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10 Misplaced Modifier Examples

10 Misplaced Modifier Examples

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Misplaced modifier is the syntactical error of misplacing nonessential but supplemental information within a sentence. It is so common among professional writers as well as those who are not paid to write (or for whom writing is not a primary job responsibility) that it is easy to find multiple examples of such a mistake during one’s casual reading of news articles, as demonstrated by the collection of sentences from such sources in this post. Examples are followed by discussion of the error and one or more revisions.

10 Examples

1. Smith said his company won’t tolerate hate groups during his congressional testimony earlier this week.

The implication is that the company will limit its intolerance to the duration of the session during which he gives testimony. Here, the sentence is rephrased to clarify that the intolerance is ongoing: “Smith said during his congressional testimony earlier this week that his company won’t tolerate hate groups.”

2. That’s how many would be needed to reach a two-thirds majority of 288 votes, assuming all Democrats vote “yes,” the margin required for a veto override.

The syntax implies that the assumed Democratic-bloc vote is the margin, but the 288 votes (against the remaining votes) is the margin, so the phrase “assuming all Democrats vote ‘yes’” should be isolated as a parenthetical: “That’s how many would be needed to reach a two-thirds majority of 288 votes—assuming all Democrats vote ‘yes’—the margin required for a veto override.” However, because dashes imply an emphasis, this method seems obtrusive, so placing it in actual parentheses, which suggest subordination of the additional information, is better: “That’s how many would be needed to reach a two-thirds majority of 288 votes (assuming all Democrats vote ‘yes’), the margin required for a veto override.”

This approach, however, is still distracting. Best yet, the parenthetical phrase can be moved to an earlier position in the sentence: “That’s how many would be needed, assuming all Democrats vote ‘yes,’ to reach a two-thirds majority of 288 votes, the margin required for a veto override.”

3. Lessons learned from preparation of the previous year’s statements should be addressed the following year (e.g., any issues encountered in applying new policies).

The recommended action “should be addressed the following year” is the point of the sentence, so it should appear at the end, following the parenthesis: “Lessons learned from preparation of the previous year’s statements (e.g., any issues encountered in applying new policies) should be addressed the following year.”

4. That is where a technology committee can be useful—a smaller, focused board group working with management on long-term digital and innovation strategy.

The portion of the sentence following the dash details what is meant by “technology committee,” so it should immediately follow that term: “That is where a technology committee—a smaller, focused board group working with management on long-term digital and innovation strategy—can be useful.”

5. An attack at the synagogue left eleven people dead, many of them elderly.

“Many of them elderly,” as a phrase modifying people, should immediately follow that word, which also places the sentence’s key word, dead, at the end of the sentence, where it has the most impact: “An attack at the synagogue left eleven people, many of them elderly, dead.”

6. Information on each of these activities is available online, which will help will cultivate real-world experience building, hunting, and analyzing.

The activities themselves, rather than the fact that information on each of them is available online, will be helpful in the cultivation of real-world experience, so the dependent clause, which describes that benefit, should immediately follow activities, not online: “Information on each of these activities, which will help will cultivate real-world experience building, hunting, and analyzing, is available online.”

7. Such systems can only screen those messages that contain a payment instruction.

Misplacement of only in a sentence is rampant, especially in conversation, but in formal writing, the word should follow the verb it modifies. In this sentence, the syntax implies that the systems can screen but can do nothing else; the meaning is that they can screen a certain category of messages but no others, as reflected in this revision: “Such systems can screen only those messages that contain a payment instruction.”

8. Jones said he assumes Smith erased the messages on his phone, not a member of Smith’s staff, and he doesn’t know whether the texts can be recovered.

The placement of the parenthetical here implies that the messages were erased and a person was not erased, but the point of the sentence is that Smith, rather than a member of his staff, did the erasing, as clarified here: “Jones said he assumes Smith, not a member of Smith’s staff, erased the messages on his phone, and he doesn’t know whether the texts can be recovered.”

9. Congress controls federal spending, not the president.

This sentence implies that “federal spending” and “the president” are counterpoints (suggesting that Congress controls federal spending, but it doesn’t control the president); the following revision clarifies that it is Congress and “the president” that are parallel: “Congress, not the president, controls federal spending” (which means that Congress controls federal spending and the president does not).

10. We had known since 1866 that solid objects can reflect radio waves, thanks to German physicist Heinrich Hertz.

The implication here is that we have Hertz to thank for the fact that solid objects can reflect radio waves. However, he is responsible not for the phenomenon, but for our awareness of it. The parenthetical can be reinserted into the sentence in any one of several places, but whatever position it takes, the sentence should end with the key information that solid objects can reflect radio waves: “We had known since 1866, thanks to German physicist Heinrich Hertz, that solid objects can reflect radio waves.”

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Why Teachers Need Plot, Emotion and Story

Why Teachers Need Plot, Emotion and Story

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Students like stories. Teachers know that stories keep their interest. But plot, emotion, character, conflict and theme – the tools of a fiction writer – can be power tools for educators as well.

Having an attitude in class

Learning theorists have taught that students learn when they feel the need to; that in a sense, they create their own learning. Because emotion and character come from who we are, a lesson with a story motivates students to learn. When a problem is part of a story – when it involves people – finding a solution feels more urgent. When a California textbook talks about California earthquakes, California students pay attention. When two geological plates slip past each other and the earth quakes under the ocean, that’s interesting to some students. But when it causes a tsunami and destroys people’s homes, that introduces conflict, plot, and emotion.

Students remember information better in a story form. It helps me remember that Napoleon’s 1812 invasion of Russia was unsuccessful when I imagine how he must have felt afterwards. For one thing, he must have felt cold – which helps me remember the invasion ended in winter.

Even math teachers need plot, emotion, and story. Children can understand a word problem better when there is a story line to it. I may not remember the exact answer to a mathematical word problem about John preparing dinner in the kitchen, but I might remember or estimate whether John ends up with too much or too little. Will John get his fill with two cups of food, or must he squeeze by on only half a cup? When the plot (and a hungry boy) depend on the answer, children are more likely to want to understand it. The story makes the problem more interesting to the student.

If the teacher or textbook takes no attitude toward the subject, students may not bother to take one either, or even pay any attention. The lecturer ends up sounding like a washing machine, and students can tell he or she is probably not trying very hard.

Using emotion to get into college

I remember new vocabulary words because I categorize them according to how they make me feel. I may not know the exact definition of equanimity but I know it’s a happy word. I’m not sure I can define opprobrium either, but I know it’s not a happy word. I didn’t learn either word from a dictionary but from my reading, where I have gathered their general meaning by repeatedly seeing them either in happy or unhappy contexts.

This technique of finding emotion is at the center of the strategy I teach for taking standardized college entrance exams such as the SAT. It works because many verbal test questions are little stories, with plot and emotion.

