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Don't be dramatic When possible, use plainest words possible. For example, too often we use "exclaim", "declare" or "chime" when plain ole "said" would do. Said's a great word; it doesn't draw attention to itself. Readers skip over it and concentrate instead on what's being said. Other examples:
* meander/shuffle/saunter = walk * odorous/malodorous/redolent = smelly * mawkish/maudlin/bathetic = sentimental
BTW-Sometimes people don't just walk; they really do meander, shuffle and saunter. Allow them their style, but keep your words in check.
Mix it up Good writing has flow. One sentence rolls into other, creating an ebb and flow of words. Stop flow and you get writing like this:
* I love chocolate. Chocolate is tasty. Chocolate cookies are my favorite. I like chocolate ice cream, too. I like chocolate milk.
Chocolate cookies, ice cream, milk-I love anything chocolate.
Don't worry about punctuation and grammar Big deal if you don't know difference between who and whom, or when (or when not) to use a colon. Most of us don't, which is why books on punctuation and grammar abound. Use them as you need them.
Hot tip: Find three books written in a style even you understand. When you get stuck, say, on split infinitives, glance through all three for guidance. You'll find that three angles are better than one and almost always provide guidance you need.
BTW-According to one of my grammar books, split infinitives are acceptable when writing informally. My other two books say no, no, no. Here, I defer to minority.
Beth Mende Conny is the founder and president of WriteDirections.com. She has published more than four dozen books and collections, and helps individuals and businesses bring their projects to publication. She can be contacted at Beth@WriteDirections.com.