Learn Your Confusable Words

The grammar-controlled community makes so much noise about confusable words that I’m always surprised when I see them misused.

What do I suggest by confusable words, like the following:
practice/practise (for the UK, American and Australian writers among us)
The list goes on.

How to fix it
Proofread! Know what your weak words are, maybe list them so you can be extra aware to check them.

The Use of i.e. and e.g. correctly

I.e. indicates that is, and, e.g. means for example.

How to fix it
Whenever you write it, reread the sentence in your head with the full version, that is where the shortened version (i.e.) is. If it doesn’t make sense, then change it.
Additional tip:
While not a universally used convention, I recommend punctuating like this:
e.g.,        i.e.,

Why? If you were writing for example in a sentence, how would you write it?
For example,        that is,

You would include commas, right? So why wouldn’t you contain commas in the shortened versions? Plus, you look like you know about grammar, and that’s always a positive.

The Use of ‘Few’ or ‘Less’

Getting less and fewer correct is not easy—unless you have a know-how up your sleeve to memorise which one is which.
Here’s how to fix the problem:
You may use two different procedures to get less and fewer correct. The first method is less precise, and the second is a tiny bit more tricky.
First strategy: If you can count it, just use fewer. If you can not figure it, then use ‘less’.

E.g., less desire; fewer hugs

less cash; fewer coins
Second strategy: Less and fewer describe names. If you are representing a singular noun (i.e., you can use ‘is’ after it), then use that a less amount. If you’re calling a plural noun (i.e., you can use ‘are’ after ‘it’), then use fewer. (This way is a bit more tricky but much more reliable.)
E.g., affection is; less affection;

hugs are; fewer hugs

money is; less money;

coins are;  fewer coins

Removal of Double Spaces

Double spaces may occur for a variety of reasons: Perhaps you’ve deleted a word but forgotten to remove the space before it, or maybe you’ve cut and pasted, and some spaces have been included where they shouldn’t be. Some readers may not notice, but to me, double spaces stick out.

Note: When I say ‘double spaces’, I mean between words, not between lines or anything like that. I mean when  you see   something like    this  .

So, how to fix the problem:
Get in the practice of searching for two spaces next to each other when you’ve finished your post.


Proofreading is at the centre of numerous—if not all—of these cases. If you want to make sure that your writing comes across as professional, then proofreading is such a necessary step.

Here’s how to fix the problem:
If you can’t support an editor to look at everything you write to guarantee that you find these sorts of simple errors, you still have several options.

You could:
* Develop your proofreading checklist that includes the words you know you get wrong often or the mistakes you make a lot.
* Get a proofreading buddy.
* Learn some proofreading tricks.
* Work with me to create your checklist. I can pinpoint the errors you make often and should watch out for, and then hop on a Skype call with you to go through them together and make sure you understand everything.

So, those are my tips for making your writing more professional by reducing simple errors. Let me know in the comments if you have been making any of these. Or, if you have noticed other mistakes that you think are unprofessional and have an easy fix, please let me know about those, so I can add those too!

The Winter Writing Contest

The Writing Short Stories by The Write Practice and join their Contest Here.

Maximum length: 1,500 words, — as Google Docs counts them. Many writing softwares count words differently; it’s to do with hyphens and apostrophes.

Contest theme: Countdown. Your character has a deadline. It might be a cancer prognosis giving him 6 months to live, a blackmailer giving her twenty-four hours to comply before a secret is revealed, a few more minutes until the clock strikes midnight and his one true love vanishes, or something else entirely. Whatever the case, your character is racing against the clock. Tell a story with a countdown.

Enrollment deadline:

To participate, you must enroll for the contest by Tuesday, October 24.

Your story will be due for workshopping on Monday, October 30.

Your final submission is due Monday, November 6.

Clichéd Scenes

1. Morning cliché
Clichés come in all sizes. There are as many clichéd scenes as phrases and words. For instance, how many times have you seen a book begin with the protagonist being “rudely awakened” from a “sound sleep” by an alarm? Have you written an opening like this? Where to start, you opt for the morning. Speaking of slipping into a cliché, I’ve been there and done that. We all have. Do not ever do it like that.
Joining that cliché is having the “bleary-eyed” character drag themselves from their bed, squinting against the intruding sunlight. Compounding that is showing the reader everything the character sees in that room. What happens next? They’ll pass or stand opposite a full-length mirror, and we’ll get the full rundown of the look and condition of the protagonist.
Are you cringing? I’ve made the same sort of clichéd scenes. Decide to leave that kind of morning-routine cliché to the writers who’ll begin to enter the writing like yourself. Do not start things in the morning or getting a cup of coffee/tea, but open in some action.

