Copywriting Curiosities
  The writing tips your English teacher forgot to give you... October 28, 2004  

November is National Novel Writing Month!

About "NaNoWriMo"

Here's a twist on marathons, 10K races, and three-day walks for charities. The "distance?" 50,000 words. The beneficiary? YOU. If you've always wanted to write a novel, but lacked the time and motivation, here's your chance. All you have to do is "commit" to the challenge by signing up on NaNoWriMo ( Starting November 1st, you write your heart out for 30 days. The key is quantity, not quality. In 50,000 unedited words, I guarantee you'll have a lot of sh#t. But within that excrement you'll also have some wonderful prose, the foundation for a novel, and possibly the desire to continue.

NaNoWriMo is in its sixth year. It had 21 participants in year one, and the NaNoWriMo people expect 40,000 this year. For those of you who don't know me, I've been working on a "novel" idea for several years. It's taken various shapes with the exception of one: a manuscript. I'm a deadline-oriented person, and I'm hoping NaNoWriMo's strict deadline works for me. I'll give you a full report in December.

Visit NaNoWriMo's site:


It's easy to look at a long list of commonly confused words and go, "Oh yeah, NOW I understand." But how many of us end up making the same mistakes since our minds can't remember every word on the list? Trust me -- you're not alone. Because of this, I'll occasionally devote a newsletter to five commonly confused or misused words -- just enough for our brains to handle. Diana Hacker's "A Writer's Reference" is a good source for commonly misused words (some of them are below).

  • 1. Affect and Effect
  •    Affect is usually a verb meaning "to influence." For example, "His mood swings affect our marriage." Effect is usually a noun meaning "result." For example, "His mood swings have a negative effect on our marriage." Effect can also be a verb meaning, "to bring about or accomplish." For example, "His mood swings can effect a dramatic change in our daughter's behavior."

  • 2. Your and You're / Its and It's
  •    The word "your" is a possessive pronoun. The word "you're" is a contraction for "you are." You're the sunshine of my life. Your face is like sunshine to my soul. Same concept for "its" and "it's." It's getting colder. The weather has its own plans.

  • 3. "A variety of" versus "myriad"
  •    Clear writing often involves concise writing. If you can lose words without losing meaning, do it. The word "myriad" can replace "a variety of" -- they both mean "many." The difference is one uses three words while the other accomplishes the same task using one word. For example, "We have a variety of honeymoon options." Or, "We have myriad honeymoon options." Do NOT say, "We have a myriad of honeymoon options."

  • 4. "Utilize" versus "Use"
  •    Why make your writers' brains work so hard? Utilize is three syllables. Use is one. They both mean the same thing. Use "use," not "utilize." Remember the rule of KISS: Keep It Simple, Stupid.

  • 5. "A lot" is two words.
  •    Don't write them as one word, even casually.

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