College of Foreign Languages Zou Xiaoling 2003
Basic Writing Skills
A. Manuscript Form Note: work carefully, write neatly and clearly; proofread it once or twice.
  1. Arrangement Title: write in the middle of the first line capitalize words. No period in use except for question mark.

  2. Word Division. When do it, pay attention to syllables and the form of the word. No division for people’s name, etc.
  3. Capitalization. Mainly used at three places: 1> the first words of sentences; 2> key words in title; 3> proper names (eg: Labour Day, Hyde Park, Changan Street)

  4. Punctuation (for general rules) Period (full stop), comma, semicolon , question mark, quotation mark, exclamation mark, colon, dash. usage of punctuation in direct speech. Eg:
  1) She said,” We have decided to take the examination.”
  2)“ We have decided to take the examination,” she said.
  3)“ We have decided,” she said,” to take the examination.”

  5. Handwriting. 1> Cross out a word: draw a thick line across it. 2> Write in wrong spelling: cross it out and add the correct one behind. 3> Add a word: write it above, with a clear sign to show where to insert. 4> Write letters clearly: a-o-u, n-u-v-r, t-e.
B. Diction (the choice and use of words)

  1. Words 1> different levels: formal, common, colloquial. Solution: more often than not use common words.
2> meaning. One word has both denotative (literal) and connotative (implied) meaning. Eg: country, nation, state, land. No two words with exactly the same meaning. Similar words with different collocations. Eg: amount, number, quantity. Solution: grasp the exact meaning of a word and its proper usage.
3> general and specific words. general words: long, big. give no deep impression, not vivid. specific words: exact in meaning, make writing lively when used often. Solution: use more specific words than general words. Eg: laugh; smile, grin, beam, giggle, snigger,chuckle, sneer.
general: Students do many interesting things after classes. specific: Every morning and afternoon the sports fields are alive with energetic students. Football and basketball matches, volleyball, badminton, and track-training are all in full swing. Even the alleyways under the trees and around the flower beds provide enough space for enthusiasm to practice. Through the windows comes the pitterpatter of ping-pong balls, the sound of songs and music, or laughter and discussion.

  2. Idioms: try to use them to make your writing more touching.
  3. Figures of speech: simile, metaphor, personification, irony. Eg: Her rich relatives rained birthday presents on her only son. Wrong ideas may harm a man just like diseases. The storm was so angry that it wanted to destroy everything in its way.
The leaves are trembling in the cold wind. On hearing that he had been admitted to that famous university, he whispered to himself, “I’m the luckiest man in the world.” The picture of those poor people’s lives was carved so sharply in his heart that he could never forget it.
C. The Sentence.

  1. Complete sentences and sentence fragments. Fragment: It was raining hard, they could not work in the fields. Revised:It was raining hard; they could not work in the fields. It was raining hard. They could not work in the fields. It was raining so hard that they couldn't’t work in the fields. It was raining hard, so they could not work in the fields. They could not work in the fields, because it was raining.
Fragment: A girl sitting at the beach. Revised: A girl is sitting at the beach. Fragment: Because money can bring us what we need. Revised: This is true because money can bring us what we need.

  2. Types of Sentences. 1> Declarative, interrogative, imperative and exclamatory sentences. 2> Simple, compound, complex and compoundcomplex sentences. Simple: Short simple sentences are often used to make emphatic or important statements. Compound: and, but, or, etc. Complex: one main clause with one or more subordinate clauses.
Long complex sentences express complex ideas clearly and accurately, for they have rooms for all kinds of modifiers.
Eg: The boy who sends letters and newspapers to neighbors is Tom’s brother.
Notes: When writing a narration, use simple or compound more than complex to make language light and lively. When writing an argumentation, uses of complex sentence can make writing more forceful and proving.
3> Short and long sentences. Short: emphatic, suitable for the presentation of important facts and ideas. Long: capable of expressing complex ideas with precision, suitable for the explanation of views and theories, or the description of things with many details. Long sentences are common in legal, political and theoretical writing. In fiction long sentences are sometimes used to describe a person, a thing or a scene.

  3. Effective sentences. 1> Unity: A unified sentence expresses a single complete thought. It does not contain ideas that are not closely related, nor does it express a thought that is not complete by itself. faulty: Born in a small town in South China in the early 50s, he grew up to be a famous musician. revised:He was born in South China in the early 50s. In his childhood he liked to sing songs. Later he entered a conservatory. In the 70s he became a famous musician
faulty:Du Fu was one of the greatest poets. revised:Du Fu was one of the greatest poets of the Tang period. 2>Coherence : Coherence means clear and reasonable connection between parts. A.Parallel Construction:
  1)and, but, or, nor, either…or, neither…nor, not…but, not only…but also, both…and
faulty:A man is judged not only by what he says but also by his action. He likes to sing, to swim, and table tennis. revised:A man is judged not only by what he says but also by what he does. He likes to sing, to swim, and to play table tennis.
  2)In comparison and contrast structure:She is a singer rather than a dancer. It is better to give than to take.

