Writing tip: Doing dashes right

One of the dead giveaways of a non-professional book is misusing the poor hyphen instead of a dash.

Let’s clear something up right away: a hyphen is not the same thing as a short dash, which is distinct from a long dash. They are three different punctuation marks, each with their own uses and rules. They are not interchangeable.

What they’re for

For example, a hyphen can combine two words into one, as in “long-term effects” or “father-in-law.” A hyphen helps avoid confusion in phrases like “high-school students,” which can be very different from “high school students.”

Hyphens also join numbers when they’re written out, such as “forty-two.”

Finally, hyphens indicate that a word is broken at the end of a line of text, when a word is too long to fit on a single line of text. Remember that you break the word between two syllables, with a few exceptions like “ther-apist.”

Dashes: the short and the long

There are two types of dashes. The short dash, also known as the “en dash” is twice as long as a hyphen. It’s also called the en dash because it’s the same width as a letter N. It’s used to indicate a range, most often in numbers, such as “pages 25–35.” It can also be used to indicate a range in space, like “a Toronto–Montreal flight.” However, most style guides recommend that use more for tables and illustrations, but in body text, to write “Toronto to Montreal.”

En dashes can also join words that already have hyphens (which is relatively rare), as in “private-sector–public-sector cooperation,” or when joining two things where one is two separate words, such as “pre–Second World War era.”

The long dash is also called the em dash because it’s the same width as a capital letter M, itself usually the widest letter in the alphabet. An em is twice as wide as an en.

The em-dash is used to link phrases and sentences, or to indicate an abrupt change in thought or logic. Here’s an example from my upcoming new book, Wildfire:

She had seen a question in her green eyes—was she really going to apply for a job in a restaurant?

It can take the place of parentheses or a colon, as in these examples from Wikipedia:

The food—which was delicious—reminded me of home.

Three alkali metals are the usual substituents—sodium, potassium, and lithium.

How to do it

Part of the problem with en and em dashes is that they don’t appear on the standard typewriter keyboard. Those of us who learned to type on typewriters—back in the day—learned to use multiple hyphens when we wanted a long dash. There was simply no other way to do it.

That limitation has survived, even though with our word processors, there’s no reason for it. Seriously, there are keys on the main part of my computer keyboard I almost never use, while getting the dash which I use frequently requires pressing three keys at once. Why a pipe symbol? Why curly brackets?

The way to geta an en dash in Microsoft Word on a Windows computer is to hold down the Ctrl key and press the minus sign at the top right of the number keypad.

On a Macintosh, again using Word, it’s done by holding down the Option key and pressing the hyphen or minus sign.

You can also type the alternative character code: hold down Alt (Windows) or Option (Mac) and type 0150.

Insert an em dash by adding the Ctrl key on Windows: Ctrl-Alt-Minus. On a Mac, it’s Shift-Option-Minus. The alt key code is Alt 0151. On a Macintosh, hold down the Option key.

On-screen typing

Tablets have made this easier. All you have to do is hold your finger down on the hyphen “key.” In a couple of seconds, you’ll get a menu of choices. Select the appropriate punctuation mark.

Spaced out or not

Some people like to put a single space on both sides of em dashes — like this — while others like them tight—like that. Whichever you choose, be consistent.

This may seem like a trivial matter, but hyphens and dashes stand out on a page or a screen, and they clearly signal someone who doesn’t appreciate the difference—and that a professional editor had not seen that page.

It’s almost as blatant as misusing quotation marks, but I’ll write more about that in another post.

Welcome to the Dark Age


As you know, I’ve been working on The Triumph of the Sky, the sequel to my first-published novel, The Bones of the Earth. And I thought I should familiarize you with this fantastic, yet historical universe so you’re ready to find you way around when the book comes out.

The Byzantine Empire

The setting is the Eastern Roman Empire, which most of us in the West call the “Byzantine Empire.” But to the people who lived in it, it was the Empire of the Romans.

