Author Philippa Gregory on Writing

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Writing Prompts of the Week – 9

1. Many people feel reading fiction is a waste of time. Write about your position on this, giving reasons to support your argument.

2. Write about a memorable experience you have had while traveling.

3. Write from the point of view of a child as he/she perceives the world around him/her.

4. Write an essay, story, or poem making use of the following words – shopping, interest, someone, understand, and rumor.

5. Write about the first thing that comes to your mind on seeing this picture –




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Common Writing Error – the Misplaced Modifier

One of the most common writing errors is the misplaced modifier. Just like the dangling participle, it not only confuses the reader but can also be quite funny because of the meaning it gives to the sentence. What exactly is a misplaced modifier?

A modifier is a word or phrase that describes something else; and, therefore, should be placed as close as possible to what it describes. Sometimes this modifier is misplaced – that is, it is not placed close enough, thus giving the sentence a different meaning, usually an illogical one.  For example:

He had a hot bowl of soup.

What is hot? The bowl? The modifier hot is placed before bowl, so it’s as if it’s modifying bowl. But what was actually meant was  –

He had a bowl of hot soup.

Another example:

The stolen man’s bag was found the next day.

Stolen man? Sounds funny doesn’t it? What the writer really meant was that the bag was stolen. So the correct way of saying this should be:

The man’s stolen bag was found the next day.

See the difference in the meaning of the sentence when the modifier ‘stolen’ was misplaced?

The most commonly misplaced modifiers are only, barely, just, nearly, and the like.  Why? Take a look at these examples:

The girl only drank milk.

The girl drank only milk.

Both these sentences are correct, but they mean two different things. The first one means that all that the girl did with milk was drink it. The second sentence means that the girl drank nothing but milk. If both the sentences are correct, then what is the problem? The problem is confusion. Confusion because very often when the writer wants to say one thing, he says the other … just by misplacing the modifier ‘only’, and it doesn’t fit into the context. When something doesn’t fit into the context as a whole, it becomes confusing.

So, what does this mean? This means that we have to be very careful in placing a modifier. We should place it as close as possible to the word (or words) it modifies.

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Inspiring Authors

Writing tips from authors. An extremely inspiring video.

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Humor – Is Creative Writing Important?

(Courtesy: CartoonStock.com)

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Avoid Dangling Participles

One of the most common writing mistakes is the dangling participle. It not only confuses the reader as to what the writer is saying, but it also completely damages the flow of writing. So how should one avoid making this mistake? But first… what is a dangling participle?

A participle is a verb that acts like an adjective. Present participles are formed by adding –ing. For example, crying or swimming.  Past participles are formed by adding –ed.  For example, twisted or talked. (There are some irregular past participles as well – like –ade, –own, –en, etc. Only examples with –ed will be used here, but the same goes with the other endings.) These participles given here as examples –crying, swimming, twisted, and talked – are verbs but can act like adjectives as well. For example:

The crying baby was hungry.

The swimming competition is on Monday.

The twisted rope hung from the tree.

The most talked stories of the day are of the Winter Olympics.

In these examples, crying, swimming, twisted, and talked are verbs that are acting like adjectives. Hence, they are participles.

So what are dangling participles?

The word “dangling” means “hanging”. So, a dangling participle is a participle that is just hanging there in your sentence, without a subject or anything else. For example:

Flitting from flower to flower, the girl watched the butterfly.

Who is flitting? The girl or the butterfly?

Walking down the road, a friend bumped into me.

Who bumped? The friend or me?

In these examples, the participles have no subjects. They are “dangling”, making the sentences confusing as to what exactly the writer is saying. This has made the writing ambiguous, and we all know that ambiguous writing is bad writing. Therefore, when writing, be careful and avoid writing dangling participles. This can easily be done by giving the participle a proper subject, generally given right after the participle. Like this –

Example 1: Flitting from flower to flower, the butterfly was watched by the girl. Or, rewrite as – The girl watched the butterfly flitting from flower to flower.

Example 2: Walking down the road, I bumped into a friend.

Sometimes dangling participles can be so funny that they make you laugh. Have you ever come across such participles? What have been the funniest dangling participles that you have seen written?

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Writing Prompts of the Week – 8

Create stories, articles, or poems from the following prompts:

1. What are the things that make you very happy?

2. You are a witness to a murder. What do you do?

3. Will you raise your child the way you were brought up by your parents? Why or why not?

4. If you were to find out that the person you considered to be your best friend actually hates you, what would you do?

5. What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you see this picture?

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