  3) Parallel construction includes words, phrases and clauses,e.g.: They had their choice of watching television, going shopping, or eating out. To finish school and to get a good job are my ambitions. Tom knows that he has to work hard, that he has to earn enough money, and that he has to give up his holidays. faulty:At the conference Tom met a doctor, writer and world traveller. revised:At the conference Tom met a doctor, a writer and a world traveller.
B.Pronouns with ambiguous reference用代词 来代替名词或名词短语等可使句子连贯,但 代词必须明确地取代被修饰的词,并与其先 行词保持性、数的一致。 He was knocked down by a car, but it was not serious. (指代不明) He was knocked down by a car, but was not serious. When my brother was five years old, she became interested in painting.(指代不一致)
When my brother (he)was five years old, he (my brother)became interested in painting. If you want something to suit you, we should do it ourselves. (指代混乱) If you want something to suit you, you should do it yourself. The article tells us that the heat under your feet can be used.(指代混乱) The article tells us that the heat under our feet can be used.
C.Dangling and misplaced modifiers: faulty:To get ready for the trip, all the things she needed were put into a suitcase. (dangling) Looking out of the window, the grassland stretches as far as the eye can reach. (dangling) The ideas he mentioned at first sounded good. (misplaced) She missed the train yesterday leaving at eight. (misplaced)
She missed the train leaving at eight yesterday. The job is open over eighteen years of age to anyone. (misplaced) The job is open to anyone over 18 years of age. To get up early, the clock was set at six.(dangling) To get up early, he set the clock at six. Though seriously ill, the boss made her work ten hours a day in the hot workshop.(dangling) Though seriously ill, the boss made her (she had to) work ten hours a day in the hot workshop.
D. Confusing shifts in person and number, voice, tense and mood. Those who wish to learn English songs are expected sign his name on this sheet of paper. An important thing for the student to remember is that you should work hard. Jack said that he does not know the secret. They washed the door and the windows were cleaned.
3> Conciseness: Contains no unnecessary words. If the idea is fully expressed, the fewer words are used, the better. Repetition is sometimes necessary for emphasis, but unnecessary repetition should be avoided. Eg: He gave many reasons for the failure, but the reasons he gave was not convincing. In my opinion, I think your plan is feasible.
Solution: Conciseness can sometimes be achieved by changing the sentence structure. Eg: Mr. Smith usually likes to drink all kinds of wines that are produced in France. Mr. Smith prefers wines produced in France. Mr. Smith prefers French wines.
4> Emphasis. When there is an important idea, it should be expressed with emphasis. (
  1) emphatic sentences. a. Short sentences. It has been mentioned that short sentences are more emphatic than long ones, especially at the beginning or end of a paragraph, or in the midst of long sentences.
b. Sentence fragments. They are also called onemember sentences. They are emphatic because they contain only the few words that express the main idea. Eg: The sky was overcast. A north wind was blowing. It threatened to rain at any moment. A gloomy day. c. Inverted sentences. They are emphatic because their unusual word order draws the reader’s attention. Eg: In rushed the noisy children. The poet was born poor, and poor he remained all his life.
d. Parallel constructions and balanced sentences. Eg: On hearing the news, he was angered, and I was saddened. The politician is concerned with successful elections, whereas the statesman is interested in the future of his people.
e. Negative-positive statements. They first point out what is not the truth, and then what. The contrast makes them emphatic. Eg: The delegates shouted and quarreled. It was not a meeting; it was the farce. There were so many errors in the performance that the result was not a tragedy, but a comedy.
f. Sentences with repeated words or phrases. Eg: I loved the sound of Martin Luther King’s voice, its eloquence, oratorical cadeness. At the climax of the1965 Montgomery march he had cried out,” How long will it take before my people achieve full equality?” Then, answering his own question, he shouted:” It will not take long because truth pressed to the earth will rise again. How long? Not long, because no lie can live forever. How long? Not long, because the arm of the normal universe is long, but it bends toward peace.
  2) Emphasis within the sentence. a. placing. The beginning and the end, especially the end, of a sentence are the two places that attract the reader’s attention. Compare: Wang Bing is modest and hardworking and is a good student. Modest and hardworking, Wang Bing is a good student. Wang Bing is a good student, modest and hardworking.
b. Repetition: Eg: Bright, very bright, were the stars over the wild, dark Yenan hills. The good old days were gone forever, could never be got back again. c. Emphatic words or phrases: Eg: This is the very dictionary I have been looking for. His latest novel is by far the best he has ever written. Not…. At all, whatever, not to mention, let alone.
D. The Paragraph

  1. Effective paragraphs. (
  1) Unity: Unity of a paragraph is concerned with its content. If all the sentences in the paragraph lead to one central theme, the paragraph is unified. The central theme is usually summarized in what is called the topic sentence.
  2) Coherence: Coherence of a paragraph is concerned with its form, or its organization. The sentences in a paragraph should be arranged in a clear, logical order, and the transitions should be smooth and natural. As a result, the reader finds it easy to follow the writer’s train of thought and understand what he is talking about.
Eg: There is some feeling nowadays that reading is not as necessary as it once was. Radio and especially television have taken over many of the functions once served by print, just as photography has taken over functions once served by painting and other graphic arts. Admittedly, television serves some of these functions extremely well; the visual communication of new events, for example, has enormous impact. The ability of radio to give us information while we are engaged in doing other thingsfor instance, driving a caris remarkable, and a great saving of time. But it may be seriously questioned whether the advent of modern communications media has much enhanced our understanding of the world in which we live.
  3) Transition: The following ways may help the writer to produce a fluent paragraph:
a. Using parallel structures; b. Repeating words or word groups; c. Using pronouns to refer to nouns in preceding sentences; d. Being consistent in the person and number of nouns and pronouns, and the tense of verbs.
Eg: Americans are queer people: they can't play. Americans rush to work as soon as they grow up. They want their work as soon as they wake. It is a stimulantthe only one they are not afraid of. They used to open their offices at ten o'clock; then at nine; then at eight; then at seven. Now they never shut them. Every business in America is turning into an open-all-



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