The story of The Triumph of the Sky begins five years after the end of The Bones of the Earth, so that’s 603 CE. The Empire had just been through a particularly tumultuous period, even for the Roman Empire.

I learned in school that the Roman Empire fell in 476 CD, when Odoacer, a Germanic soldier in the Roman Empire, deposed the teenaged last Emperor, Romulus Augustus. A year later, Theodoric and the Ostrogoths killed Odoacer and conquered most of Italy. Other “barbarian” tribes took over Gaul, Iberia, Britain and most of the rest of the Western Roman territories.

But the Eastern half of the Empire continued for another thousand years. In the sixth century, its capital Constantinople, on the narrow straits that separate Europe and Asia, was the largest and wealthiest city in the world. With walls six metres thick and 12 metres high, sea walls and the natural protection of the Sea of Marmara and the Golden Horn on two other sides, it was considered unconquerable. Indeed, it would fend off all attacks for another 600 years.

An ancient drawing of Constantinople, facing roughly west, showing how the city was roughly triangular shape with water on two sides. On the right, northern side is the Golden Horn, a huge harbour. A heavy chain stretched across it at night or when the city was under threat, which would prevent ships from entering.

The walls of Constantinople: Wikimedia Commons.

The Eastern Roman Empire in 600 stretched from the Caucasus Mountains, east of the Black Sea, all along the southern Mediterranean coast to the Atlantic Ocean, and included Egypt, and as far north as the Danube River. Emperor Maurice, who ruled from 582 to 602, reconquered parts of Italy that had been lost to the Ostrogoths and Lombards.

The Roman Empire in 600 CE. Source: Wikimedia Commons

In 602, troops revolted against Maurice. Their leader, Phocas, butchered Maurice’s family in front of him, then killed the Emperor and took the throne.

Possibly a bust of Emperor Phocas

Phocas was especially brutal, even for a Roman Emperor. He used mass torture to rule, and became the object of many plots and intrigues. Eventually, he was deposed and killed by the next emperor, Heraclius.

During Phocas’ rein, though the Sassanid Persians attacked in the east, taking Syria and Mesopotamia, raiding Anatolia and even at one point setting up a military camp within sight of Constantinople. On the north, Avars and Slavs, or Sklaveni, were conquering deep into imperial territory.

This is the political and military situation that surround Javor and the other characters of Triumph.

The people of Constantinople

The people of Constantinople were cosmopolitan, with a great range of ethnicities represented at every social stratum—even the Emperor. About 30 percent were literate, far ahead of western Europe and the rest of the world at the time. There were renowned schools and universities in many of Rome’s cities.

The key to Constantinople’s wealth was trade. It was located at a crossroads: where the land route between Europe and Asia crossed the major sea trade route from the Black Sea to the Mediterranean. As a result, it had several huge markets, great ports and incredible numbers of people moving in and out all the time. Wealth brought about great demand in the city for art and other luxury goods.

The Christian Church dominated social life in Constantinople. The Emperor was the head of both the Church and the Empire, although the bishop, called the Patriarch, wielded a great deal of power.

Leo VI Prostrating before Christ, Mosaic c.900 CE, Hagia Sophia / Creative Commons

Byzantine Mosaic with Virgin Mary and Infant Jesus – Hagia Sophia (Istanbul) Justinian I and Constantine I present the Hagia Sophia and Constantinople to the Virgin and Child.

Even though the Church dominated social and moral life, there were still many slaves in the Roman Empire. At that time, most of them were prisoners of war, and their children. But another source was poor parents who sold their children into slavery to pay their debts and feed the rest of their children.

Politics: Blues versus Greens

The people of the city generally divided into two groups: the Blues and the Greens. This originated as racing teams in the Hippodrome, and like today’s sports fans, they could be fanatical. There were times after races when one team would massacre thousands of members of the other. The rivalry between the two sides reached a peak in the Nike riots in 532. I’ll go into that in more depth in a future blog. But the Blue-Green divide went far beyond the horse races: neighbourhoods could be Blue or Green, and there were social and religious divisions between them, too.

