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Effective Writing: Communicating with Your Reader

Updated on November 23, 2012

English composition may be a chore to learn, but grammar and punctuation have rules for some important reasons. The author wants to express his or her ideas in a clear and concise manner. Incorrectly structured grammar or the wrong usage of punctuation will confuse readers and may cause them to give up and move on. The average attention span of a web surfer is measured in seconds, and if articles contain text with “bumps,” readers will leave skid marks on the page. Common mistakes can be so easily made in writing. After a piece is written, your eyes may scan the page, but they won’t always see the mistakes. When your article is finished, always read it out loud, or find a friend to read it.

Type of Font and Size

Pretty shaped fonts on colored backgrounds pulse with energy and fill the page with creativity. However, the reader may have difficulty deciphering the prose and complain of a headache. Unless an audience is used to script fonts with large type, stick to Arial, New Times Roman or Calibri with an 11 or 12 pt. font size. Other simple fonts will work, but always remember the road the reader is on must remain smooth for an pleasurable journey. The fonts may look boring to the writer, but people “read” the words in their heads. The point of writing is taking the audience where the writer wants them to go, and not just attracting their attention to a decorated page.

Common Spelling Confusions

Of all the misspelled words in the English language—it’s and its— are the most common. The correct contraction of it is = it’s. The possessive form of it, is always its. No apostrophe.

  • Correct: The tree is losing its leaves.
  • Incorrect: The flower is losing it’s petals
  • Correct: It’s a great day to go swimming.
  • Incorrect: The man told me its in English.

Accept and Except

These 2 words are easily confused and frequently used incorrectly. Accept means to agree to or receive something.

  • She accepted the wine as a gift.

Except is to exclude or distinguish apart from.

  • Everyone went back to the house except the dog.

Affect and Effect

Often confused, these 2 words just sound too much alike. Affect means to influence.

  • My sore foot will affect my golf swing.
  • She affected an air of royalty.

Effect has 2 different meanings, just to make things more difficult for writers. Effect, used as a noun, means a result or consequence.

  • The loud music may have an effect on your hearing.

Effect, used as a verb, means to accomplish or bring about.

  • The new laws have effected major changes in policies for city officials.

Give Direction to Your Reader with Commas

Before the commas put you in a coma, remember how important these can be in your writing. My biggest struggle has always been with commas, it took me a long time (okay, I still have to look it up) to master comma usage. Punctuation verbalizes your prose to your reader with an easy flow and a smooth ride. Commas take your reader where you want them to go.

Commas and Sentence Introductions

Use commas after the introduction of a sentence. Common starter words include after, because, if, since, when, while, although, due to, since, and as.

  • While I was watching TV, the phone rang.
  • If you want to make more money, you should get a job.
  • Due to the nature of this hub topic, I am falling asleep.
  • Since everyone hates my cooking, we are going out to eat.

However, don’t separate the main idea from the introduction with a comma. You can’t reverse the introduction to the sentence and still use the comma. For example:

  • Incorrect: The phone rang, while I was watching TV.
  • Correct: The phone rang while I was watching TV.
  • Incorrect: You should get a job, if you want to make more money.
  • Correct: You should get a job if you want to make more money.

Use commas to set off introductory words and phrases. Yes, well, however, are commonly used introductory words that increase the flow of your idea.

  • Well, you may want to try the green jellybeans.
  • Yes, I would like to marry a millionaire.
  • However, the true meaning of life is subjective.
  • In addition, the data suggests that people are basically happy.

Emphasis Your Ideas with Commas

Use commas to separate ideas when they are joined by and, but, for, or, so or yet.

  • The cat was starving, yet he refused to eat.
  • Several people complained of boredom, but the Hubpage text just kept going on and on.
  • The man didn’t understand the question, so he couldn't give an answer.
  • Several people were missing from the show, or they didn't have the correct address.

Never follow the word “that” with a comma. The ideas in the sentence are essential and you will split your ideas apart.

  • Correct: I went to the store that sells tasty pizza.
  • Incorrect: I went to the store, that sells tasty pizza.

The word that, in this case, acts as a comma in itself, and it’s not necessary to emphasis the introduction of the sentence.

Writing is Hard Work: But we Love it!

As we all strive to write well, we understand the complexity of mechanics and prose. Don’t let the technicalities of punctuation and grammar dampen your creativity or keep you from writing. It’s important to practice and hone your craft. We are all learning every time our fingers touch the keys. The mechanics of writing are a matter of progress, and not perfection.

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    • eHealer profile image

      Deborah 5 years ago from Las Vegas

      Thank you Epi, you are certainly "EPI", without a doubt! I really enjoy your talent so very much. Thanks for commenting and I appreciate your support. Thanks again, Deb

    • epigramman profile image

      epigramman 5 years ago

      ....well one of my mottos is: try to learn something new 'everyday' and certainly we are the company that we choose to keep - and that is why

      I am so very glad I found you - there is an endless oasis of information here available in your many hub presentations and they are always enlightening and education. You really should have 1,060 followers as your writing reaches everyone on a daily basis I would think - and thank you as always for your support too - without wonderful people like you - Epi wouldn't be Epi - sending you warm wishes and good energy from lake erie time ontario canada 2:15pm and sharing this particular hub with the Hubpages Facebook group

    • eHealer profile image

      Deborah 5 years ago from Las Vegas

      Thanks Deborah, I am so glad you like it and found it helpful. I do have another one, almost ready, it is a follow up to this one. It's really hard to make these kind of hubs interesting, (not that this one is titillating), but I try to add a little humor. Thanks Debbie, I appreciate your kind comments.