14. Though many Americans in late 1864 viewed Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation with opprobrium, they greeted the capture of Atlanta with _______________.

a. indifference
b. elation
c. derision
d. trepidation

As long as I have the feeling that opprobrium is not a happy word, I can answer that question correctly even if I hardly understand anything else. I don’t have to know the history of the American Civil War, the role of President Abraham Lincoln, what the Emancipation Proclamation was, or even what, who, or where Atlanta is. I just need to imagine a crowd of Americans in 1864 hearing the latest news.

The key to understanding this class of question is the conjunctive adverb though, which always tells us that the second clause carries a different emotion than the first clause.

Now I know that the answer in the second clause must be a happy word, because the first clause has an unhappy word. So to answer the question correctly, I simply need to choose the happy word from the list. Again, I don’t need to be able to define any of the words in the list, only to recognize whether they are happy words or not. To make the process simple, I mentally translate the question into:

Though the first thingamabob was [not happy], the second thingamabob was __________.

a. not happy
b. happy
c. not happy
d. not happy

I could use the same simplification technique with the conjunction but, as in “The first thingamabob was [attractive, safe, whatever], but the second thingamabob was [the opposite].”

The construction not only… but tells us the opposite of though, that the second clause is giving us more of the same emotion as in the first clause: “Not only was the thingamabob [useful], but it was [very useful, essential].”

I use the slang word thingamabob to mean that it doesn’t even matter what the thing actually is. What matters is the emotion in the clauses. It may sound like a vague technique, but by using it, I have achieved almost perfect scores on similar test sections in the PSAT, SAT, and GRE.

Why tell stories?

History is one of my favorite subjects. Even in elementary school, I would read ahead in my history book – it had stories, after all. But at an earlier point in my life, I didn’t appreciate history. History can be boring when teachers don’t relate facts to human nature. I remember asking a teacher why we needed to study it. I wondered why we needed to learn about events that happened to other people long ago.

My teacher explained that the stories of others can help us when we’re in similar situations. I read about a doctor who never expected to use what he had learned in his History of Medicine class, until he found himself in a prison camp without modern tools and treatments. In times of prosperity, we can draw lessons from other prosperous societies. When hard times come, it’s useful to know how other generations weathered hard times before us.

A story is not just a way to make a lesson more interesting. A story can be the lesson itself. In December 1948, Israeli troops found the main road blocked to the central Egyptian garrison in the Negev desert. But Israeli general Yigael Yadin, an archaeologist by training, knew where a second road was. It had been abandoned thousands of years before, but with a little work, his troops made it through – because their general knew old stories.

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How to Get Started as a Freelance Writer in 6 Simple Steps

How to Get Started as a Freelance Writer in 6 Simple Steps


Would you love to be a freelance writer?

Maybe you’re hoping to make a bit of money on the side of your day job, or you want to find some work that fits around being at home with your kids much of the day. Perhaps you’re hoping to launch a whole new career.

You might well be feeling daunted before you’ve even begun, though. There’s just so much information out there: where do you even start?

These six steps are all you really need in order to get going:

Step #1: Find Out How Self-Employment and Tax Works in Your Country

Before you start freelancing, it’s important to figure out how self-employment (and particularly tax) works in your own country.

You don’t necessarily need to do anything about it right away, but you do need to know what to expect.

Here in the UK for instance, sole traders (the simplest set up for a freelancer) don’t have to register with HMRC (the tax authorities) from the first moment they start freelancing. They do need to be ready to submit a self-employed tax return on time, though – e.g. by the end of January 2020 for the tax year 6th April 2018 – 5th Mar 2019.

If your country isn’t on this list, just search for “register as self-employed” and your country name, and you should find plenty of advice.

Step #2: Create a Gmail Account (for Email and Google Docs)

Do you have an email address that looks something one of these?

[email protected]

[email protected]

I’m sure it goes without saying that those aren’t very professional looking! Even if your email address uses your name (or your pen name), free providers like hotmail and yahoo have a bit of an “unprofessional” reputation.

Gmail is much better regarded, perhaps because it started out being very popular with techy types, and is now so ubiquitous. So I’d recommend setting up a professional looking email address with Gmail, for now – something like [email protected] or [email protected].

One important reason for having a Gmail address is that it also gives you a Google account, which you can use for Google Docs – I find that many clients want to collaborate in this way.

If you prefer to have a really professional looking email address, then you’ll need to register a domain name of your own (e.g. mine is and then set up an email address at that domain (mine is [email protected]).

Step #3: Figure Out What Topics You Want to Write About

Before you go any further with freelancing, it’s a good idea to figure out what you want to write about.

You might think that it’d be best to write about anything and everything, in the hopes you’ll get plenty of work – but the truth is that clients prefer writers who have prior experience in a particular area.

You’ll also probably enjoy freelancing more if you’re writing about topics you’re actually interested in.

When you’re figuring out which topics to focus on, you might want to consider:

  • Your personal life and experiences – e.g. if you’re a parent to school-age children, you could write about pregnancy, babies, toddlers, etc.
  • Your professional life – e.g. if you work in IT, you might want to specialise in technical writing or in writing for blogs that cover techy topics.
  • Your hobbies – e.g. if you love to craft, then you might want to look for blogs about craft or companies that sell craft supplies to write for.

You can switch or add topics as you go forward in your career, but you’ll find it helpful to have some idea of the areas you want to focus on when it comes to the next two steps.

Step #4: (Optional) Create a Website

You don’t have to have a website in order to freelance – so if this is just a step too far right now, then feel free to skip it.

At some point fairly early in your freelancing career, though, you’re going to want to have a web presence. You’ll want somewhere to direct potential customers, whether those are your current contacts, friends of friends, or people who read your guest posts (see Step #5).

If you don’t want to spend any money at this stage, I recommend setting up a free website with (just follow their process step by step). Your website will have “wordpress” in the address, so it’ll look something like

While this isn’t the most professional option out there, plenty of freelancers do just fine with a free WordPress site – and I think it’s absolutely fine when you’re just starting out.

Alternatively, if you’re fairly confident about techy things and if you have a bit of money to invest, I’d recommend purchasing web hosting, registering your own domain name (e.g. and setting up self-hosted WordPress on that site. Most web hosts have a simple “one click” installation process for WordPress, as it’s so popular.

Step #5: Get Some Published Experience

Before you can start landing freelancing clients, you need some experience: published pieces that you can show them as examples of your work.

But how do you get that experience when you don’t have any clients?

One simple way is to write guest posts for large(ish) blogs: a big advantage of these is that your posts will be online, so it’s very easy to send clients a link to them. You can also create a “Portfolio” page on your website with screenshots of and links to your work.

Ideally, you’ll want to target blogs that fit in with the areas you want to write about, so that you’ve got relevant freelancing clips.

Most guest posts are written for free, and although some freelancers feel you should never work for free, I think it makes sense to do so when you’re just starting out. (Don’t spend ages at this stage, though; three to five published pieces should be plenty.)

You’ll almost always get the opportunity to write a “bio” to go along with your guest post (normally at the bottom of it). You can use this to promote your freelancing services, writing something like:

Ali Luke is a freelance writer, specialising in blog content for small businesses. You can find out more about her and her services at

If you want to freelance for magazines or print publications, rather than blogs or websites, then you’ll want to look for ways to get some experience with print.

