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Writing Center

The Seven Deadly Sins of Writing

The First Deadly Sin: Passive Voice

In most instances, put the verb in the active voice rather than in the passive voice. Passive voice often produces unclear, wordy sentences, whereas active voice produces generally clearer, more concise sentences.  More ...
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The Second Deadly Sin: Incorrect Punctuation of Two Independent Clauses

Writers often combine independent clauses in a single compound sentence to emphasize the relationship between ideas. The punctuation of compound sentences varies depending upon how you connect the clauses. More …
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The Third Deadly Sin: Wordiness

Concise writing is the key to clear communication. Wordiness obscures your ideas and frustrates your reader. Make your points as succinctly as possible, and move on. Once you start searching for unnecessary words, you will find you can cut many without any loss of meaning. In fact, your writing will be crisper and more appealing. More ...
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The Fourth Deadly Sin: Misuse of the Apostrophe

Use the apostrophe to indicate possession and to mark omitted letters in contractions. Writers often misuse apostrophes when forming plurals and possessives. The basic rule is quite simple: use the apostrophe to indicate possession, not a plural. More ...
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The Fifth Deadly Sin: Misplaced and Dangling Modifiers

Misplaced and dangling modifiers create illogical, even comical, sentences. We confuse our readers if we fail to connect modifiers (words that describe or limit other words) to the words they modify; be sure to place modifiers next to the words they modify. More ...
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The Sixth Deadly Sin: Pronoun Problems

Pronouns are useful as substitutes for nouns, but a poorly chosen pronoun can obscure the meaning of a sentence. Common pronoun errors include unclear pronoun reference, vague subject pronoun and agreement error. More ...
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The Seventh Deadly Sin: Committing Pet Peeves

Learning to write clearly and effectively is a central part of your education. As the Hamilton College Catalogue notes, "The College expects its students to think, write and speak with clarity, understanding and precision." Following is a list of professors' pet peeves you should bear in mind as you aim for "clarity, understanding and precision" in your writing. More ...
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