A New Year’s Resolution 2

In yesterday’s post, I encouraged you to make a resolution to sharpen your writing skills this year. Today I’ll give you some practical suggestions. Tune in tomorrow for a list of projects to choose from.

If you’re wise, you’ll choose only one or two items from tomorrow’s list. Here’s why: most New Year’s resolutions fade away well before January. In fact many of them don’t make it to January 7.

So what can you do to ensure that 2020 really is the year when you improve your writing skills?

The answer is to make your resolution as practical as possible: realistic, doable, manageable.

And that’s precisely where many aspiring writers turn down the wrong road. They resolve to plunge into an intensive study of traditional grammatical terminology: Adverbial conjunctions. Participial phrases. Sequence of tenses.

Not surprisingly, those good intentions quickly dry up or fade away. Why? Two reasons. First, traditional grammar is dull. Second (and more seriously), labeling parts of speech doesn’t make you a better writer – despite what you may have heard in school. Studying grammar will turn you into an expert grammarian, not an expert report writer.

What writers need help with most is usage – learning how to make quick and correct decisions about I/me, is/are, commas, semicolons, capital letters, and similar issues. The good news is that you can master English usage in a short time if you’re willing to devote a few minutes a day to reading and practice.

Here’s an example. How do you use a semicolon correctly? A grammarian will tell you that semicolons join two independent clauses that are lacking a conjunction.

Let’s make it simpler. A semicolon is like a period, but it’s followed by a lower-case letter.

That’s it. You’ve just learned everything you need to know about semicolons.

That’s it; you’ve just learned everything you need to know about semicolons.

You can use a semicolon almost anywhere. Just replace a period with a semicolon. Follow it with a lower-case letter.

You can use a semicolon almost anywhere. Just replace a period with a semicolon; follow it with a lower-case letter.

Easy, isn’t it? Are you feeling encouraged about your New Year’s Resolution? Let 2020 begin! See you tomorrow.

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