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I’m not a fan of adding -ing to verbs, as I’ve said in “The ‘Be” test for writers.” However, I couldn’t tell you why it was wrong until I read Cut It Out: 10 Simple Steps for Tight Writing and Better Sentences by Laura Swart.

Using the progressive tense

Here’s how Swart explains the use of what she identifies as the “progressive tense.”

…unless something is happening right now or over a period of time, use the simple present and simple past tenses (typically verbs ending in s and ed, respectively).

There’s some ambiguity in how to apply that rule. That’s why I like that Swart’s book provides multiple examples of when to use or omit the progressive tense.

My progressive preference

However, I use a simpler rule. Does the sentence make sense if I don’t attach -ing to the verb? If so, I omit it. Shorter sentences are easier for readers to absorb.

Don’t confuse with gerunds

What appears to be the progressive tense may actually be a gerund. That’s a noun formed by adding -ing to a verb. Grammarbook uses the example of “Walking is great exercise.”

Grammarbook also says, “It is helpful to recognize gerunds because if a noun or pronoun precedes a gerund, it is usually best to use the possessive form of that noun or pronoun.”

Disclosure:  If you click on an Amazon link in this post and then buy something, I will receive a small commission. I link only to books in which I find some value for my blog’s readers.

The post Limit your use of the progressive tense appeared first on Susan Weiner's Blog on Investment Writing.

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Can you spot what’s wrong in the image below? Please post your answer as a comment.

What happened to proofreading at The Wall Street Journal?

I post these challenges to raise awareness of the importance of proofreading.

The post MISTAKE MONDAY for May 13: Can YOU spot what’s wrong? appeared first on Susan Weiner's Blog on Investment Writing.

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Recently, I sent the newsletter of a person whom I like to my email’s spam folder. My gut reaction proves that you should clearly identify the sender of your email newsletter.

Unrecognizable sender name spells trouble

When I looked at the newsletter, I thought, “I don’t know this person. Why is he sending this to me?” I also had a vague sense that I’d received multiple issues of this unwanted newsletter.

When I receive newsletters from people whose names I don’t recognize, I’m afraid to click their “unsubscribe” links. I’m concerned that my confirming the existence of my email, I’m sentencing myself to receive more newsletter spam. That’s why I sent this person’s email to my spam folder.

The sender used only his first name in his “from” line. It’s as if I identified myself simply as “Susan” instead of “Susan Weiner, CFA” in the from line of my e-newsletter. I had no idea who he was—at least, not initially. But the name nagged at me. Eventually, I realized from the person’s mailing address that I did know him. But, by then it was too late for me to undo his spam designation.

As Campaign Monitor says in “Why ‘From’ names and email addresses are important,

Studies on email open rates have found that trusting the sender is the single most important factor in whether an email is opened or not. That means it’s critical to choose an effective and consistent “From” name and email address.

A better approach to your sender name

If you’re a solopreneur sending an e-newsletter, consider using your full name—first name plus surname—as your sender name. In the example I give above, I would have recognized the full name. I wouldn’t have sent the newsletter to spam.

Sometimes a full name isn’t enough to jog my memory. Even adding a company name to your sender name often isn’t enough. “10 Tips to Optimize Your Newsletter’s Sender Address” by Newsletter2go offers some tips on picking the right sender name. I don’t believe that you should always use your company name as your sender name, as I discussed in “Should my firm insert its name at the start of every email subject line?

The best way to avoid getting sent to spam for an unrecognized sender name is to stop adding people to your email lists without their permission.

It also helps to deliver value in every newsletter. However, everyone defines value differently, so that’s hard to do consistently.

The post Pick your e-newsletter sender name carefully appeared first on Susan Weiner's Blog on Investment Writing.

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Can you spot what’s wrong in the image below? Please post your answer as a comment. The mistake that caught my eye is subtle.

I post these challenges to raise awareness of the importance of proofreading.

The post MISTAKE MONDAY for May 6: Can YOU spot what’s wrong? appeared first on Susan Weiner's Blog on Investment Writing.

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What distinguishes professional writers from amateur writers? Why should you care?

There are many characteristics that differentiate professional writers.