In short, the early 7th century in Constantinople was a complex time — arguably as complex as our own, in its way, with political intrigues, wars on more than one front, social divisions, and contradictions between religion, society, politics and money.

Till next time … keep your paddles in the water.


Travel, beauty and writing

Tyn Church in Prague

The Gothic-era Tyn Church in Prague’s Old Square, fronted by newer buildings that now make up its entrance.

People often say travel broadens you. It opens your mind and your heart to new ideas, exposes you to different cultures and people, and tends to make you more accepting of differences.

For me, travel is also inspiring—literally. When I travel, I often get new ideas for stories and novels. These can be sparked by people I see and meet, buildings, streets, forests, coastlines—just about anything.

I recently returned from a visit to Prague and the Czech Republic. If you have been, you’ll know how beautiful that capital city is. If you haven’t been, you should put it on your list of places to visit.

The Astronomical Clock in Prague’s Old Square, built in 1410.

Prague itself is an arrangement of architecture that, for at least 700 years, has intended to embrace the current styles, yet fit in with the established buildings. As one of the travel guides points out, you can stand in the Old Square and see architecture of the Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque and Art Deco periods. And you don’t have to walk far to find later examples — the Cubist house of the Black Madonna is just steps from the square.

At least in the centre of the city, it’s hard to find a building that’s strictly functional—almost all are beautiful in some way.

The Municipal Hall is too prosaic a name for this Art Nouveau building on the National Square, home of two concert halls, including Smetana Hall.


Walking through a city that’s new to me gets my imagination going. It’s easy to think of the beginnings of stories, more like dramatic situations. But in Prague, I came up with more of a feeling or a theme than a plotline. The juxtaposition of buildings from every era of the past 700 years points to a Prague characteristic: its continual embracing of the modern while honouring, and making full use of tradition.

It brought to mind a kind of story of two people in a relationship, who are both trying to solve the same problem: one from a 21st-century approach, based in science and technology; and the other taking an older, more traditional perspective informed by psychology and religion.

This building is the home of the Hotel Paris in central Prague.

Prague has always been known as a music-loving city. Mozart loved Prague, and Prague loved him back. Today, you can find street performers at almost any time, any place—and theyre really good. These guys called themselves the De Facto String Quartet, and played a version of Stairway to Heaven that sounded terrific.

I don’t know what the problem will be, yet, nor what the plot points are. But I have the characters worked out. And it will definitely be set in Prague.

As if the architecture, art and music arent inspiring enough, Prague has immortalized its favourite native-born author, Franz Kafka, with this metallic scupture of his head. The sections rotate independently, according to some program that occasionally lines them up to reveal the writer’s likeness.

Prague really likes Kafka! This statue is in the Josefov area, the old Jewish Quarter. Maybe the head was taken for the sculpture in the previous picture.

I’ll keep you informed.

In the meantime, why not leave a comment sharing places that inspire you, and why?

Do you have limited writing time but big goals?

TypingA guest post by Autumn Birt

Are you a writer? If so, are you meeting your writing goals?

Writing is a passion, one usually cobbled together from stolen moments and highs of inspiration. But if you get the writing bug and you get it bad, finding enough time is often a source of frustration.

Why write more?

Because fans like to read more. That is my number one answer. I’m a reader as well as a writer. I’ve fallen in love with a series that I’ve stayed with for three years and am now anxiously awaiting the last book — which should come out in two years. That is a whole lot of anxious waiting! And let’s not talk about another story I love that currently exists as short stories spread across several e-zines and books. I have meticulously copied all of them to one spot. I am her number one fan. She has plans to write a book … someday. I want to cry.

So yeah, keeping fans from becoming the frustrated and then jaded reader I am today is definitely a goal. When I was a teenager, a new book a year was acceptable. It still is, even though that was quite a while ago and long before ebooks. Now, a new book every six months is considered a professional target. More often is great. Fans want to be filled with anticipation, not angst.