A good place to look is local free newspapers and magazines – they probably won’t be able to pay, but they’ll likely be very willing to publish your work.

Step #6: Start Finding Clients

If there’s one thing you take away from this post, make it this:

Don’t use content mills.

If you’re not sure what a content mill is, it’s a site where you sign up and get sent writing jobs. They often promise lots of work, or tell you how much writers can make – but the reality is that they pay peanuts.

They often call themselves “article writing services”. Textbroker is a well-known one; Copify and iWriter are other examples.

Content mills can’t afford to pay much, because their main selling point to their clients is that they’re a cheap way to get lots of content.

So where else can you find work?

  • Let family and friends know that you’re freelancing, and tell them what type of work you’re looking for. You never know when someone will know someone…!
  • Look at the ProBlogger jobs boards and Freelance Writing Gigs’ daily round-up of writing work. (There are plenty of other similar job boards online, but I’ve found that between these two, they cover all the good opportunities.)
  • Pitch directly to websites (or magazines, or whatever type of publication you want to write for).
  • Target local clients, perhaps with an ad in a local paper, shop window, or library, or by attending local small business networking events.
  • Browse the website of companies that offer services related to your niche and in case they don’t have a regularly updated blog contact them offering your writing services and explaining the benefits that fresh content would bring to their website.
  • Think beyond writing articles. You can offer services such as crafting email marketing campaigns, writing e-books and reports, website editing and proofreading and so.

Finding your first paying client can feel like a huge hurdle — but once you’ve found one client, more will follow.

In case you want more help, I have a 6-week program that covers all the aspects of getting started as a freelance writer, from improving your writing productivity to landing high-paying gigs, from promoting yourself online to running your freelance business efficiently. The course has been offered for 8 years and over 1300 students enrolled during that time. I offer a complete money back guarantee, and surprisingly no one ever asked for it! In order to celebrate its eighth anniversary we are offering the course for just $29, so check it out here before the promotion ends.


Above all, if you decide to try freelance writing, make sure you persevere. Getting results takes time, as with virtually all endeavors in life, and the biggest mistake I see aspiring freelance writers making is giving up too soon. Hang in there for 6 to 12 months before you evaluate your results.

Good luck!

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26 Feel-Good Words

26 Feel-Good Words

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Some writers neglect the power of emotion when communicating their ideas, valuing logic more than others do, and assuming that everyone thinks like they do – that careful reasoning is enough to convince readers and make points. But even the ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle, who was no enemy of reason, taught that stimulating emotion in your audience can be the key to persuading them. I’ve decided that communication, instead of simply inserting information into my reader’s head, is more like striking a tuning fork that resonates with the tuning fork in my reader’s head. Emotion resonates in a way that logic does not.

Here is a list of words that express powerful, positive emotions. They would fit well in a movie ad or a blurb on the back cover of a novel, two bastions of emotionally persuasive words.

  1. amazing – from a Proto-Germanic word “to confound or confuse” so if you were a Proto-German you might not want to be amazed. But amazing now has a positive connotation of delight and wonder, though it is often used lightly, even when you’re not paralyzed under a weight of marvelous singularity.
  2. appealing – from the Latin for “call,” something that is appealing calls to you or attracts you. A convict would appeal to a judge to reconsider his innocence.
  3. arresting – If you were a fugitive from the criminal justice system, you would avoid anything arresting, that stops you in your tracks. But sometimes it’s nice to be so overwhelmed by a thought or experience that you don’t even move.
  4. astonishing – Related to the modern word stun (as in “stun gun”) and to ancient words for “stupefy, crash, daze, bang.” One synonym is flabbergasting. I had a boss who liked to retort, “I am astonied,” as used in the King James Bible.
  5. astounding – Closely related to stun, it includes the meanings of dazzling and bewildering. An astounding experience goes beyond mere surprise.
  6. attractive – As you might expect, one synonym is magnetic – something that allures or draws you by its own intrinsic power. Often used to describe members of the opposite sex.
  7. awe-inspiring – Literally “breathing awe into.” The word awe once meant “overwhelming dread,” and this compound word preserves some of the dictionary connotation of majesty that awesome has lost.
  8. captivating – Originally it simply meant “making captive,” something that pirates might do to others that you wouldn’t want done to you. But like many words in this list, it now has pleasant connotations: being confronted by something so wonderful that you can’t stop thinking about it.
  9. compelling – When someone compels you, they force you to do something. When something is compelling, it forces you to consider it, as in a compelling argument that makes a lot of sense, or a compelling novel that makes you think.
  10. engaging – From root words for “pledge, promise, secure,” an engaging person or thing makes you want to involve yourself with it and commit yourself to it, similar to the way two people become engaged when they decide to get married. Used in business buzzwords such as “audience engagement” and “product engagement” which involve much less commitment than marriage, though the marketing department might hope it was different.
  11. enticing – Meaning “tempting, alluring,” its roots meant “torch, firebrand.” I suppose that being enticed is like being ignited. You can use the synonym inveigling, but few will know what you mean. You can use the archaic synonym illecebrous, but nobody will know what you mean.
  12. exhilarating – This word exhilarating has the connotation of “invigorating, refreshing, thrilling, exciting.” Unlike awesome, this word has become stronger, not weaker, since the days of Rome. It comes from the Latin roots for “ex-hilarity-ate-ing” so its origin is something like “gladdening,” maybe as in “That thoroughly hilarized me!” That is, it’s related to hilarious, which today means “very funny” but formerly meant “cheerful.”
  13. fascinating – Another happy word with sinister roots, coming from the Latin for “bewitch, enthrall, cast a spell upon.” It refers to something you find so interesting that you’re spellbound or trapped (in a good way).
  14. impressive – Yes, one of its roots is “to press.” An impressive experience makes an unforgettable impression on your mind, as the press at a government mint makes a powerful impression on metal blanks that turns them into coins.
  15. marvelous – A marvelous sight provokes almost uncontrollable wonder in those who see it. From the Latin for “worthy to be looked at.”
  16. memorable – Its Latin root originally meant “worthy of mention,” but it soon changed to “worthy of remembering,” as it means now. A synonym is remarkable, which means “worth noting.”
  17. mind-blowing – Alfred Hitchcock wondered if it involved compressed air. Common in the 1960s and used to describe the effect of hallucinogenic drugs, it carries the sense of an experience so intense or unusual that the human mind is overwhelmed by it.
  18. mind-boggling – First used in the early 1960s, it results in being overwhelmed, dumbfounded, or confused, usually mentally but also emotionally.
  19. overwhelming – If whelm means “to capsize, flood, or engulf,” then overwhelm is even stronger. The power of an overwhelming experience is more than you can handle.
  20. rapturous – It means “blissful, filled with extreme delight.” It comes from a Latin word for “snatched, carried off,” as one might feel during an ecstatic experience. A rapt listener is transported by and absorbed in what he or she is hearing.
  21. refreshing – Literally, “making fresh again,” revitalizing because of its newness. It comes from ancient European words for “fresh,” as you might expect. But these words also have the sense of “sweet, pure.”
  22. riveting – A rivet is a small metal fastener, so a listener would have trouble separating himself from a riveting conversation because it holds their attention so strongly.
  23. staggering – Meaning “reeling, tottering, bewildering.” A drunk man staggers as he walks. Having a truly staggering realization might make it hard to walk straight – it’s so amazing and astonishing that it affects the body.
  24. stunning – Saying a person has stunning beauty means that he or she is so attractive that it causes the viewer to lose strength. That’s usually an exaggeration, but the word does imply amazement and high quality. Related to astonishing.
  25. thrilling – Causing a sudden, intense excitement, even causing shaking or vibrating. Sword clashing against sword is thrilling in that sense.
  26. wondrous – This word is not for ordinary experiences. A wondrous sight is truly amazing, causing deep awe and marvel.

