Those who read our writing often make subconscious judgments about us based upon the prose we create. When writers take the time to develop a creative and coherent writing style, they are in essence buying themselves entry into higher socioeconomic strata. Unfortunately, writers who possess stylistic and grammatical shortcomings subtly tell the world that they lack education and sophistication.
Now, we could debate whether or not writing is a true measure of character or intellectual ability (I would argue that it does not), but the fact remains that a person's position in the social hierarchy can be reinforced by the presence or absence of writing skills.
With this short lecture out of the way, let us continue with tips to improve your writing.
1. Use the relative pronoun "that" to describe inanimate objects and "who" to describe people. A few examples could better illustrate this rule than a refresher on grammar:
The car that was parked on the street was vandalized.2. Affect versus effect. This is a common error made by even seasoned writers, and the quick rule for sorting out these homonyms is that "affect" is usually a verb, while "effect" is usually a noun:
The teenager who was arrested by police for vandalism posted bail.
When you affect something, you have an effect upon it.However, there are a few exceptions. "Affect" can be used as a noun (provided, of course, that you put the accent on the first syllable):
Bluto's fake Parisian accent was an affect that did not suit the burly sailor."Effect" can occasionaly be used as a verb, again by placing the accent on the first syllable:
The voters were able to effect a change in government.3. Avoid useless adverbs. The adverbs "hopefully" and "basically" should be thrown into your grammar fire pit and ignited. After this incendiary act, take stock of your use of such overused adverbs as actually, frankly, very, regretfully, strictly, and thankfully, the removal of which often causes a sentence to improve.
4. Beware of the dreaded misplaced or dangling modifiers. A dangling modifier happens when a writer loses track of the connection between a phrase and what it is supposed to be describing. Here are some examples to show dangling modifiers in action:
After being thrown in the air, the dog caught the rawhide bone.In the first sentence, it sounds as if the dog was being thrown in the air, and in the second sentence readers might assume that the home purchaser was a disheveled sot who just happened to have the ready cash to buy a home.
Being in a rundown state, I was able to purchase the house at a low price.