In The Midnight Disease: The Drive to Write, Writer’s Block, and the Creative Brain, Alice Flaherty identifies an important one. She says that pros

…more successfully engage their audience. It is partly a question of skill, but more often a matter of goals. Amateur writers tend to write primarily for self-expression, whereas writers able to become professional can hide or transform their own agendas enough so that they are of interest to others.

That’s an interesting interpretation that makes me think of the difference between successful and unsuccessful financial bloggers. Someone who blogs solely for self-expression is unlikely to attract many followers. The same goes for someone who only blogs self-promotional content. Successful financial bloggers move beyond these approaches.

To engage readers, you must mix your own “agenda” with your target readers’ needs and interests.

Disclosure:  If you click on an Amazon link in this post and then buy something, I will receive a small commission. I link only to books in which I find some value for my blog’s readers.

The post Professional writers vs. amateur writers appeared first on Susan Weiner's Blog on Investment Writing.

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Can you spot what’s wrong in the image below? Please post your answer as a comment.

Sigh. I see this mistake too often.

I post these challenges to raise awareness of the importance of proofreading.

The post MISTAKE MONDAY for April 29: Can YOU spot what’s wrong? appeared first on Susan Weiner's Blog on Investment Writing.

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“Nothing changes if nothing changes,” said my spinning instructor in a class. This spurred some thoughts that may help your writing.

In my instructor’s case, she decided to quit drinking coffee as one small step toward healthier eating. That was less intimidating than revamping all of her eating habits at once. Once she quit drinking coffee, it was easy to make a second change to juicing celery every morning. Who knows what additional changes she’ll make?

Could a similar approach help you to improve your writing?

Your first step

Pick one small thing to improve your writing. Here are some ideas for you.

  • Set a weekly writing goal. Measure your goal in terms of word count, time spent writing, or pieces produced. A daily writing goal also works, but a weekly goal may feel less daunting.
  • Create a checklist of your most common writing mistakes. The more you have to think about what to look for when checking your work, the more likely you are to forget something. Decrease the load on your brain by creating a checklist of the most important items for you to check. Not sure how to structure a checklist? There’s one in Financial Blogging: How to Write Powerful Posts That Attract Clients that you can use as a starting point.
  • Get help from someone else. Ask a colleague or friend with a good editorial eye to mark up a sample of your work. Find a blogging buddy. Sign up for a writing class. Hire an outside proofreader, copyeditor, or writing coach. Help can come in many forms.
YOUR choice?

What’s one thing you will do to boost your writing? For my part, I read books about writing, hoping to find new techniques and inspiration.

The post Change your writing for the better appeared first on Susan Weiner's Blog on Investment Writing.

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Can you spot what’s wrong in the image below? Please post your answer as a comment.

This mistake made me chuckle.

I post these challenges to raise awareness of the importance of proofreading.

The post MISTAKE MONDAY for April 22: Can YOU spot what’s wrong? appeared first on Susan Weiner's Blog on Investment Writing.

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Check out my top posts from the first quarter! If you’re trying to figure out how to improve your quarterly commentary process, check out #7!

They’re a mix of practical tips on writing (#1, #4, #9, #10), grammar (#2), punctuation (#3), blogging (#5, #6, #8), and investment commentary (#7).

I’m only listing one Mistake Monday post, although more were among the most viewed, because one Mistake Monday post is much like the others. Check out my Mistake Monday posts if you’d like to improve your proofreading skills!

My posts that attracted the most views during 2019’s first quarter
  1. Word and phrase substitutions for economical writers—I could tell from the social media response that this post resonated with readers.
  2. Don’t fix your grammar
  3. Mistake Monday for February 4: Can YOU spot what’s wrong?
  4. Make your bullet-pointed lists more powerful
  5. Manage comments on your financial blog
  6. Shakespeare lesson for bloggers
  7. Can “find and replace” prevent quarterly commentary errors?
  8. Feeling blah about your blog?
  9. Cracking eggs for your writing
  10. Boost your writing productivity with Theo Pauline Nestor

The post Top posts from 2019’s first quarter appeared first on Susan Weiner's Blog on Investment Writing.

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Can you spot what’s wrong in the image below? Please post your answer as a comment.

This mistake is subtle. It took me years to absorb that this is considered a mistake by most proofreaders.

I post these challenges to raise awareness of the importance of proofreading.

The post MISTAKE MONDAY for April 15: Can YOU spot what’s wrong? appeared first on Susan Weiner's Blog on Investment Writing.

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