    • Deborah Brooks profile image

      Deborah Brooks Langford 5 years ago from Brownsville,TX

      wow I love this hub.. Very useful and yes I would love to see another one of grammar and Punctuation.. I would love to read more


    • eHealer profile image

      Deborah 5 years ago from Las Vegas

      Thanks Rajan, I'm so glad you stopped by, it's always nice to hear from you. Thanks for sharing, part 2 is in the works. I'm really slow these days. Thanks again and see you soon!

    • rajan jolly profile image

      Rajan Singh Jolly 5 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA.

      Very interesting and very useful. Waiting for part 2.

      Voted up & useful. Sharing this too.

    • eHealer profile image

      Deborah 5 years ago from Las Vegas

      Thank you Rhett, I really appreciate your comments. It's helps me to learn mechanics as I write them down, and then it's easy to share. See you soon.

    • Rhett Wilder profile image

      Rhett Wilder 5 years ago from Field Of Clover

      Flawless article and a brilliant writer in general. Looking forward to following and reading more of your work. Keep up the great work!

    • eHealer profile image

      Deborah 5 years ago from Las Vegas

      Hello Green Lotus, I am so glad you stopped by. I also second guess my mechanics and am forever "looking up" the correct punctuation. It's a learning process. Thanks for the support Lotus, see you soon.

    • Green Lotus profile image

      Hillary 5 years ago from Atlanta, GA

      Even after so many years of writing I always micro edit my work and find myself consistently referring to on-line sources for tips on grammar. This is yet another good source. Thanks!

    • eHealer profile image

      Deborah 5 years ago from Las Vegas

      Hi Mark, don't we all.Thanks for your comments. I will have more very soon. We can help each other.

    • Mark Monroe profile image

      Mark Monroe 5 years ago from Dover De

      Nicely done, I struggle with the rules of writing all the time.

    • eHealer profile image

      Deborah 5 years ago from Las Vegas

      Hi EllBee, don't feel alone. Everyone has to think about that one. It's so confusing sometimes. A good rule of thumb is that affect is emotional or personal, where effect is a result of something. I hope that helps but it is not a science. Thank you for commenting. I really appreciate the time you took to comment. Thank you.

    • profile image

      ElleBee 5 years ago

      I'm usually fairly good with grammar, but the affect vs. effect thing still gets me! I am getting better with it, but that one still trips me up as often as not.

    • eHealer profile image

      Deborah 5 years ago from Las Vegas

      Hi Mhatter, thanks for your comments. I try to add a little humor if I can. It's pretty dry stuff. You welcome, and I'm glad you found it interesting.

    • Mhatter99 profile image

      Martin Kloess 5 years ago from San Francisco

      Thank you for this and, most of all, for keeping it interesting.

    • eHealer profile image

      Deborah 5 years ago from Las Vegas

      Hello Amuno, don't you dare wait to publish! Lol. We need your hubs, I'm using google docs now (it's a miracle) and sharing them with others, thanks to your hub. Thanks for your comments, and keep on writing!

    • amuno profile image

      Alfred Amuno 5 years ago from Kampala

      Great work eHealer. I must confess English language puzzles me alot. I get surprised when I look back in my hubs and sometimes see glaring errors. I wish there was a way I could completely get rid of them but I know it is not easy. I guess one way is to write stuff and wait for a day or several before publishing.

    • eHealer profile image

      Deborah 5 years ago from Las Vegas

      Curiad, thanks for the comments. I am so glad you find it useful. I hope it is helpful to new writers and a good review for the others.

    • eHealer profile image

      Deborah 5 years ago from Las Vegas

      Thanks Rebecca, I am so glad you find it useful. Your support is so appreciated, and thank you for your comments.

    • Curiad profile image

      Mark G Weller 5 years ago from Lake Charles, LA.

      This is a useful Hub ehealer. Thanks for sharing it.

    • rebeccamealey profile image

      Rebecca Mealey 5 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      This is awesomely helpful for writers. Definitely voting useful and sharing all over! Great job!

    • eHealer profile image

      Deborah 5 years ago from Las Vegas

      Hi Kelley, thanks. It's a good way for me to review too, I learn as I write and research it. Thanks so much for the kind words, I appreciate you so much.

    • profile image

      kelleyward 5 years ago

      Thanks for the review eHealer. It never hurts to review what we do daily. I appreciate it. I look forward to more of your grammar hubs soon. Voted up, useful, and shared! Take care, Kelley

    • Laurinzo Scott profile image

      Live To Write 5 years ago from Phoenix, Az.

      No you are the kind one... and I think i'm blushing now ... lol

      thanks for your kind words as well.

    • eHealer profile image

      Deborah 5 years ago from Las Vegas

      Hi Laurinzo, I always look forward to your hubs. You are very talented and I enjoy your comments. Keep on writing! Your very versatile and will only get better. Thanks! You are too kind.

    • Laurinzo Scott profile image

      Live To Write 5 years ago from Phoenix, Az.

      Very good eHealer... I see your background in healthcare, yet it seems writing is your calling as well... you are grand at it. I am so glad that I found your hubs again, thought that I had followed you sooo long ago, but computer was acting up that day. Will definitely be readin more!

    • eHealer profile image

      Deborah 5 years ago from Las Vegas

      Thanks Xstatic, I've learned a few things along the way and felt the need to share. It's a learning process, it helps me to learn as I research the information and write it.

    • xstatic profile image

      Jim Higgins 5 years ago from Eugene, Oregon

      Great examples and well presented. This should be a big help to anyone who wants some help!