Though these words are all based on emotions, notice that they are also based on verbs – actions that stimulate emotions in my heart that change my behavior or attitude. For example, an amazing event amazes me. An appealing object appeals to me. They are intended to inspire action. You could use most of them as exclamations, putting an exclamation mark after them, though people might look at you oddly if you blurted out, “Oh rapturous!”

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10 Tips to Improve Your Writing Skills

10 Tips to Improve Your Writing Skills


1. Prepare
Absorb information about writing, but don’t overwhelm yourself. I’ve been known to read a writing handbook or editing manual cover to cover, but I recommend reading one chapter or section at a time and absorbing information from online resources in similarly small doses as well. Our website is a good starting point, as it features thousands of posts about specific grammar, syntax, and style topics as well as vocabulary-building posts and more comprehensive posts about writing, editing, and language.

2. Practice
Work on your writing every day. Commit to a daily writing exercise, even if you have only five minutes to spare. If you write for a living, or writing constitutes a significant proportion of your daily tasks at work, still set aside time to practice other forms of composition. Style or subject matter can vary day to day, or you can decide to, for example, respond in writing to something you experienced with any of your five senses (including anything you watched or read by way of a form of media). Alternatively, find a list of writing prompts online, and use the next one on the list each day, or choose one randomly. (Encourage family members or friends—or even coworkers—to join you in producing their own responses.)

3. Engage with Others
Participating in a group learning activity is a great motivator. When you have paid for a class and/or scheduled time for attend classes or workshop sessions, you’re more likely to persevere, and completing assignments and projects will help you establish and/or maintain your writing discipline. If you’re intimidated by a group setting, consider finding a writing partner with whom you can exchange drafts and/or discuss concepts and practice skills, then graduate, on your own or with your partner, to a course or workshop. Alternatively, seek out online courses or groups.

4. Read
Read for education, enjoyment, and enlightenment. For the most part, with recreational reading, just sit back and enjoy yourself. But consider devoting occasional sessions to analytical reading, in which you highlight particularly effective words, phrases, sentences, and paragraphs and think about why they stand out, and apply the techniques to your own writing.

5. Organize
Use organizational techniques such as outlines and diagrams. Brainstorm keywords and essential ideas or plot points. If other forms of creative expression stimulate you, use them: Listen to (or play) music to inspire a certain mood, collect photographs or illustrations of people, places, and things that suggest elements you want to incorporate into an essay or a short story, or draw sketches of characters or settings to help you visualize them.

6. Research and Fact-Check
Whether you’re writing nonfiction or fiction, take care to write authoritatively. If you’re writing a short story or a novel, read about the historical background of the setting to make sure that you are not introducing counterfactual or anachronistic elements. When crafting a newspaper, magazine, or website article, or a blog post, educate yourself on your topic, and double-check quantitative information: proper names; affiliations and relationships; and dates, distances, dollar amounts, and so on.

7. Be Flexible
Write with an open mind. Be flexible about changing the focus of an article or essay or the protagonist or plot of a short story or a novel. Question your assumptions, and accept that your initial goal or message may not be the most effective or useful one, or the one that you are prepared to express just now.

8. Draft
Expect to be dissatisfied by your first draft, and don’t assume that your second draft is your last. Whether you’re writing a blog post or a book manuscript, the initial iteration may only slightly resemble the final draft—which, if you also submit it for editing, will differ from the edited version. Some writers have managed to produce an admirable piece of writing on the first try, but you will very likely spend as much time revising your first draft (and subsequent efforts) as you did producing it, if not more time. Embrace the opportunity to improve your baseline output by reorganizing, inserting, and omitting text; reshaping phrases and sentences; and replacing bland verbs and tired clichés and vague descriptions.

9. Hire an Editor
You’re free to post to your own blog or self-publish your novel without any further mediation, but you will be more successful as a writer if you accept that objective assistance enhances virtually everyone’s prose. Hiring an editor is a significant investment of time and money—editorial attention to a long novel, for example, can cost a couple thousand dollars and take several weeks—but if you find a good editor, the investment will be worth it. (And note that with any other service, you often get what you pay for, so when choosing an editor, focus on quality of results you will obtain rather than quantity of expense you will incur.)

If you can’t afford such an expense, at least ask a friend or acquaintance to go over your writing for you, and perhaps offer to edit something of theirs in exchange or to provide a service of similar monetary value (dog walking or pet sitting, clerical or organizational assistance, repair or construction, and so on) in return. Just understand that assistance from someone on the basis of acquaintance is less likely to be either objective or of professional caliber. Choose an editor who knows what they are doing and will not hesitate to provide revisions and critiques at the risk of damaging your ego.

10. Practice Humility
Perhaps you were praised at home and/or at school for your writing, or you have won one or more writing awards, or you have had articles or stories (or even books) published. Any or all of those achievements constitute a good start. But you are still developing as a writer, and you always will be. Continue to practice these habits and welcome other opportunities to grow functionally and creatively as a writer.

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Polysyndeton: What it Means, and Examples of How to Use It

Polysyndeton: What it Means, and Examples of How to Use It

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You might well never have heard of polysyndeton before, but you’ve almost certainly seen it in action. Here’s an example:

“At the weekend, we went to the park and the fair and the swimming pool and the movie theatre.”

Polysyndeton means repeating conjunctions when you don’t need them. Here’s how The Write Practice defines it:

“Polysyndeton is a literary technique in which conjunctions (e.g. and, but, or) are used repeatedly in quick succession, often with no commas, even when the conjunctions could be removed.”

Polysyndeton tends to slow the reader down, and it also has the effect of making each item listed in the sentence appear to have equal weight. (In regular writing – which uses syndeton – the final item can often seem more important or significant, due to it getting a conjunction rather than a comma.)

Here are some more examples, using different conjunctions:

“Want a sandwich? You could have ham or cheese or salad or salami.”

“I went to the shop but they were out of potatoes but I looked for pasta instead but there was none but I did find some rice.”

