One Weird Trick for Better Writing

A trebuchet before a castle. Illustration of the weird trick for better writing

Okay, I promise it’s not that weird; it’s just fun to appropriate click-bait headlines. And I won’t make you sit through a 25-minute video or scroll through pages of text before I share this trick with you.

As I’ve noted before, writing is easy, but good writing is hard. However, there are a few simple things that you can do to improve your writing, including many of the tips that are on this blog.

One of my favorite tips is something simple but really effective at making your writing clearer and easier to follow. Let’s see if you can figure out what this trick is by seeing it in action.

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Three Common Mistakes Aspiring Writers Make

crop woman using laptop on sofa at home

Writing is easy; good writing is hard. Good writing requires more than a command of grammar, punctuation, and vocabulary, and good writers need to avoid some very common mistakes.

woman in white long sleeved shirt holding a pen writing on a paper - illustration for common mistakes aspiring writers make
Photo by on

We’re going to look at three mistakes in particular. These mistakes are not over misuse of the serial comma or dangling participles or anything like that. Instead, these mistakes concern the style of writing and the way that style can affect the overall quality of the written text.

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Don’t Dangle that Participle

figure of woman labeled "participle" dangling from a cliff

Unlike many of the so-called “grammar rules” that are really style rules, the rule against dangling participles is a good one.

A Dangling What, Now?

A participle is a verbal adjective that comes in two main varieties: the present participle, usually formed with -ing, and the past participle, usually formed with -ed. These verbal adjectives generally function the way other adjectives do:

  • The flowing water pours out of the fountain.
  • The disrespected attorney lost his practice.

In addition, participles can head a phrase that modifies a noun in a sentence:

  • I saw the dog running down the street.
  • She hit the car parked in the driveway.
  • Sitting in the park, I awaited my true love.
  • Beaten back by the revolutionaries, the army fled the field.
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