And professional is the other reason to write and release more books, great books. Because let’s face it, if you have any hope of making a decent income from writing, one where you can potentially scale back that full time job to write, you either need to write and release more or have a really good retirement plan lined up. I’m not a teenager anymore, but I don’t want to wait that long to write full time!

So I committed myself to writing more and writing better because I not only love it, but want to make it a career. With a lot of trial and error, I developed seven key techniques and five writing tools that worked. How well? I wrote four-and-a-half books in a year and they are the best I’ve written so far.Writing Time

To be clear, I’m not talking about typing faster. Who cares how fast you typed a page if you end up deleting it? Meeting a writing goal of producing more novels in a year means creating a great story faster. And there are tips, tricks, and tools to do that. It is a paradigm shift to believe writing more in a limited time is achievable.

It is possible. I’m proof. But I want to be more than proof. I want to help other writers do the same thing. Seriously!

Writing time is a limited resource. Use it well.

I’m serious about teaching this to other authors. So serious that I’m launching a pilot class to not only teach the seven techniques and those five customizable tools, but also to work one-on-one with the students to make sure those same tactics work for them. Everyone is different and in a different situation. I want everyone to be successful.

Since this is a trial course with lots of coaching, enrolment is very limited. If you are interested in learning more please use the contact form below to get in touch with me. I’d love to talk to you!

About Autumn

author picAutumn is a bestselling author in fantasy, epic fantasy, and war — not all in the same series, though. She is the author of the epic fantasy, adventure trilogy on elemental magic, The Rise of the Fifth Order. Her newest series is Friends of my Enemy, a military dystopian/ dark fantasy tale laced with romance. Friends of my Enemy will be released in full in 2015 and will be quite the story full of strong characters, tight plots, and lots of action. Meanwhile, she is working on a new epic fantasy trilogy, Games of Fire, set in the same world as The Rise of the Fifth Order.

If she stops goofing off and enjoying hobbies such as hiking, motorcycling, and kayaking, she may even be able to release the first book in 2015, too.

She is a member of Independent Authors International and the Guild of Dreams.

Stop by her website and blog to learn more about the worlds of her books at www.AutumnWriting.com. You can also find her on Facebook at  or more frequently on Twitter @Weifarer.

Quick Note

If the contact form isn’t showing up, please just provide my email: autumn.birt@gmail.com

Also, let me know when the post is live and where so I can stop by to answer any questions and share. Thanks again!


Writing tips: Consistency stinks, but without it, you’re sunk

Skunk in the backyard, courtesy TooKoolDoggies.blogspot.com

“The skunk in the back yard last night stunk, didn’t it?”

“No, it stank.”

Or is stunk right?

What about this one: “The ship sunk during the storm last night”? Is that correct?

English. It can be beautiful, powerful, inspiring. It can also be maddeningly confusing and inconsistent.

There are so many inconsistencies to trip people up, that if languages were shopping malls, English would be closed until it was brought up to code.

For instance, consider the past tense. English usually indicates an action that occurred in the past by adding an –ed to the end — like in occurred. Then there are all the other verbs that show past tense in other ways, like thrown, or eaten.

Verbs that end in –ing and –ink give people a lot of trouble. Simple examples pretend to set the pattern:

Infinitive Past tense            Past participle
ring rang has rung/was rung
sing sang has sung/was sung

Then, English goes and changes the pattern just a little, with –ing verbs that have identical past past participle forms. There doesn’t seem to be any logical distinction. You just have to memorize this.

cling clung has clung
fling flung has flung/was flung
hang hung “from the
chimney with care”
has hung/was hung

However, when using hang to mean a form of execution, the past tense and past participle arehanged and was hanged: Billy Bailey was the last person to be hanged in the US.

Some verbs ending in –ink conform to these patterns, too:

drink drank has drunk/was drunk
sink sank has sunk/was sunk
slink slunk has slunk
stink stank or stunk has stunk

But not link or ink (as in to put something in ink, or to cover something with ink).

Of course, there are –ing verbs that follow the more usual pattern of adding –ed for the past tense and participle: ding or ping, for instance.

