammatical sentence patterns) and 64 rhetorical stance “opener” lessons, 8 on-demand writing fluencies, remedial writing worksheets, writing posters, holistic and analytical rubrics, graphic organizers, and editing resources. No other writing program matches the comprehensive resources of this curriculum. Truly individualize  instruction with the resources found in this large three-ring binder. 359 pages

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    Ten Tips to Improving Writing Coherency

    Ten Tips to Improving Writing Coherency

    Writing coherency refers to how well sentences and paragraphs are organized into an understandable whole. Good writing coherency is reader-centered. From the reader’s point of view, the train of thought must be connected, easy to follow, and make sense. Incoherent writing is inconsiderate to the reader. If the writing lacks coherency, the reader’s comprehension and enjoyment of that writing will decrease. A reader may have to re-read, be forced to use too many context clues to understand what is being said, or make an undue amount of inferences.

    To improve coherency, writers need to ensure that their writing has these characteristics:

    1. Predictable Paragraph Organization- To maintain optimal coherency, organize paragraphs in the way that readers are accustomed. For example, unless there is a compelling reason to do otherwise, place the topic sentence in the first position of the paragraph. The topic sentence appears in the first position of the paragraph 80% of the time in expository writing. Because of this high percentage, readers expect the main idea of the paragraph to be in this position. Similarly, the thesis statement appears 50% of the time as the last sentence in an essay introduction, so follow this practice as well.

    Additionally, the Ancient Greeks developed the rhetorical rules for our writing, and these rules dictate that the most important idea in any communication needs to be stated first. Organize paragraphs with customary and traditional structures to be considerate to your reader.

    2. Comprehensible Sentence Structure- Again, toe the line with those Ancient Greeks. English follows suit by placing the most important words at the beginning of the sentence. In the sentence: “You need to mail that letter today,” the emphasis is on the action. In the sentence: “Today, you need to mail that letter,” the emphasis is on the time. English grammar is very flexible in its forms and so can emphasize words with many different grammatical constructions. See How to Improve Sentence Variety with Grammatical Sentence Openers for examples.

    Vary the length of sentences. Charles Dickens can be difficult to read because of his notoriously long-winded sentences. A good rule of thumb is to never place two long sentences next to each other. Of course, short staccato sentences can get irritating, as well. Strive for balance in sentence length to increase reader understanding and concentration.

    3. Repetition- Repeat key words, phrases, or clauses to build coherency. Martin Luther King, Jr. used the “I have a dream” clause nine different times in his short speech. Also, write with parallel grammatical structures such as in Abraham Lincoln’s “conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.” Notice the repeated “_ed” past participles, each followed by prepositional phrases.

    4. Effective Sentence Transitions- Use, but don’t over use, transition words and phrases at the beginnings of sentences to connect to previous thoughts. Remember that most transitions at the beginning of sentences are followed by a comma, except in  short sentences. A helpful list follows.

    What You Need to Signal                 Transitions

    definition

    • refers to, in other words, consists of, is equal to, means

    example

    • for example, for instance, such as, is like, including, to illustrate

    addition

    • also, another, in addition, furthermore, moreover

    sequence

    • first, second, later, next, before, for one, for another, previously, then, finally, following, since, now

    analysis

    • consider, this means, examine, look at

    comparison

    • similarly, in the same way, just like, likewise, in comparison

    contrast

    • in contrast, on the other hand, however, whereas, but, yet, nevertheless, instead, as opposed to, otherwise, on the contrary, regardless

    cause-effect

    • because, for, therefore, hence, as a result, consequently, due to, thus, so, this led to

    conclusion

    • in conclusion, to conclude, as one can see, as a result, in summary, for these reasons

    5. Clear Pronouns- A pronoun takes the place of a proper (named) or common (unnamed) noun. Using clear pronoun references will improve reader understanding of your writing. Always place pronoun references close to the nouns which they represent. If in doubt, simply repeat the noun. For example, in the sentence: “The dog traveled over the hill, chased a bunny, drank from a stream, terrorized a stray cat, and than it returned home,” the it pronoun does not clearly describe the antecedent dog. The sentence would be more coherent as “The dog enjoyed many adventures before it returned home: traveling over a hill, chasing a bunny, drinking from a stream, and terrorizing a cat.”

    6. Clear Modifiers- A modifier is a word, phrase, or clause that acts as an adjective or adverb to define or limit the meaning of another word or phrase. For example, in the sentence: “Thrown in the air, the dog fetched the Frisbee®,” the phrase “Thrown in the air” is a classic dangling modifier. The reader may be confused into thinking that the dog, not the disc, was the one thrown into the air. To prevent dangling modifiers, always place modifiers close to the nouns or verbs that they intend to modify. The above sentence would better be written as “Thrown in the air, the Frisbee® was fetched by the dog” (albeit in passive voice).