Effects of Polysydenton (and Examples)

Depending on the language with which it’s used, polysyndeton can:

#1: Give a breathless or excited feel to the writing:

Mrs. Hurst and her sister allowed it to be so—but still they admired her and liked her, and pronounced her to be a sweet girl, and one whom they would not object to know more of.

(From Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen)

#2: Help create the effect of a child’s voice:

He was caught in the whirl of a scrimmage and, fearful of the flashing eyes and muddy boots, bent down to look through their legs. The fellows were struggling and groaning and their legs were rubbing and kicking and stamping.

(From A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, James Joyce)

#3: Pile things together so that the overall effective is numbing or distancing:

I said, “Who killed him?” and he said, “I don’t know who killed him but he’s dead all right,” and it was dark and there was water standing in the street and no lights and windows broke and boats all up in the town and trees blown down and everything all blown and I got a skiff and went out and found my boat where I had her inside Mango Key and she was all right only she was full of water.

(From “After the Storm”, a short story by Ernest Hemingway)

#4: Add Weight or Gravity to the Words

Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.

(Unofficial motto of the US postal office)

Asyndeton: The Opposite of Polysyndeton

The opposite of polysydeton is asyndeton, where conjunctions are omitted altogether – meaning there’s no final “and” or “or” in a sentence.

The third sentence here is a good example:

Night gathers, and now my watch begins. It shall not end until my death. I shall take no wife, hold no lands, father no children.

(From the oath made by the Night’s Watch in Game of Thrones)

Examples of Polysyndeton in Speeches

As well as being used in writing, polysyndeton (and its opposite, asyndeton) can be used as a rhetorical device when giving a speech.

Both affect the rhythm and speed of a sentence, so they’re particularly suited to making listeners pay special attention to the words.

Here are a few examples of polysyndeton used in speeches:

In years gone by, there were in every community men and women who spoke the language of duty and morality and loyalty and obligation.

(William F. Buckley, founder of National Review)

We will build new roads, and highways, and bridges, and airports, and tunnels, and railways all across our wonderful nation.

(President Trump, inaugural address)

I ask you to look back on your moments of powerlessness. Look back to that moment where you had to get on your knees and scrub and sweep and mop and wax and buff and buff and buff and rebuff, and buff again, a floor that someone was going to walk on and probably scuff two minutes later. That feeling is what it is to be human.

Humble yourself and accept your humanity – and don’t deny it in others. When you lead your people, exude that understanding of a struggle and a fight – and fight for them, and be for them.

(DeCarol Davis, U.S. Coast Guard Academy Cadet Commencement Address)


You’ve probably come across plenty of examples of polysydenton in things you’ve read or heard – and you may well have used it in your own writing.

Now you know what it is, look out for opportunities to use it more consciously, to achieve specific effects in your work.

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List of Prefixes and Suffixes and their Meanings

List of Prefixes and Suffixes and their Meanings

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This post lists prefixes, suffixes, and their meanings. (Many scientific and mathematical prefixes have been omitted.) Groups of one or more definitions after a prefix that are separated by a semicolon stem from different senses of the prefix. Note, too, that some prefixes share the spelling of distinct words (for example, under) or have been coined as distinct words themselves by omitting the base word when that word is implied (for example, hyper). Many prefixes have variants that are used depending on context or, often, on the first letter of the base word.

List of Prefixes

a- or an-: at, in or in the process of, on; not, without
acro- or acr-: beginning, end, height, peak, summit, tip, top
ad- or (first sense only)
ac-, af-, ag-, al-, ap-, as-, or at-: to, toward; adjacent to, near
aero-: air, atmosphere, aviation, gas
after-: following, lower, rear, resulting
ambi-: both
ante-: before, forward, prior or prior to
anti- or ant- or anth-: against, alleviating, curing, opposed, opposite, preventing
arch- or (second sense only) arche- or archi-: chief, extreme, principal; original, primary, primitive
auto- or aut-: automatic, same one, self or self-acting
bi- or (second sense only) bio-: between, double, two, twice; biographical, life
chrono- or chron-: time
circum-: about, around
co-: alternate, deputy, fellow, in or to the same degree, joint, partner, together, with
com-, col-, or con-: jointly, together, with
contra-: against, contrary, contrasting
counter-: against, complementary, contrary, corresponding, duplicate, opposing, retaliatory, substitute
crypto- or crypt-: coded, covered, hidden
cyber-: pertaining to computers or computer networks
de-: derived from something, do the opposite, get off of, reduce, remove from, reverse of, something derived from
di- or (first sense only) dia-: containing two, double, twice, twofold: daytime
dis-: absence or opposite of, completely, deprive of, do the opposite of, exclude or expel from, not
dys-: abnormal, bad, difficult, impaired
en- or em-: cause to be, cover, go in or into, provide with, put into or onto, so as to cover, thoroughly
epi-: after, attached to, besides, outer, over, upon
extra-: beyond, outside
extro-: outward
fore-: at or in front, before, earlier
geo-: earth, ground, soil
hetero- or heter-: different, other
homo- or hom-: alike, homosexual, one and the same, similar
hyper-: above, beyond, excessive
hypo- or hyp-: beneath, down, less than usual, under
in-, il-, im-, or ir-: not; before, in or into, on, toward, within
infra-: below, within
inter-: among, between, between the limits of, carried on between, derived from two or more, existing between, in the midst of, involving, located between, occurring between, reciprocal or reciprocally, shared by, within
intra-: between layers of, during, within
intro-: in, into, inward, within
macro-: large, long
mal-: abnormal or abnormally, bad or badly, inadequate or inadequately
mega- or megal- or megalo-: great, large, million, surpassing
meta-: after, behind, beyond, change, later, transcending, transformation
micro- or micr-: abnormally small, millionth, minute, pertaining to a minute qualities or a small area, small
mid-: in the middle or the midst
mini-: briefer, smaller
mis- or (second sense only) miso-: bad or badly, opposite of, not, suspiciously, unfavorably, wrong or wrongly; hatred
mono- or mon-: alone, one, single
multi-: many, many times over, more than one or two, multiple, much
neo- or ne-: new, recent
noct-, nocti-, or nocto-: night or during the night
non-: absence of, lacking, not, other than, reverse of, unimportant, worthless
omni-: all, universally
over-: excessive, surpassing
para- or par-: abnormal, accessory, almost, alongside of, aside from, beside, beyond, faulty, related, resembling, subsidiary; parachute
ped-, (first sense only) pedi-, or pedo-: base, foot; child or childhood
philo- or phil-: attracted to, enjoying, loving, requiring
phono- or phon-: sound, speech, voice
photo- or phot-: light, radiant energy
poly-: excessive, increased, many, much, multiple, several
post-: after, behind, following, later, posterior, subsequent
pre-: anterior to, before, beforehand, earlier than, in advance, in front of, preparatory to, prerequisite to, prior to
pro-: anterior, before, earlier than, in front of, precursory, prior to, projecting, rudimentary; championing, favoring, substituting for, supporting
proto-: beginning, first, giving rise to, primary
pseudo- or pseud-: false, spurious, substitute, temporary, related, resembling
re-: again, anew, back, backward
semi-: half in quantity or time, or halfway through, incomplete or incompletely, partly, similar to
sub-: almost, below, beneath, nearly, secondary, somewhat, subordinate, under,
super-, supero-, or supra-: above, exceeding, extra, higher, more than, on, over and above, superior, surpassing, transcending
sym- or syn-: at the same time, the same, together, united, with or along with
thermo- or therm-: heat, thermoelectric
tele- or (second sense only) tel- or telo-: distant; completion, end
trans-: across, beyond, changed, through, transferred
tri-, tripl-, tripla-, tripli-, or triplo-: into thirds, every third, three, thrice
ultra-: beyond, transcending
un-: contrary to, not, opposite of; deprive of, release, remove, reverse
under-: below, beneath, facing downward, lower, short of, subjected, subordinate
uni-: one, single

