Quick guide: how to improve the style of your writing
Not long ago, in a previous post I spoke to you about the most typical spelling mistakes I usually see and the doubts that come to my mind from time to time, at the time of writing.
As I anticipated then, today I will touch a series of points that I consider fundamental so that our texts, in addition to being correct (without spelling mistakes), also have a “pleasant to look” structure , a simple and careful style that facilitates their reading and incite us to it.
The importance of the first impression
As in so many other things, here also counts, and much, the first impression…
Personally, if there is something that “damages my eyesight” when I start reading a text, it is to see everything “caked”, that is, with long sentences, with hardly any punctuation marks or spaces between paragraphs.
For my work, I have lay out and corrected many texts; some very well written and structured and others, however, not so much.
And, believe me: the same content can give a completely different impression, depending on the way it is written:
- If it is written with a careful style, separating paragraphs with spaces, using commas, semicolons, visually the reader will find it pleasant and easy to read.
- However, if that same content is written “all followed”, what we will achieve is not to capture the attention of the reader (something, I imagine, is not what you intend) or, at least, if you have decided to start reading, it is very likely that he will abandon it soon, since it may be boring, even if it is not.
Correct use of punctuation
To give a correct structure to a text, we have several tools that facilitate it. Tools that we all know but that the difficult thing, sometimes, know how to use them correctly.
I’ll show you the ones that I consider most important and that are more to use:
- The point «.»
The dot (.) Is, as you know, a punctuation mark that is placed at the end of each sentence.
They can be used in various ways, according to the general sense of the text in which they are placed:
- Point and followed: we use it continuously to separate statements within the same paragraph. (As an example, the one you have placed before the word “Like” in this same paragraph).
- Point and separate: it serves to separate two paragraphs within the same text. Visually makes the reading of the text more pleasant and easier. To be correct, indent should be placed on the first line of the text of the new paragraph.
- End point: is the one that is always placed at the end of the text, as a closing.
- The code «,»
The comma (,) is a punctuation mark used to mark a pause within a sentence. It usually separates the components of an enumeration of words or phrases, except that these words or phrases are preceded by one of the following conjunctions: y, e, o, u, ni.
(Example: “I have to finish this post, moderate the comments and respond to them”).
It can also be used to delimit a clarification, within a text.
- The word and comma «;»
The semicolon (;) is another punctuation mark that is used, fundamentally, to join in a single sentence two sentences that are related.
- The question marks «¿» and «?» And exclamation marks «¡» and «!»
Question marks (?) Are used, as we all know, to denote a question.
And the exclamation marks (!) Serve to indicate an exclamatory sentence (Example: “How I like to read!”), Exhortative (Example: “Come here, please!”) Or imperative (Example: that! “) “Do not do that!”).
In principle, its use is very simple. But there are times when we hesitate about how to use them correctly.
The most frequent doubts are these:
- Is it correct to use a single question mark or punctuation at the end of a sentence? No. The correct thing is to use both, although the use of a single sign at the end is widespread in areas such as WhatsApp, SMS, in other languages, such as English, a single sign is used at the end.
- If I write several questions in a row, how do I do it? There are two ways to do it. One is to write them in a row, without a comma or semicolon, in which case the first letter of each sentence must be capitalized. (Example: “Do you like this post? Do you think it can be useful?”). And the other is separating them as a comma or semicolon; in this case, the first letter of each sentence (except the first), would be in lowercase. (Example: “Do you like this post? Do you think it can be useful?”).
- After an interrogative or exclamatory sentence, do we have to put a point? No. The question marks and exclamation close the sentence. Do not put the point behind them.
- The ellipsis «…»
The ellipses (…) are a single punctuation mark, formed by three points in a row with no space between them.
They have several uses. They are placed at the end of a sentence, usually to leave an action in suspense, to denote doubt, (Example: excursion “They have given rain for tomorrow … I do not know if we can go on an excursion “).
Write in capitals: why not do it
If you stop to think about how we wrote when we were little, you will realize that we made great use of writing in capital letters, when we wanted to highlight something.