    7. Precise Word Choice- Use specific, rather than vague, meaningless words. For example, instead of “Many things caused the recession,” replace with “Decreasing consumer confidence and high gas prices caused the recession.” Use words that fit your audience. Avoid technical or academic language when simple words will suffice, unless your readers are well-acquainted with the terminology. Be courteous to your reader and define unfamiliar words to improve coherence.

    8. Appropriate Conjunctions- The common coordinating conjunctions: for, and, nor, but, or, yet, and so (F.A.N.B.O.Y.S.) each have precise meanings and need to be used correctly to maintain coherency. For example, the sentence: “He needed money for paying expenses,” does not correctly use the conjunction for. The sentence suggests that money is the medium of exchange for paying expenses, rather than a necessary prerequisite for paying expenses. Using the conjunction so would create better sentence coherency as in “He needed money so he could pay expenses.”

    9. Limited Passive Voice- In passive voice, the subject receives the action with the use of a passive verb. A passive verb combines a “to-be” verb with a past participle (_d, _ed, or _en ending). For example, is practiced, was doubted, had been eaten. Instead, use the active voice in which the subject does the action. For example, “John ran to the post office.” Passive voice can be used intentionally to emphasize objectivity, such as in “It has been shown in educational research that more women than men….” Otherwise, avoid the passive voice.

    10. Brevity- Using concise language builds reader understanding. Readers lose focus, if the writing is verbose. Rather than “It would certainly be very nice if you would please consider it in your heart to take out the trash,” replace with the simple and to the point “Please take out the trash.”

    Following are examples of an incoherent paragraph and a coherent revision of that same paragraph. Try revising the incoherent model, using the Ten Tips to Improve Writing Coherency before looking at the revision to see if you can apply these tips.

    Incoherent Writing Model

    Snow creates problems. Streets need shoveling. Snowplows cannot always access streets. Driveways are hard to clear. Many communities leave the expense of clearing snow up to the homeowner. Building up dangerously high on a roof, it can break roof framing. Snow may seem harmless. It can damage houses. Snow is always potentially hazardous. It can endanger people.

    Coherent Revision

    Snow creates two problems for homeowners. First, it requires shoveling to keep driveways and streets clear, but snowplows cannot always access them. Furthermore, many communities leave the expense of clearing snow up to the homeowner; thus some homeowners cannot afford the expense of hiring a snowplow. Second, snow may seem harmless, yet it is not. Snow can build up dangerously high on a roof and break roof framing. Always potentially hazardous, snow can damage houses and endanger those who live in them.

    If you find these tips helpful, check out Mark Pennington’s comprehensive grammar curriculum: Teaching Grammar and Mechanics. This curriculum provides whole-class diagnostic grammar and mechanics assessments with 72 targeted worksheets to differentiate instruction and a full year of 15-minute sentence lifting lessons with standards-based mechanics, spelling, and grammar skills. Teachers who are grammatically-challenged will appreciate this user-friendly book and the easy, no-prep design.

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    How to Improve Writing Style

    It’s true that writing style is very personal and varies from author to author. After all, who wants to read everything in the style of, say, Hemingway? However, writing style is not just subjective. Indeed, good writing style does have objective rules to follow. Here are the key rules of writing style, written with tongue-firmly-planted-in-cheek examples. Explaining the humor will help your students understand the writing style concept and/or rule.

    1. Avoid intentional fragments. Right?

    2. Avoid formulaic phrases in this present day and age.

    3. I have shown that you should delete references to your own writing.

    4. Be sort of, kind of specific.

    5. Don’t define terms (where a specialized word is used) using “reason is,” “because,” “where,” or “when” because this writing style is boring.

    6. Avoid using very interesting, super nice words that contribute little to a sentence.

    7. Prepositions are not good to end sentences with.

    8. It is a mistake to ever split an infinitive.

    9. But do not start a sentence with a coordinating conjunction.

    10. Avoid using clichés like a bad hair day.

    11. Always, avoid attention-getting alliteration.

    12. Parenthetical remarks should (most always) be avoided.

    13. Also, never, never repeat words or phrases very, very much, too.

    14. Use words only as they are defined, no matter how awesome they are.

    15. Even if a metaphor hits the spot, it can be over-played.

    16. Resist exaggeration; it only works once in a million years.

    17. Writers should always avoid generalizations.

    18. Avoid using big words when more utilitarian words will suffice.

    19. What use are rhetorical questions?

    20. The passive voice is a form to be avoided, if it can be at all helped.

    21. Never write no double negatives.

    22. There are good reasons to avoid starting every sentence with There.

    23. Always, absolutely avoid overstating ideas.

    24. Keep pronoun references close to subjects in long sentences to make them clear.

    Find 42 sequenced writing strategy worksheets and quickly move students from simple three-word paragraphs to complex multi-paragraph essays. With 64 sentence revision lessons, additional remedial worksheets, writing fluency and skill lessons, posters, and editing resources, the teacher can differentiate instruction with no additional prep with Teaching Essay Strategies.

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