Then, there are the most baffling verbs of all:

bring brought has brought/was brought
think thought has thought/was thought

There is almost a logic, but if you can’t have more than two examples that follow the same method to indicate past tense, that doesn’t really make it a system.

To answer the questions I started with: stunk or stank are both acceptable past tense forms forstink, according to the Oxford Dictionary. However, sank is the correct past tense for sink, whilesunk is the past participle.

What about you? What exceptions give you the most trouble?

The Titanic sank in the North Atlantic.

The Titanic was sunk by an iceberg.


Being a trinity: Guest post by Bob Nailor

I’m a writer, a speaker, and an editor. Some consider the combination to be some super being but, in reality, I am just a regular man. In other words, I write, I talk and I correct.

I began life as a writer, the proverbial newbie, who felt he knew it all and had the best novel ever written in history. That particular piece has yet to see light of day and it has been over twenty years since I first put pen to paper. In reality, it was originally hand written with a pen on lined paper. Home computers were in their infancy — can you say Vic20, Atari 400 or even Commodore 64? I saved my first electronic version of that story to a 5.25 inch floppy disk and transferred it to updated technology as it became available. The story now resides in a cloud and is undergoing drastic revisions. As a writer, we grow and learn the craft. In other words, we become skilled writers. With luck, that horribly written story should see light of day within the next year.

But I digress. Being a writer, I attended conferences and seminars, absorbing as much knowledge as I could to improve my writing. I grew. I wrote and I got published. I was making a name for myself within the local writing group. I became the vice-president of the local writing group. I continued to attend the local conference. Due to an emergency, I became friends with the local conference coordinator. She had seen me and knew my name after so many years. She asked me to assist her one year and the following year she asked me do a session on science fiction.

I became a speaker. This was a new experience. I was no longer sitting in the audience — I was the person in front. I was now the fount of knowledge for the attendees. I was the person these people sought to talk to and ask questions of. I loved this new sensation of sharing knowledge. There is a great responsibility with being a speaker. The attendees expect you to know your stuff. Don’t attempt to blue-sky (aka BS) the subject matter. Always remember, somebody in the audience may know than you.

During one of the conferences where I was speaking when I was asked to review a short story. The story was good but needed work. I offered suggestions and corrected some glaring errors. The next thing I knew, I was being offered manuscripts to edit. I became an editor.

Is there any difference between an editor and a writer? Yes. A writer puts words to paper and creates a story. An editor reassembles the words to have more impact and be correct.

Photo by Nic McPhee, Creative Commons license

As an editor, I’ve learned to write better, but as a writer I’ve learned that I am too close to my project to be a proper editor. I use a professional editor, Denise Vitola (http://www.thomas-talks-to-me.com/) to correct my work.

One of the biggest mistakes I feel many writers do is to use “that” when it isn’t needed. I, too, am a horrible abuser and delete hundreds of them from my work before I send it out to my editor. An example: He said that he was going to town. The sentence reads perfectly fine without “that” and is stronger.

Notice I said professional editor earlier? A novel needs professional touches. The cover. Edits. Most of my covers have been done by me with the assistance of professional graphic artists. My latest book, “The Secret Voice” has a cover which is a professional photograph by Edison Goodfellow (http://www.edgoodfellow.com/). With the assistance of Steve Lark (http://printedonalark.com/) I was able to accomplish the graphic lettering and colors on the cover. Yes, of course, the book was edited by Denise Vitola.

I feel being an editor has improved my writing and being a speaker has improved my ability to edit and write. How is that? During speaking engagements, I make contact with others and share ideas which then allow my mind to run rampant with even more ideas. Of course, being a writer also improves my ability to be a speaker. They say: Write what you know. I would say the same holds true for speaking: Speak about what you know. Plus, the editor in me allows me to correct both my writing and my speaking.

I guess now would be a good time to lecture about not using your English teacher aunt as an editor. Why? Simple. She will make sure your sentence structure is grammatically correct and punctuation is proper. What she won’t know is how to correct plot, storyline and scenes which makes the story solid. There is nothing wrong with using your English teacher person for this aspect to get the sentences and punctuation correct, but please, use a professional editor who knows your genre to check the story.