Do you want some advice? Do not do it! Writing in capital letters is equivalent to saying things by shouting. And I’m sure that’s not what you want, is it? Therefore, we use other resources that we have already seen to highlight or emphasize ideas, but we do not write texts with capital letters,
If I still have not convinced you, I will give you more reasons to use them more:
- Using only capital letters can imply that you do it because you do not know the correct use of uppercase and lowercase in the words. If so, write everything in capital letters is the safe option, since there is no option to make mistakes.
- Aesthetically, the abusive use of capital letters worsens the visual image of the text. At least, personally I think so. I think it makes the design more aggressive, less warm.
Abbreviations: when and how to use them
A widely used resource when we want to write a lot and quickly, are to use the abbreviations.
We can differentiate two types of abbreviations:
- The so-called “personal” abbreviations, which are those that, in a particular way, we have all “created” at some time. I remember the amount of them that my colleagues and I used, in my university time. Although at the moment the tendency to be a whole class is taking down taking notes, a time ago it was not like that. We left the Faculty with a lot of handwritten folios, after a whole day of classes. The desire to write everything down made us resort to the continuous use of abbreviations, some of them quite obvious, but others not so much (in fact, when exchanging notes with other colleagues we did not always manage to “decipher” any abbreviation in question …).
- The “conventional” abbreviations, that is, those that are “officially recognized” and that we use so many times. Within these, there are some that are of general use (example: “admin” by “Administration”, “etc.” by “etcetera”, …) and others more specific, that are used in certain contexts (for example, the that an author uses in his own book, in these cases, what is usually done is to include, at the beginning or at the end of the book, a kind of annex that collects all the abbreviations used in it).
The abbreviations have to fulfill their function that, as their own name indicates, is: abbreviate. For this reason, they must have at least two letters less than the word they are abbreviating. This is the general rule but, as there are almost always exceptions, do not be surprised if in some cases you see abbreviations that only have one letter less than the word they abbreviate (example: “vid.” For “life”).
It is also important that you know the “abusive use” of abbreviations in a text is not correct. As in everything, we must use common sense, using them in the right context and in a moderate way.
Cyber language or chat language: peculiarities
We all know the language we use in chat rooms (also known as cyber-language), through the computer and other mobile devices with Internet connection.
The communication through SMS, WhatsApp messages, social networks, is mainly characterized by its immediacy; it is about communicating in a fast, agile and fast way, without the handicap of distance or time.
A resource increasingly used to emphasize a message or try to express some feeling in virtual communication is the use of emoticons and even animated GIFs.
And, of course, abbreviations are also widely used in this type of language, some invented by each user and others more common. Sometimes its use is so exaggerated, that the messages end up remembering the old telegrams…
Personally, I am also here to use them sparingly. The danger of its abusive use is that we end up using a written language based mainly on abbreviations, many of them incorrect … so that we end up distorting our language, something that none of us want, right?
How to list items in a text
If it happens to you like me, surely on countless occasions you find yourself making lists, of whatever: pending tasks, products for purchase, ingredients of a recipe.
Each item listed can be preceded by a number, circle, hyphen, letter…
And I’m sure that more than once you’ve asked yourself how to list all those elements correctly: do you put a point at the end of each element? A comma? Semicolon?
The answer is: it depends on the elements that we are listing. These cases can occur:
- Lists of complete sentences
When we make a list of a series of statements (for example, of the tasks that we have to do in the afternoon), the correct thing is to close each statement with a period.
(Example: “This afternoon I have to do:
- Pick up children at school.
- Make the purchase in the supermarket.
- Pick up the dry cleaning pants “).
- Lists of elements
However, when the list we are making is, for example, the ingredients of a sponge cake, each of the elements is closed with a comma or with a semicolon, except the last one, which obviously closes with a period. The elements can be written with lowercase.
(Example: “I’m going to make an apple cake.” I’ll need these ingredients:
- 3 eggs,
- 180 gr. of butter,
- 1 natural yogurt,
- 2 apples,
- 180 gr. Of flour,
- 200 gr. of sugar,
- 1 envelope of yeast ” ).
- Lists of very brief elements (words)
In the case that we are doing a simple enumeration of words, it is not necessary to put any punctuation mark at the end of each one. Simply, we cannot put anything.