List of Suffixes

A suffix is an addition of one or more letters to the end of a word in order to change its grammatical function. One type of suffix, the grammatical, or inflectional, suffix, changes a word’s grammatical properties, as when an s is added to a noun to make it plural (for example, in the change to walk between “Take a walk” and “Take walks”) or to a verb when converting it to one applicable to the third person (for example, the change between “I walk” to “He walks”) or to indicate past tense (for example, the change between “I walk” to “I walked”).

However, suffix usually refers to a derivational, or lexical suffix, which is attached to a word to change its function, either to another part of speech or to the same part of speech but with a distinct meaning. This post lists many common derivational suffixes, which are categorized according to which part of speech the suffix indicates.

Noun Suffixes
-acy: quality or state
-al: action or process of
-ance or -ence: action or process, quality or state, amount or degree (-ance only)
-ant: agent or performer, or a thing that prompts an action or process, or one connected with or thing acted upon
-dom: office or those having an office, place or state
-er or -or: one that is, or does or performs; one associated with or belonging to; one that has, produces, or yields; one that lives in or is from (-er only); activity or condition (-or only)
-ess: female
-hood: character, condition, quality, or state, or individuals sharing a condition or state; instance or period
-ics: knowledge, study, practice, or skill; discrimination or prejudice; condition, property, or state; characteristic actions or activities, or characteristic operations, phenomena, or qualities
-ism: act, practice, or process; manner of action or behavior; belief, doctrine, religion, theory, or adherence to one; characteristic or peculiar feature or trait
-ist: one that performs a specific action, specializes in a job or skill, or adheres to and/or advocates a code or doctrine
-ite: adherent or follower, descendant, or native or resident, product; part or segment; fossil, mineral, or rock
-ity or -ty: degree, quality, state
-kind: category
-like: characteristic of or resembling
-lore: something learned, traditional belief or knowledge, body of knowledge, or tradition
-ment: agent, object, or result; means or instrument; action or place of an action, or process; state or condition
-ness: condition, degree, quality, or state
-oid: something resembling
-ology or -logy: branch of learning or study of a subject, or a narrative, thing said, or way of speaking
-ship: condition, quality, or state; dignity, office, or profession; art or skill; one entitled to a designation or embodying or exhibiting a quality or state; body of people engaging in an activity
-sion or -tion: quality

Verb Suffixes
-ate: become
-en: become
-ify or -fy: become or make
-ize or -ise: become

Adjective Suffixes
-able or -ible: capable of being
-al: characterized by, of, relating to
-ant: being, performing or prompting
-er: more than
-esque: in a manner of, resembling
-ful: notable for
-ic or -ical: having the character or form of
-ious or -ous: characterized by
-ish: having the quality of
-ist: characteristic of, of, relating to
-ive: having the nature of
-less: without
-oid: resembling
-y: characterized by

Adverb Suffixes
-er: more than
-est: most
-ily or -ly: quality, related to
-ward or -wards: direction
-wise: in relation to

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Review: James Patterson’s MasterClass Course on Writing

Review: James Patterson’s MasterClass Course on Writing


If you’ve not come across MasterClass before, it’s a very slick website that offers courses from some huge names in the world of writing (and in quite a few other fields too).

Their course tutors include Dan Brown, Margaret Atwood, Judy Bloom, Malcolm Gladwell, R.L Stine, and Neil Gaiman: a truly impressive line-up that you’d probably pay a hefty fee to see speak in real life.

Each course is structured as a set of short video lessons, and these lessons are normally around 10 minutes long (though they vary from 5 minutes to about 25 minutes). There are around twenty videos within each course.

I took James Patterson’s class, so I’ll be talking mainly about that here. As you’ll see from my explanation of the pricing in a moment, though, MasterClass is definitely better value if you want to take several of their classes rather than just one.


MasterClass isn’t especially cheap: $90 for a single class (lifetime access), or $180/year for the All-Access Pass.

If you want to take two classes within a year, you might as well go for the All-Access Pass and get every other class thrown in for free.

(Note that if you do opt to purchase a single class, you can later upgrade for full access, by paying the difference for the first year (i.e. $90) then the standard annual fee of $180.)

There’s definitely a push by MasterClass toward the All-Access-Pass: if you click to buy a single pass, you’ll be shown the All-Access-Pass option very prominently, and if you own a single class, you’ll see an “upgrade” prompt whenever you log in.

You can also choose to give a MasterClass or an All-Access-Pass as a gift to a writer friend.

I’d personally have liked to see the individual classes priced more cheaply, as it seems like they’re priced quite high to drive aspiring writers to pay for a $180/year subscription.

James Patterson’s MasterClass

I picked James Patterson’s MasterClass to try out, as I’ve heard quite a lot about it (both good and bad!) – plus he is, according to MasterClass, the world’s number one bestselling author.


As with all MasterClasses courses, James Patterson’s is very professionally produced. The video and audio quality is superb, the accompanying .pdfs are nicely designed, and the interface is very easy to use to navigate between lessons.

Patterson is friendly and personable, and I enjoyed listening to him chat about writing – it reminded me of listening to keynote speakers at writing conferences over the years. He’s cheerful and not too serious about the whole process of writing, too.

The lessons cover the whole novel writing process from coming up with an idea to getting published and marketing your book, taking in all the usual things you’d expect on the way: coming up with a plot, creating characters, writing a great first line, and so on.

It also includes a look at some less-discussed areas of writing, like collaborating with a co-author and what happens when Hollywood takes an interest in your story.

What’s Great About the Course

It’s James Patterson! For many aspiring writers, that’s enough to sell them on the course. If you enjoy hearing writers talk about their writing process, then you’ll probably have a great time watching all the videos.

The course production values are high: the videos are shot in high-definition, with great audio. I’ve bought online courses that cost more and that had considerably lower quality videos. I particularly liked that the videos were subdivided into “chapters”, making it easy to find my place if I needed to stop watching part-way through a video.

The course is divided into individual lessons, which are all fairly short – making it easy to work through it in bite-sized chunks. There are plenty of good tips along the way: I felt that all Patterson’s advice was solid (for instance, he advises against writing highly realistic dialogue – advice that I’d definitely agree with).

