Disconnected Writing Kills: Great Transition Words Just Might Be the Cure

There is nothing worse than disconnected, disjointed writing. Your target audience completely gets lost (and not in translation). Your message is missed. And quite simply, no one understands what you’re trying to say.

But never fear…this, too, can be cured with great transition words. No magic wand needed…just you and your fabulous writing skills that will connect sentences and paragraphs into a unified body of writing.

Transition words help both the reader and the writer move from one idea to another idea in one fluid movement. Seamlessly. Painlessly. And with utter understanding.

Admittedly, transitions can be tricky if you aren’t accustomed to using them properly. Their placement can be awkward, making your writing even more cumbersome. And, I’m sorry to say, but no, you can’t just rely on your old stand-by words of  “but,” “however,” and “in addition.” You’ll need a handy list to pull from…and look what I just happen to have for you:

  • accordingly
  • admittedly
  • afterward
  • alternatively
  • altogether
  • as a result
  • at the same time
  • at this point
  • by comparison
  • certainly
  • clearly
  • concurrently
  • consequently
  • considering this
  • conversely
  • evidently
  • further
  • furthermore
  • given these points
  • in any case
  • incidentally
  • indeed
  • meanwhile
  • moreover
  • nevertheless
  • notably
  • obviously
  • on the contrary
  • otherwise
  • overall
  • previously
  • surprisingly
  • therefore
  • whereas
  • yet

Clearly, not every word on this list will work for your style of writing, nor is this list exhaustive. Moreover, pick and choose your transition words carefully to reflect your style of writing. And, yes, “clearly” and “moreover” were my choices for transition words to end this blog. I think they both work for my style of writing, don’t you?

Writing…Interrupted

It never fails. No matter what project I am working on, no matter how quickly the ideas are flying out of my head, and the pen is moving across the paper (or my fingers are striking the keyboard), something comes up. Always.

And do you know why? Though writing is one of the loves of my life, that I truly do live for the written word, I actually have a life, and life is messy. It cannot be lived without running into problems. Bumping into obstacles. Being sidelined by roadblocks along the way. For instance…

  • Snow days, the kids are home…and they need attention every 5 seconds
  • Sick days, and not for you, but again, for your kids…and again, they need attention. And rest.
  • Doctor’s appointments
  • Dentist appointments
  • School meetings
  • A day job with a billion and one deadlines
  • Grocery shopping
  • House cleaning
  • Car problems
  • Late buses
  • Taxes
  • Legal issues
  • Relationships in general

This list could go on, and on, and on….with no end in sight. And for most people, it does.

But so what! If writing is your passion, then you will find a way to work around all those little things that not only interrupt your writing in general, but interrupt your life as a whole. Because writing, like any other job you could do, will always get side-tracked and as a professional, it is you responsibility to find a way to your success. To make it happen…for you.

Is it easy? Hell no. But then again, what really is…

Stop Abusing Me

I love the movie “The Princess Bride.” Absolute classic, right? And here is my favorite line from the movie, though choosing a favorite really is difficult; there are far too many:

“You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.” ~Inigo Montoya, The Princess Bride

You’ve got to love that! And I bet you can completely relate to it as well because we are all guilty of it. Every one of us. I still have to check myself on certain words (though I’m not going to tell you which ones!). The fact is, I don’t have an editor on stand-by to set me straight so I have no other choice than to self-edit.

And now you can too. Keep this list of commonly misused and abused words nearby so you can check it when in doubt and stop the cycle of word abuse.

Adverse / Averse

Adverse means unfavorable. Averse means reluctant.

Afterwards

Always wrong in American English. It’s afterward. Skip the “s” if you want to use it correctly.

Complement / Compliment

Most common of all abused words; so common, you will actually see it in products that make it to print. Get clued in: complement is something that adds to or supplements something else. A compliment is something nice, hopefully, someone says about you.

Criteria

Criteria is plural. Its singular form: criterion. If someone tells you they have only one criteria, simply laugh and tell them to either get some more or to get a clue.