My name is Bob Nailor. I’m retired from the US federal government. I was a computer geek and still do some programming yet today. One would think I should have plenty of time to write but I actually seem to have less now. So, to make sure that things work out correctly, I try to force myself to sit down and write. That doesn’t always work. Today, writing is fun and I find it relaxing. I get to visit those fantastic and strange places within my mind and well, if I don’t come back right away, there is no longer somebody behind me writing on a pink sheet of paper.

I live with my wife, Violet, in a ranch home snuggled into a small wooded acre in northwest Ohio. I have four sons and currently have ten grandchildren: seven granddaughters and three grandsons.

My interests are travel (have RV, will travel), gardening, music, cooking and reading. So where do I travel? I’ve been in 46 of the 50 states and strangely, Hawaii is one of the states I’ve visited. I have also visited two of our territories—Puerto Rico and Virgin Islands. Traveling allows me to add the ambiance to my stories and to some of the characters, also. Gardening is a bit gamey since we live in the country and have the wildlife visiting us constantly—deer, rabbits, raccoons, birds, squirrels and many others. So vegetables don’t always make it to harvest but what does is more than tasty. There are flowers, sometimes too many, to keep me busy. Music? I love New Age music and my favorite group is Mannheim Steamroller—and not just because of their fabulous Christmas albums; I was hooked on them before that. I also have created some of my own electronic music which I’ve been told is pretty good. Should I mention cooking? I love to cook and do gourmet cooking. Having worked with Boy Scouts for several years, I have taught many boys the basics of cooking beyond hotdogs and beans. I have won quite a few contests. As to what I read; well, obviously a lot of science fiction, fantasy and some Christian. Horror, romance, adventure and other genres are also great reads when they catch my attention with an intriguing tag line or cover.


The Secret Voice—an Amish story set in 1961
Pangaea, Eden Lost—a Barclay Havens, relic hunter mis-adventure
Ancient Blood: The Amazona vampire series, 500 years in waiting
Three Steps: The Journeys of Ayrold—an Irish fantasy for today
2012 Timeline Apocalypse—the Mayan calendar comes to an end
52 Weeks of Writing Tips—tips to improve one’s writing ability

My work appears in several anthologies:

Telling Tales of Terror—essays on how to write horror and dark fiction
Mother Goose Is Dead—a collection of favorite fairy tales, fractured
Dead Set: A Zombie Anthology—a collection of unusual zombie tales
The Complete Guide to Writing Paranormal, Volume 1—various essays
Nights of Blood 2—different takes on the vampire story
Guide to Writing Science Fiction—essays on writing science fiction
Firestorm of Dragons—an eclectic collection of dragon stories
Fantasy Writer’s Companion—essays on writing fantasy
13 Night of Blood—13 amazing vampire tales
Spirits of Blue & Gray—a collection of Civil War ghost stories

Drop by the official website and the blog.






Writing tips: Don’t overload your sentences

Writing is less about putting words on a page or screen than it is about putting thoughts in order.

Our job as writers, as professional communicators, is to clarify the world and ideas for our audience. That means illuminating—showing something that was hidden before—and simplifying—sorting out ideas, phenomena and events that are tangled and difficult to understand.

Consider these tangled ideas. By the way, I invented none of the examples I’m about to show you. They’re all taken from published documents or from former students. In either case, the writers should never have let anyone else see them.

  • We were informed of your government’s new initiative to link young people about to graduate from post-secondary education with small businesses who need skilled employment candidates by a teacher from Saskatchewan who is a member of our team of educators that is championing the inclusion of health literacy into high-school curricula.
How many ideas are crammed into that one sentence? Yes, it’s grammatically correct, but it has 5 dependent clauses, 9 prepositional phrases and 51 words. No, I’m not going to give an eighth-grade lesson in grammar or parsing sentences. I’m saying that’s too much for any audience. There are at least 14 different, if linked ideas in it.
In Grade 1, you learned (at least, you were taught; whether you learned it is a topic for another blog): a sentence is a single complete thought. While it makes sense to link thoughts together, when you get a chain long enough to wrap around your winter tires, it’s too long.
How about this one:
  • As he suggests, “the binary logic” of many sociological texts encourages an Eurocentric analysis that conceptually constructs an ahistorical, apolitical social science which avoids an analysis of the political and economic exploitation that is associated with racial and ethnic prejudice and discrimination.