If you enjoy interacting with fellow course members, there’s the option to do that with a comments thread beneath each lesson – though since the course is permanently available, you may find that many of the discussion posts are old or go unanswered.

What’s Not So Great About the Course

The course is only supplied in streaming video format: I’d have liked a downloadable audio version, and I’d have loved to have a transcript for easy skimming.

I got the impression that this course was created by someone asking Patterson to share whatever was on his mind about a particular topic or theme – then it was cut up and stitched into lessons afterward. (You can see this in action at times: e.g. in Lesson 2, location changes at the “Believe in yourself” point). Personally, I’d have preferred a less chatty, more tightly scripted approach to the lessons.

The course covers a huge range of advice – and that means that you don’t get much depth on any particular area. I’ve read whole books on, say, editing – which is covered in here in a 9-minute-long lesson. The same goes for topics like writing dialogue (covered in 10 minutes here) and on getting published (covered in 11 minutes – I’ve seen whole weekend courses run on this topic).

That’s not to say that these materials aren’t valuable – but if you’ve already got half-a-dozen writing-related books on your shelf, or you’ve been to a few talks about “writing a novel”, you may well find you’re not learning anything especially new.

Should You Give MasterClass a Try?

If you’d love to hear some amazing writers talk about their craft (and teach you about what they’ve learned along the way), do give MasterClass a look. The All-Access-Pass isn’t cheap, but well worth saving for if you want to take more than one class … just watch out for the yearly resubscription.

I found it really interesting to hear James Patterson talk about writing, but if you just want to purchase the one class, you may decide that the $80 price tag is a bit much! Unless you particularly enjoy learning from watching videos, you might prefer to spend a lot less and buy two or three good books on writing instead.

MasterClass does have a 30 day money back guarantee period, though, so if you try it and decide it’s not worth the money for you, you can always get your money back.


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8 Great Podcasts for Writers and Book Authors

8 Great Podcasts for Writers and Book Authors


There is a lot of writing advice out there.

Perhaps you’ve signed up to read lots of blogs by email, you’ve bought some great writing-related books, and you still feel like something’s missing.

Or maybe your reading time is limited: you can’t very well scroll through blogs while you’re driving to work, for instance.

That’s when podcasts come in. Whether you’re looking for encouragement or instruction, podcasts are a great way to get writing advice (often from award-winning and/or bestselling authors) in a way that fits around daily life.

Maybe you could listen to a podcast on your commute, or while you’re working out at the gym, or while you’re doing the dishes or other household chores. (A lot of my own podcast listening happens while I tidy up my kids’ toys and craft activities!)

If you prefer to read rather than listen, or if you’re looking to quickly glean specific bits of information, then look for podcasts that have a transcript, or at least detailed show notes.

Here are eight great ones to try. They’re in no particular order: all of these offer excellent advice, and I’ve tried to indicate which might suit different types of writer.

#1: Bestseller, from Reedsy

Frequency: roughly weekly while the season is running

Average length: 20 minutes

Transcript available: no

Best for: self-publishers, novelists

This is a slick, professionally produced podcast from Reedsy, which describes itself as a “full ecosystem for authors and publishing professionals”: they offer classes, contests, and a marketplace where you can connect with editors, ghostwriters and other professionals.

The short first season of their podcast covers the various stages of self-publishing a book, from understanding the writing process to going to market, and features Shaz Kahn talking about her experience of being a first time self-publisher.

If you’re thinking of self-publishing, it’s definitely a good one to listen to. There aren’t too many episodes (six, at the time of writing) and they’re short, so you can easily listen to the whole thing. There’s no transcript, though, and only a few words for the show notes … so if you’d rather read than listen, this might not be the best podcast for you.

#2: The Creative Penn (Joanna Penn)

Frequency: weekly

Average length: 60 – 70 minutes

Transcript available: yes (for the interview portion of the episode)

Best for: fiction-writers; writers who are interested in self-publishing

Most weeks, Joanna Penn interviews an author or expert on a particular topic; occasionally, she does a solo episode. Her focus is on self-publishing, but she covers a huge range of topics related to this, and has some episodes that focus on crafting fiction and others that look at topics that are more about the process of living a creative life (e.g. How Play Can Help You Overcome Anxiety And Become More Creative With Charlie Hoehn).

Joanna starts each episode by talking about how her own writing and publishing is going, and then covers industry news for the past week, before going into the interview itself, which is the main part of the podcast. The first sections of the podcast aren’t transcribed, but the interview itself is.

#3: I Should Be Writing (Mur Lafferty)

Frequency: monthly

Average length: 20 minutes

Transcript available: yes

Best for: fiction writers; beginners

Way back in 2006, I’d just finished university and was working on a novel. I used to listen to Mur Lafferty’s fun, inspiring podcast, I Should Be Writing. At that point, she was podcasting her first novel, Playing for Keeps, a chapter at a time.

Fast forward thirteen years, and Mur is now an award-winning podcaster who’s written a whole bunch of different things. She also has her own Wikipedia page: something that I think many writers aspire to!

In her podcast, she talks honestly about her own writing and experiences. If you’re looking for a shot of writing inspiration or just want to virtually hang out with someone who “gets” what it’s like to be a writer, give it a try. If you’d prefer something more advanced, that deals with specific writing problems, then try Mur’s other podcast Ditch Diggers instead.

#4: Helping Writers Become Authors (K.M. Weiland)

Frequency: three times a month

Average length: 15 – 20 minutes

Transcript available: yes (the podcast is a read-aloud version of K.M.’s blog posts)

Best for: fiction writers

Author K.M. Weiland offers fantastic, detailed advice on the craft of writing fiction on her blog. Her podcast is part of the blog, and each episode has a short introduction then an audio version of a blog post (if you’d rather listen to a blog post than read it, you can find the audio link at the bottom). The posts/episodes cover broad topics about writing/creativity like 6 Lifestyle Changes You Can Make to Protect Creativity and specific ones like Tips for How to Choose the Right Sentences.

If you like podcasts that are focused on giving focused, actionable advice, rather than ones that are more like hanging out with writers as they chat, then K.M.’s is a great option for you. Each episode covers a topic in-depth, but doesn’t last longer than 20 minutes. If you prefer to read rather than listen, then simply read the blog post versions of her podcast episodes instead of subscribing to the podcast itself.

#5: The Portfolio Life (Jeff Goins)

Frequency: weekly

Average length: 30 – 40 minutes

Transcript available: no

Best for: writers looking for inspiration and encouragement

Some episodes of this podcast involve Jeff interviewing an author or expert; others are Jeff sharing his own experience and expertise with the audience. The podcast mainly focuses on writing, though there’s also a broader look at creativity in some episodes – e.g. How to Use Time to Be Your Most Creative.

Although there isn’t a transcript as such, the episodes have a blog post version too, that’s a shorter, more succinct version of the podcast – so if you prefer to read, stick with the blog posts. In both the podcasts and the posts, Jeff is always both encouraging and realistic about the creative process and life as a writer, and offers a mix of practical advice and reassuring words.