Farther / Further

Here’s an easy way to remember this one: when you use farther, you are referring to physical distance. When using further, you are talking about an extension of time or degree.

Fewer / Less

If you can count it, use fewer. If you can’t, use less.

Historic / Historical

OMG. I see these poor little words misused and abused almost every single day! Historic — an important event. Historical — something that happened in the past.

Hopefully

Hopefully is abused so much, it should just be considered a lost cause. I hope (not hopefully; that would just be wrong, right?) this will help you appear smarter: only use hopefully if you’re describing the way someone spoke, appeared, or acted.

CORRECT: I hope she says yes. NOT: Hopefully, she says yes.
CORRECT: It is hoped that the weather cooperates. NOT: Hopefully, the weather will be good.
CORRECT: She eyed the diamond engagement ring hopefully.

Imply / Infer

Imply means to suggest indirectly — to send a subtle message. Infer means to come to a conclusion based on information — to interpret a message.

Insure / Ensure

Unless you are talking about insurance, insure is always incorrect. Ensure means to guarantee, and that’s probably what you mean, right? Of course it is!

Irregardless

I’ve told you this before: irregardless is not a word. Use regardless or irrespective, but never, ever irregardless. (Regardless of what your friends or anyone else may tell you!)

Literally

“I’m literally starving to death.” Really? Unless you live in a third-world country, I doubt it. When you use literally, you mean that what you are saying is exactly true, completely accurate, and not an exaggeration. Quite honesty, in the world that most of us are fortunate enough to live in, everything is figurative. Or relative. Take your pick.

Premier / Premiere

Here’s is another lowly abused word that I see every day. And here’s how to tell them apart: premier is the first and best in status or importance, while premiere is the opening night of a movie. The two are not interchangeable no matter how hard you try.

Principal / Principle

Once and for all:

Principal — as a noun, the top dog; as an adjective, the most important of any set. Principle — always a noun meaning a fundamental truth, a law, a rule, or a code of conduct.

Towards

Just like afterwards always wrong in American English. It’s toward. Skip the “s” if you want to use it correctly.

Unique

This one always surprises me because unique literally means one of a kind. Nothing can be very unique, or truly unique. It either is or it isn’t. Period.

Who / Whom

The mother of all abuses, and one that should be written off as a lost cause. I mean, really, I’m not even sure why bewildered high school English teachers even bother teaching this to their students anymore.

But, if you want to get it right, here’s how: use a simple substitution method — who for subjects and whom for objects.

Now you are ready to rule your writing with an iron fist. Or like an editor.

Jargon: Tired, Overused, and Abused

I hate jargon. I really, truly despise it. And when it shows up in my writing, I just want to scream. It’s really easy to slip into using jargon when you’re searching for something to say. Believe me, we’re all guilty of it. But, it’s never a substitute for content. The best defense: edit yourself and revise your writing so that you eliminate jargon before you publish anything. Otherwise you will suffer the consequence of embarrassment, and that can last forever.

Check out this list of tired, overused, and abused clichés and avoid using every single one of them. Believe me, you’ll thank me for it later.

Core of my being — If you run across this in written form, just click the back button and close the book on that one. If you actually hear the phrase spoken aloud, exit the coffee shop you’re in immediately and make sure the woman wearing the Sylvia Plath t-shirt isn’t following you.

Think outside the box — If you can’t think of another phrase to use, you should be stuffed inside a box.

Quantum leap — Unless you’re a physicist, you really have no business using this word at all. Avoid it, period.

Paradigm shift — Finding a new way to shaft the consumer is not a paradigm shift. That’s business as usual. If and when you actually encounter a paradigm shift, then, by all means, feel free to use the term.

Granular — If someone says a report needs to be more granular, don’t hesitate, just kick them in the, well, you can imagine where you should kick them. Granular is a word used by corporate weenies because they think it makes them sound more … intelligent.

Confidence is high — If you’ve ever used that in a sentence, you were the one who was probably high.

Manage expectations — What this really means is: “We don’t know if this will work, so let’s make sure that if we fail, we can say that we expected this might fail.” What? Just say what you mean. Let people manage their own expectations.

