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?

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I Suppose I Should Address this…Supposably

I saw this pic posted on Facebook today, and my first thought was: Uh? That can’t be right. But, so many people were in agreement, and as you know, I am all about breaking the rules IF, and only if, they should be broken. There isn’t even a question about this one, however.

Supposably

To confirm that I was correct, and this little photo was not, I went to my girl, Grammar Girl. And she confirmed what I had said as being true: Supposably IS a word. It just happens to be used incorrectly. All. The. Time. You see,  the problem is that supposably simply does not mean the same thing as supposedly. Never has. Never will. But, it is indeed a word. Let’s take a closer look…

People who grasp for supposably are usually searching for supposedly, meaning “assumed to be true” and almost always includes a hint of sarcasm or disbelief (something I would never be guilty of, right?):

  • Supposedly, he canceled our date because his mom had an emergency.
  • She supposedly sent the check, but it was lost in the mail.

Supposably means “supposable,” “conceivable,” or “arguably.” It is only a valid word in American English as those Brits wisely refuse to accept it.

Supposably v. supposedly. And now it could be said that you supposably know which word to use when.

Thank you Grammar Girl!

“I” Before “E” Except After “C” …

I LOVE breaking writing rules if they make my writing better. But I also love find writing rules often considered tried-and-true, can-always-be-counted-on rules. So let’s start with the “i” before “e” except after “c” rule. It’s such a good one!

I know people who swear by this one, but the fact of the matter is it simply can’t be used across the board. Need proof?  Here’s a list of words where that rule simply does not apply:

  • Beige
  • Cleidoic
  • Codeine
  • Conscience
  • Deify
  • Deity
  • Deign
  • Dreidel
  • Eider
  • Eight
  • Either
  • Feign
  • Fein
  • Feisty
  • Foreign
  • Forfeit
  • Freight
  • Gleization
  • Gneiss
  • Greige
  • Greisen
  • Heifer
  • Heigh-ho
  • Height
  • Heinous
  • Heir
  • Heist
  • Leitmotiv
  • Neigh
  • Neighbor
  • Neither
  • Peignoir
  • Prescient
  • Rein
  • Science
  • Seiche
  • Seidel
  • Seine
  • Seismic
  • Seize
  • Sheik
  • Society
  • Sovereign
  • Surfeit
  • Teiid
  • Veil
  • Vein
  • Weight
  • Weir
  • Weird

Know some other “i” before “e” except after “c” rule breaking words? Drop me a comment and share!

Outgrowing Arcane Rules of Usage: Since vs. Because

I recently read an article giving a number of reasons why “since” should not be used to mean “because.” While the writer is theoretically correct, I found the premise to be primarily flawed in that, hey who doesn’t do this in this day and age and what reader with half a brain doesn’t understand the meaning of what is being said?

I know, technically this usage is slovenly, sloppy, careless, and yes, unthinking. It may even cause confusion to some … purists. Yet, how do you un-ring a bell? It may be too late in the evolution of the English language to force writers to use “because” to mean “because” when far too many of us have used “since” to use the very same thing.

Get over it already. Readers are smart enough, savvy enough, to know what you mean. Treat them like that. Forcing arcane usage and awkward sentence structures for the sake of following outdated rules only results in one thing: reader confusion.

If readers can’t navigate the sentence because they can’t get past the awkward structure, then the message is not only lost, your readers won’t continue reading the rest of the piece, right? And since readers easily understand “since” to mean “because,” then what’s the harm in using it? See, I just did it, and nothing horrible happened. So don’t get caught up in all the minutia.

Know What You Mean, and Mean What You Say — Dangling Participles

Dangling participles, sometimes called dangling modifiers, have to be one of my all-time favorite mistakes, if only because the resulting sentences can be so funny.

To brush the dust off of your college grammar lessons, dangling participles are those descriptive words, phrases, or clauses suffering from separation anxiety. You’ll find them at the beginning of sentences, perfectly happy to modify, or describe, the closest imposter that happens to get planted right smack next to them, casting a shadow of doubt on your writing. Check these examples out:

•    Having been thrown in the air, the dog caught the ball.
•    After rotting in the cellar for weeks, my brother brought up some oranges.

Would anyone really launch a dog in the air? Well, maybe, but not in this case. The sentence just doesn’t read right. It was the ball, not the dog, that was thrown in the air. The sentence has been constructed improperly and simply needs fixed to make sense:

•    The dog caught the ball that was thrown in the air.

The same thing with the second sentence: it’s not the brother who has been rotting in the basement for weeks; it’s the oranges.

•    My brother brought up the oranges from the cellar, which had been rotting down there for weeks.

Dangling participles are often funny, but they also are distracting and inaccurate, and easy to fix. Simply revise your writing.

To determine if you are dangling your participle, try this trick: take the participial phrase and place it after the sentence’s subject (The dog, having been thrown in the air, caught the ball). If it doesn’t make sense, you’ve dangled your participle. Revise immediately.

Is It Affect, or Effect?

More in the way of grammar trip ups … affect vs. effect. In order to get this one right, you have to know the difference between each word; there’s simply no other way around it.

“Affect” is a VERB, as in “Your inability to write correctly will definitely affect your income level.”

“Effect” is a NOUN. “The effect of your words on the target audience should persuade them to take action.”

Easy enough, right? Think of “effect” in terms of “the effect.” You can’t stick “the” in front of a verb. Don’t believe me? Try it. Can’t be done. And while some people do use “effect” as a verb, these people are usually lawyers, and you should therefore ignore writing like them if you want to write in a way that most of us use the English language.

There Blog Isn’t Their Anymore – What?

More in the way of the most common mistakes writers make: there versus their.

Not quite sure why this one trips up so many people; I assume it’s due more to a typo than actual error. And like most grammar errors I’ve blogged about earlier in allyah’s INKWELL, this one won’t be caught by spellchecker but by your keen eye. Proof your work. Read it out loud. Check to see if it makes sense.

And now for the grammar lesson:

“There” is used to refer to a place, as in “yo, let’s go there.” “There” is also used as a pronoun, as in “there is always hope.”

“Their” is a plural possessive pronoun, as in “their blog rocks” or “their opinions are right on target.” When using “their” always take the “that’s ours” test. Are you talking about more than one person? Do they possess something? If you can answer yes to both questions, “their” is what you should be using; not “there.”

And that concludes today’s lesson.