2. Answering the phone cliché scene
Another dangerous cliché scene is how people answer the telephone. This does happens even in the movies or on a stage. Be cognizant of yourself the next time your telephone rings. It’s such a common occurrence that we do not even think about it at all. But one thing you do not do is look up, surprised. You merely rise and answer it.
If your character gets a phone call and says, “Hello there?”
“Hi, Tom?”
“This is Jane.”
“Hi, Jane. What’s up?”
Enough already.

3. The confusion of detail in a scene; the info dump
There may be a lot of information the reader needs to understand the following action. Listing all the information in one paragraph is awful. I do know about this as I have done it in my first chapter.

4. Coincidences
I do love coincidences. I’m fascinated by them, the happy ones and not the unhappy type. In fiction, if there is more than one in a novel that is too many, and even that one has to get managed well. The good coincidences and not realistic. They happen in real life, but in fiction, it is too convenient. Upsetting and unfortunate coincidences occur in life a lot, I know about that. Unhappiness is more realistic in fiction.

The Iambic Pentameter – Rythm of English


Many words are single syllables or many syllables. Each syllable is either stressed or unstressed.

Unstressed Syllable symbol:
Stressed Syllable symbol: /

In a sentence, these syllables ( unstressed = lower case, and stressed = uppercase letters) will string together to make a rhythm, and in the case of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, he used the Iambic Pentameter:
   U       /        U          /             U          /     U      /       U          /
“But SOFT what LIGHT through YONder WINdow BREAKS.”
       1         |        2            |         3               |       4        |        5

What is an Iamb? and example words:
Iamb: U /  –   Behold, Behind,  Destroy,  Desire,  Reserve
Trochee: / U   –  Sunny, Forest, Planet, Double,  Changes
Spondee: / /   –   Football,   Heartbreak 
Dactyl: / U U   –   Strawberry,   Scorpion
Anapest: U U /   –   Understand,   Contradict   

So, I’m sure you are thinking, “I’ve never heard of an Iambic Pentameter, and what’s its use anyway?”

Ok, I can ask you if you remember any dialogue from the James Bond film Goldfinger. I’m sure after some thought you come up with, “No Mister Bond I expect you to die!”

Funny that is the only line you remember from a film that had a run time of 110 minutes. Since that is a memorable line and now quite famous as it has over six youtube videos with that name, let’s look more closely:
  U     /   U        /      U  /    U       /     U     /  
“no MISter BOND i EXpect YOU to DIE!”

The Iambic Pentameter – Odd that that was a line that you remember. Find some more lines from films or tv programs that you still remember, and you will likely find they are ten syllables long with the perfect rhythm of the Iambic Pentameter.

Syllable Rates:
1. Single syllable rate: Monometer
2. Double syllable rate: Dimeter
3. Tripple syllable rate: Trimeter
4. Four times syllable rate: Terameter
5. Five times syllable rate: Pentameter
6. Six times syllable rate: Hexameter
7. Seven times syllable rate: Heptameter
8. Eight times syllable rate: Octameter

Shakespeare wrote a lot of his plays and Sonnets in Iambic Pentameter.

Common Activities of a P.I.

The following is a list of typical things a private investigator would be doing on a general week:

  • Finding a current or past address for someone.
  • Finding a date of birth.
  • The locating of death records.
  • The location of marriage records.
  • The task of going through someone’s dustbin rubbish for information on what they use an eat, drink, and general lifestyle.
  • Determine the current value of a property.
  • Tracking a wife/husband and finding evidence of a secret affair or lover.
  • Research family history.
  • Obtaining drug record history.
  • The location of past videos or News reports.

Ideas for First Time Crime Writers

Tips For The New Crime Writer

1. Create a frightening antagonist. Make him or her three-dimensional. A valid way to do this is giving them a personal association to the protagonist other than by the crime.
2. Put your protagonist in an unfortunate position – how did the narrator get there in that situation?
3. Make sure your protagonist risks something significant to them, for example, an investigator could risk their career, or jeopardise a relationship to catch the antagonist.
4. Give your protagonist a particular motive, for instance, spite,, revenge, justice, survival, and isolate them from their comfort zones.
5. Nothing – no matter how exciting it seems to you – should be left in, every word should do a part in progressing the story. If a word or sentence does not serve the plot, delete it. The story must involve the reader. The precise way to do this is to generate problems that have significant consequences.