9 guidelines for today’s writer

Follow these timeless tips on verb selection, hyphenation, capitalization, formatting and other elements of composing content.

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Adhering to the following guidance about usage, syntax, punctuation, style and form will perceptibly improve the quality of your writing.

1. Use vivid verbs. Monitor your writing for excessive use of forms of “to be”—is, be, and their variants—and other helping verbs such as has, as well as other weak verbs like do and go, and replace with active verbs. Also, avoid baseline action words when possible. For example, people don’t just walk: They lumber, march or stroll. Don’t strive to eliminate every instance, but do minimize vague verbs.

2. Reword or delete clichés. Think outside the box. There is no one-size-fits-all approach. All ______ are not created equal. Lame.

3. Avoid scare quotes. Generally, use “scare quotes” only to signal that the writer is calling out the quoted content as being dubious or ironic, not to introduce an unfamiliar term. Do not use single quotation marks for this purpose.

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