#6: Writing Excuses (Multiple Hosts)

Frequency: weekly

Average length: 15 minutes

Transcript available: yes, indexed here

Best for: fiction writers

This long-running podcast is hosted by several different writers and covers a wide range of writing topics, in short episodes because (according to their tagline) “fifteen minutes long, because you’re in a hurry, and we’re not that smart”.

Sometimes, it’s a discussion on a particular topic between the hosts, and sometimes they have a guest to interview. It’s a very informal, chatty show and some episodes are more focused than others – but if you want something fun to listen to while you’re doing the dishes or folding the laundry, it’s a great choice.

Some of the episodes are really specific (e.g. they have one on writing Characters Who Are Smarter Than You Are and they did several on space travel recently), so it’s well worth a dig through their very extensive archives to see if they have something that tackles the exact question you have about your novel-in-progress.

#7: The Self Publishing Show (Mark Dawson and James Blatch)

Frequency: weekly

Average length: 50 minutes

Transcript available: yes

Best for: self-publishers

On this podcast, Mark Dawson – a highly experienced and successful self-publishing novelist – and James talk to various authors and experts about different aspects of self-publishing and marketing. Each episode has both video and audio, and they’re nicely produced: while Mark and James are chatty and friendly, the focus is always on drawing out lots of detailed information from interviewees.

The episodes cover a range of different topics, from the nuts and bolts of things like cover design and using Facebook live, to more big-picture ones like The Entrepreneur Mindset. Each episode includes show notes with “this week’s highlights”, so you can take a look at a few in the archive and decide which ones would be useful to listen to.

There are occasional “Masterclass” episodes, where Mark (interviewed by James) talks about a particular topic in detail: Masterclass: Amazon Ads – What’s Working Right Now is a good example.

#8: Writers on Writing (Barbara DeMarco-Barrett)

Frequency: weekly

Average length: 55 – 60 minutes

Transcript available: no

Best for: fiction writers focused on their craft

This podcast is a radio show that offers a more literary take on writing, talking to authors about their books, process and craft (rather than covering topics like self-publishing and entreprenurship). They have some impressively big name authors like Liane Moriarty appearing as guests on the show – you can find a list of upcoming guests here.

As well as talking to authors, they invite on editors and literary agents: for instance, they had LA agent Betsy Amster on in December. So if you’re looking for help with cover letters or insights into the publishing world, this could be a great podcast for you.

There aren’t any transcripts, and the show notes are very brief, but do have a dig through the archives as the show has some consistently interesting, detailed episodes – think of them a bit like attending a talk at a writing festival or conference.

Podcasts can be an easy way to learn about specific topics … or to virtually hang out with some great writers while you’re getting on with the more mundane tasks in life. Try some of the ones on this list, or share your own favourite writing podcasts with us in the comments.

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Original post: 8 Great Podcasts for Writers and Book Authors

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8 Great Writing Tips for Kids

8 Great Writing Tips for Kids


I’m 33 now (which feels very old!) but I’ve loved writing since I was a kid myself. The very first story I remember writing was about a mouse, when I was five or six. I spent a lot of time writing stories throughout my childhood, and I had a go at my first novel when I was thirteen.

Writing has always been one of my favourite things to do … and for the last ten years, it’s been what I’ve done for a living.

When I was at school, a lot of the writing I did was as part of my school work. At school, your teachers are probably keen for you to know lots of things about writing – like where to put commas, and what nouns and verbs are, and so on.

There are lots of great tips out there about how to get things like that right, and I’ll link to some of those for you in this post. I wanted to focus on some tips, though, about enjoying writing and having fun with it … and about becoming a better writer overall (not just a better speller)!

Here are my best tips on how to keep growing and improving as a writer, however young you are:

#1: Have a go at some writing exercises – you can find lots of these online, or you could have a go at them in workbooks or school books. Lots of adults find writing exercises helpful, too, so that they can get better at writing. You can find some great ones to try here [LINK].

#2: Read a lot. Almost every writer I know is also a keen reader. Try to read a wide range of different things – like classic story books as well as modern ones, non-fiction (factual) books, magazine or newspaper articles, and so on. You’ll come across lots of different ways to write, and you might learn some new words.

#3: Keep a little book of new words you learn. Don’t be embarrassed if you don’t understand a word the first time you read it. Sometimes you can guess from the rest of the sentence what it means, but if not, you can just look it up in a dictionary – [[LINK TO AN ONLINE DICTIONARY]]. You might want to ask an adult how to say the new word, too – you could write down how it sounds. For instance, “matron” is pronounced “may-tron” (with a long “a” sound) not “mah-tron” (with a short “a” sound), which is how I thought it was said when I first read it in an Enid Blyton story.

#4: Try writing stories for children younger than you, or stories that involve children younger than you. This is a great thing to do when you’re still quite young yourself, because you can remember what it’s like to be six or seven. (Adult writers find it hard to remember, and often they create young children characters who are too babyish for their age.) If you have a little brother or sister, or a younger cousin, you could read your stories out to them.

#5: Remember that even adults don’t get things right first time. Sometimes I get a spelling wrong, or I write a sentence that’s confusing for my reader. And I’m a professional writer! It’s fine to make mistakes, so don’t worry about getting everything perfect in your first draft. Just make sure you leave a bit of time to go back and edit afterwards (just like adult writers do) so that you can fix any mistakes.

#6: Have a go at different types of writing. When I was young, I like to make pretend magazines or newspapers. That’s something that children have enjoyed doing for a very long time – in one of my favourite classic children’s books, The Story of the Treasure Seekers by E. Nesbit, the children in the story make their own newspaper filled with things they’ve written. Maybe you could have a go at making a newspaper to share with your family and friends – or maybe you’d like to write poetry or a play script, or something else entirely.

#7: Keep a journal about your day to day life. There are lots of ways to do this – you could write a sentence or two each day, for instance, or you could write a longer piece once a week. You could write about what you’re learning at school, who your friends are, the games you’ve been playing … even what you had for lunch! Details that might seem boring now could be really interesting when you read your journal when you’re 20 or 30 or even 80!

#8: Ask for help if you get stuck. If there’s something you don’t understand in what you’re reading, or if you can’t work out if something you’ve written is quite right, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Most adults will be very glad to give you a hand. You could try a teacher, or a librarian (either at your school library or your local library). If you get to meet any adult writers, perhaps through school or at an event, think up some good questions for them too!

I hope you have lots of fun with your writing. It can feel like there’s a lot to get right, but (outside of school time) the most important thing is that you enjoy writing. I hope the ideas above help you to get even more out of writing. If you’ve got any tips of your own, why not share them with us in the comments?

You are subscribed to the free version, which is delivered only twice per week, contains ads and doesn’t include exercises. Pro subscribers receive our tips daily, with no ads and with interactive exercises. Click here to activate your Pro subscription today!

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Original post: 8 Great Writing Tips for Kids

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