Credibility gap — Political speak for calling any one group a bunch of bloody stinking liars. Seriously? They’re politicians. They lie for a living. Oxymoron.

Critical mass — Again, unless you’re a physicist, stay away from their lingo.

Irregardless — WTF? This isn’t a word. Never was. Never will be. I still don’t know why people try to use that non-word in a sentence. Just don’t use it.

Headlines that Scream to be Noticed

Headline: copy designed to catch the reader’s eye and stop him in his tracks

Stop. Before reading another word of this, pick up a magazine and flip through it. What’s the first ad that caught your eye? What’s the headline? How long did it take to get to there? And that’s the problem.

Many times writers are so fixated on getting the message in the body of the copy dead-on accurate that they forget all about the headline. But really, if the headline doesn’t have that drop-dead stop-them-in-their-tracks wow factor, you’ve already lost your audience.

Consumers scan headlines before they decide to read an ad. If your headline isn’t powerful, your copy, no mater how great, might as well say “blah, blah, blah” because no one is going to read it. An effective headline doesn’t just pique your reader’s curiosity, it hooks them, compelling them to read more.

So what’s a copywriter to do? Here are three techniques that make your headlines powerful:

Be Direct with an Offer or Guarantee Headlines don’t have to be complicated. If you have a special offer that will lure customers in, then say so. For example:

Take a 30-Day Test Drive and Decide for Yourself. 
Print ad for: Escort Radar

Our Best Rates Guaranteed. 
Print ad for: Hilton Hotels

Make a Statement Always popular, typically creative and catchy, sometimes just a couple of short words or a sentence or two. Magazines are loaded with these headlines, but you have to know your market, your products and what exactly it is you’re trying to sell to determine if using a statement as your headline is right for your ad. As in:

Be One in a Million, Not One of a Million 
Print ad for: Pantene Pro-V

Pricey Ink Stinks 
Print ad for: Kodak

Stop. Rinse. Play. 
Print ad for: Mr. Clean AutoDry Carwash

The Gorilla Has Evolved. Now It Gets Stronger, Faster. Print ad for: Gorilla Glue

Use News in Your Headline If your introducing a new product or an improvement to an existing one, you can use that news in your headline. Introducing, Finally, Announcing, Now and New are popular choice words you’ll find in these types of headlines. Samples include:

Introducing Freschetta Pizzamore. For Take-Out Taste at Your Place. 
Print ad for: Freschetta Pizzamore

We’ve Always Helped You Rock. Now We Help You Roll. 
Print ad for: XM NavTraffic

New Southwestern Style Veggie Cakes 
Print ad for: MorningStar Farms

Now go out and rock some headlines. Happy writing.

“At the End of the Day” It’s Not Only Empty, It’s Done to Death

As a talented writer, you have the creative drive to craft your message in a way that is easily understood. What you don’t have is an innate quality to follow the herd and write like everyone else.

When you have something to say, you don’t need to rely on trivial phrases such as “at the end of the day” to make your point. You’re a professional. You know what you want to say. You make your point with real content, get your message across, and move on well before “the end of the day” ever gets here. Otherwise, you’ve already lost your audience’s attention.

Copy that relies on filler doesn’t say anything. Meaningless phrases could just as easily be stripped away from your copy and you wouldn’t even notice; so what does that tell you? And yes, these phrases are everywhere. And that’s the other problem. Not only are the words empty, they are done to death. Trust me, your audience is tired of hearing them, so just don’t use them. Ever.

Here’s a list of some of the more common useless phrases used to fill in the gaps. Check it out and see if you recognize any of them. If you do, remove them from your writing arsenal immediately and don’t let them sneak their way back in ever again:

At the end of the day
That being said
It is what it is
Think(ing) outside of the box
Tabled for later
I personally
Run it up the flagpole
Fairly unique
At this moment in time
With all due respect
Shouldn’t of (and that’s just grammatically incorrect, too!)
It’s not rocket science
A chain is only as strong as its weakest link