That one starts with “binary logic,” goes through sociology, history, politics and social science, some other ideas and ends up with discrimination. It’s like wandering in a college campus and wondering how you got to the garbage room when you started in the computer lab and were hoping to get to the caf.

I call these “overloaded sentences”—they just cannot support that much information. By the time the readers get to the end of a sentence like that, they’ve forgotten the beginning.

Here’s one from fiction:

  • Had he known that Ralph had managed to break into the apartment and wire it quickly before he had followed the three of them to the video store, Andy might have given a small bit of thought to the intelligence of listing a good many words that clearly indicated his belief that his pursuers were idiots, but he didn’t, much to the displeasure of his unseen audience.

Organizational problem
Sentence overload is caused when you have so much to say and you try to get it all out at once. The solution: get a GRIP on your sentences as well as your whole document:

  • Goal: what are you trying to accomplish with these thoughts? What do you want your readers to do after reading?
  • Reader: whom are you saying it to? What do they already know, what do you want them to know?
  • Idea: of all the ideas in that long, convoluted sentence, which is the most important?
  • Plan: what other information does the audience need to understand your main point? How is this other information related to the main point?
Now, organize it. Put the most important idea first. If two ideas are equally important, make each one the main part of a separate sentence. Then use less important ideas as dependent clauses or qualifying phrases.

You don’t always have to repeat qualifying information:

  • Notably, policymakers in India have made financial inclusion a priority, according to speaker LD Patel, Deputy director of the XXX of India, where all Indian institutions have been requested by the central regulatory department of India to formulate board approved educational inclusion plans for the next three years.The Indian government has asked all Indian institutions to develop plans to bring education to the poorest communities within three years, said LD Patel, Deputy Director of the XXX.

Sometimes, it seems as if the writer changed his or her mind halfway through the sentence:

  • It highlights the growing importance and recognition of healthy nutrition continues to gain in Canada and internationally with the availability of more resources, information and good practices to help develop strategic priorities, research, evaluation and programs.The importance of healthy nutrition is gaining recognition internationally. There are more resources, information and good practices available to help develop strategic priorities, research, evaluation and programs.
  • Based on last year’s results, and since the target audience is very well-defined and the product was developed for, and extensively tested with that audience, we expect the following results in 2010/11:The product was developed for a specific audience and tested with it. Based on those results, we can expect the following in 2010-2011.

From fiction:

  • Tristan blinked, his head moving up, not realizing he was so tired, normally he was more than energized and almost always ready to go.This actually combines several problems common in fiction from new writers: more detail than the reader needs or wants, and telling instead of showing. I would amend it to:Tristan’s head nodded involuntarily. “What’s up, Tristan?” Annabella asked. “You’re usually ready to go.”


Here are a couple that I received from students. My challenge to you is to turn these into readable prose. Leave your responses in the Comments box, below.

Have fun!

1: Management is pleased to be receiving a positive response from employees about the relocation of headquarters from Toronto to Calgary, although there are some concerns about the merger due to the cultural differences between the Calgary employees versus those from Toronto, so in response to growing concerns, management is taking action in order to ensure co-operation and compatibility between teams.

2. I recently completed a kitchen remodel and on July 2 I ordered by telephone double-glazed, oak French doors from Quality Doors, Inc, that were required for this job, which when they arrived on July 25, my carpenter told me were cut too small, measuring total of 2.31 square metres wide instead of 2.33 square metres wide, so my carpenter offered rebuild the opening but charging me for his time $455.50 because I waited three weeks for these doors, and my clients wanted them installed immediately.