Basic Writing Techniques

There are basically four factors important to qualify any writing as good: grammaticality, acceptability, semantics, and elegance.

Grammaticality

One must learn the rules and the conventions of writing in English. Prominent of the rules are:

(i) Concord (agreement between the subject and the verb). Singular count noun cannot be used as the subject in a sentence unless it is pluralised or used after an article.
(ii) Pronoun Antecedent
(iii) The rule of plurality and singularity, e.g. “focus – foci”, “datum – data”.
(iv) Tense system of the English Language. For example, future tense (represented by “will” and “shall”) is obsolete. There are various ways of expressing futurity. Example: “My plane leaves Heathrow in ten minutes time”.
(v) Punctuation (the use of initial capital letter after terminal punctuation marks – full stop, question and exclamation marks; leaving a space – dent – to start a paragraph; pronoun “I” or capital “I”). Comma is the most abused punctuation mark.

Of all the language arts, the most difficult is writing. Wrong use of punctuation can change the intended meaning and the sentence structure.

(vi) Spelling – there is a lot of irregularities and inconsistencies in the English spelling system.

Acceptability

This has to do with what you are writing and where, to whom you are writing, the relationship you have with the person, and who the reader is. In other words, what the subject matter is, who is going to read it, and what their reaction is. The acceptability of one’s piece of writing depends on the following:

(vii) Choice of words (diction): Don’t raise sentiments; don’t be quick to condemn others; don’t rub it in; avoid vulgar or offensive words; don’t be ethnicity in, etcetera.
(viii) Answering Questions: In exam setting, ensure you look for instructions and read to understand. Read all the questions.

Semantics

The writing must be meaningful and logical. The words used must tally with each other. Much of this involves coherence and cohesion.

Elegance/Style of Writing

Students should aim first for lucidity and correctness, and use sentences that obey the rules of grammar, use coordinators to link simple sentences. There is a matter of diction or word choice. Students must have vocabularies that are sophisticated and supple that can be used to express complex ideas. Students must go beyond words that draw generality. They must avoid awkward and annoying repetition of words. Most essay sentences must follow the subject-verb-object structure. Simplistic vocabulary and sentence structure will produce boring college writing.

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About Ridwan Adédèjì 178 Articles
Ridwan Olánrewájú Adédèjì is a Nigerian anglicist and writer with critical interest in English Grammar and African Literature. He has a Bachelor of Arts in English (in view) from a university in Ife. Some of his creative writings can be found on his blog, Ridwan Adedeji.

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