Owl Editing

Owl Editing

Tips for writers

Posts filed under writing

The Tricky Order of Adjectives

If you’re confused about this, you’re not alone. J. R. R. Tolkien ran into this little-known quirk of English grammar when he first began writing: I first tried to write a story when I was about seven. It was about a dragon. . . . My mother said nothing about the dragon, but pointed out… (read more)

Lots and Lots of Clauses

“The alternative, should you, or any writer of English, choose to employ it (and who is to stop you?) is, by use of subordinate clause upon subordinate clause, which itself may be subordinated to those clauses that have gone before or after, to construct a sentence of such labyrinthine grammatical complexity that, like Theseus before… (read more)

WRITING TIP: Capitalization of Names of Places

Capitalize names of places, such as streets, buildings, parks, mountains, countries, rivers, oceans, and lakes, if the exact name is used. For instance, in the name “the Empire State Building” the E, S, and B are capitalized because they begin the words of the name of the building. Observe that the “the” is not capitalized… (read more)

Effective Writing: Sort Out Your Ideas (3)

Sometimes ideas will sort themselves out logically, or could do so, if we would only let them. The discovery of the burning house in the example given earlier should arrange itself immediately into, At ten o’clock, immediately after Miss Jones had finished her solo, they found the house on fire. Surely the fact that the… (read more)

Effective Writing: Sort Out Your Ideas (2)

Nobody, we might suppose, would write a sentence as bad as, Miss Jones finished her solo at ten o’clock and immediately afterward they found the house on fire. Yet how much better is the following paragraph, written in a style with which most of us are all too familiar? The June meeting of the Groveton… (read more)

Effective Writing: Sort Out Your Ideas (1)

Subordination, the grouping of ideas into principal and subordinate clauses in a sentence, is much like the pictorial artist’s emphasis upon one element in his painting at the expense of all others; or like the photographer’s selective focus, by means of which he keeps a certain part of his picture in focus and deliberately allows… (read more)

Steps to Effective Writing (3)

Step 1. Write in Specifics – part 3 The view from the hill behind our town — is it beautiful? If a writer uses that overworked, vague term, he must at once tell specific things that support his use of the general adjective. A writer must never use a general term unless he follows it… (read more)

Steps to Effective Writing (2)

Step 1. Write in Specifics – part 2 The following selection from Joseph Conrad’s Typhoon is full of sharp, clearly defined terms. After explaining that the ship Nan-shan, on her way to Fu-chau, had two hundred Chinese coolies on board, Conrad goes on with: The foredeck, packed with Chinamen, was full of somber clothing, yellow… (read more)

Reducing bias in writing-4

Write about the people in your study in a way that acknowledges their participation but is also consistent with the traditions of the field in which you are working. Thus, although descriptive terms such as college students, children, or respondents provide precise information about the individuals taking part in a research project, the more general… (read more)

Reducing bias in writing-2

From the APA Publication Manual (6th ed) (2010): Recognize the difference between “case,” which is an occurrence of a disorder or illness, and “patient,” which is a person affected by the disorder or illness and receiving a doctor’s care. “Manic-depressive cases were treated” is problematic; revise to “The patients with bipolar disorders were treated.” (from… (read more)