Monday, June 18, 2007

More Food for Thought and Free Learning

I wandered across a fun site today called The 11 Rules of Writing. While I can’t say that they are the only 11 rules, they are definitely excellent rules of thumb.

Number 11, “Omit extra words,” is one that writers struggle with constantly. It goes along with my recent post about keeping it short. I tend to pack as much into each sentence as possible and then create dependent clauses hanging from completely independent (and often parenthetical) thoughts. Knocking out all of the decoration keeps the focus on your point. Flowery phrases are a joy to create but, unless you're looking to be the next James Joyce, they are a waste of space on your page and a waste of your readers' time. Keep them for brain warm-ups like writing exercises. That way you can get them out of your system without inflicting them on innocent passersby.

Back to the subject: Rule number 6 is my food for thought today – using a colon versus a comma for dialogue in a sentence. I hadn’t thought of doing it that way, but it makes a lot of sense after reading the examples. All of the pages about the rules are quick reads, like grammar flash cards. There is also a list of other writing resources including Strunk’s ubiquitous Elements of Style.

Unfortunately, I can’t link to specific pages in the 11 Rules site because they are all in a frame with the same web address. You’ll have to poke around for yourself. There’s even a discussion forum for questions, although it looks pretty quiet.

I followed the lovely breadcrumb trail from there to the ESL handouts at the Purdue Online Writing Lab. There is an amazing array of topics there, all of which can be useful to writers. The handouts are accompanied by exercises and quizzes, too. These help to carve those crazy rules into your resistant brain.

I’m so glad to have discovered that many ESL sites are devoted to the oddities of English grammar that trouble nearly everyone attempting to compose in this complicated language. I'm getting an excellent review, as well.