This is the writing journal for [info]tessisamess; it used to be a personal journal, but I realized something while keeping a personal journal, and that is that I don't like doing it. So here we are!

This journal will ideally contain writing opinion pieces, advice, and tips. I'll probably focus more on general writing and less on RP-specific pieces, as [info]ohdeers has great RP-specific essays and, frankly, I have no business writing them since I don't write in groups.

Feel free to add me for updates!

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Hi, I'm Johnny Knoxville and welcome to Jackass— Wait, that's not right. Heyo, Tess here, and this is my writing journal, where I post guides and essays on my experiences in and opinions on writing. If you're interested in that kind of content, it sure would be neat if you added me for updates!

I'd like to take a moment to say a few things before we get started: You don't have to agree with everything I say, and I don't want you to feel like I'm judging you if you do the opposite of what I personally think is "best" in writing. Writing is a subjective experience, both for the writer and the reader, and while my goal here is to potentially help you learn some new tips and methods, it's never with the intention of making you feel bad about your style or habits. It's solely for the purpose of helping out.

I'm not an authority on anything, much less writing—and the thing is: No one else is, either. That's why you see so many writing essays and guides around the internet, and a lot of them are wildly different from each other. Subjectivity!

The rules of grammar and punctuation, caveats though they may have, typically don't change too often, and I'll do my best to explain things like that in a way that doesn't sound like the most boring English teacher you've ever had. I want the information to be accessible and intuitively understandable. I feel like the best way to retain new skills is to see them in use. I don't know everything, but the areas I feel confident in, I'll try not to steer you wrong.

Enjoy, and don't be shy if you have questions or things you'd like to see written up. Don't forget to check out [info]ohdeers for RP-driven essays!

Underused Punctuation

Underused Punctuation
The way you use punctuation can breathe life into your writing—or it can make the tone fall flat. A good flow, with the right type of pause and division of information in your writing not only helps reading comprehension, but gives the inflection you're looking for without relying solely on things like italics. Check out some of these underused (or misused) punctuation marks, and give them a go if they aren't in your arsenal already!

The em dash

The em dash is a great way to change the inflection of something, and can replace commas, periods, semicolons, and parenthesis. If you want something to have more stiffness or urgency, the em dash might be what you're looking for. In code, this would be — for those of you who want the HTML markup, but you can achieve the same effect with two standard dashes (--) if needed.

"Wait—what was that?" he hissed.

It's also great in speech to indicate uncertainty in the direction of stream of consciousness when you don't want the meandering tone of an ellipsis. "There was a— I mean it was like— Look, I don't know what it was, but it was huge!"

An em dash can also be a good replacement for parenthesizing something—that is to say providing a contextual aside—you're explaining.

Note: A dash, an en dash, and an em dash are used for different things.
A dash (-) is for hyphenation, such as "up-to-date".
An en dash (–) is for ranges, such as 2002–2006 or Monday–Friday.
An em dash (—) is for breaking up sentences.

Do you use a space after an em dash, or no? Typically you don't. When writing for a newspaper or other format using AP style, you probably will, but this is a style/formatting choice. Here's what I tend to do: If an em dash is being used to substitute another punctuation mark, like a semicolon or parenthesis, I don't use a space before or after the em dash.

If I'm using the em dash to indicate incomplete thoughts being abandoned and a new thought being started (typically in dialogue), I do add a space after the em dash to further emphasis the point that the previous and next statement are not forming one flowing thought. I wouldn't call this a punctuation standard, but if you jive with it, I really don't think it's incorrect; just a style choice.

The interrobang

The interrobang is a fun one, and you should definitely be using it. You'll most often see it as ?! or !?, but ‽ is a singular punctuation mark specifically for an interrobang. I never use it, but I appreciate its existence. If you're enamored with it, be assured it's a valid format to use. None of the options are more "correct" than the other, but if you want my personal opinion: I prefer ?! best, because you're asking a question that happens to be an exclamation as well, and it's still a question first and an exclamation second. Or, at least, that's my feeling on it.

"What the hell—why would you say that?!" she snapped angrily, turning on him so quickly her purse fell from her shoulder to swing at her elbow.

Why do I love this? It's expressive. It gets the point across more elegantly than using multiple question marks to indicate the intensity of a question, which can sometimes look more like it belongs in a text message than in your writing.

The semicolon

I've written a full guide on this, linked above, so I won't go into detail on it here too; just trust me when I say you're missing out, and check out the full guide to learn more about it!

Using Semicolons

Using Semicolons
Something I get told a lot whenever semicolons come up in conversation (usually when I'm expressing my undying love for them) is, "I can never figure out how to use them." As an avid fan of semicolons, I'm here to try to clear up the mystery for those of you who aren't sure how to use them, and to encourage you to start incorporating them into your writing to achieve a more nuanced flow to your style.

What is a semicolon?

I like to explain a semicolon as being something like a soft period. It's more firm than a comma, but not as final as starting a new statement, because the statements the semicolon is separating are related. It often takes the place of conjunctions like "and" because it does the same thing in some contexts. Conjunctions are used to connect or coordinate two statements. These are: and, but, for, nor, or, so, and yet.

You're typically going to want to view this as an either/or situation. Either you're going to use a semicolon, or you're going to use a conjunction. There are a couple of caveats to this, but we'll get to that later.

The semicolon or semi-colon is a symbol commonly used as orthographic punctuation. In the English language, a semicolon can be used between two closely related independent clauses, provided they are not already joined by a coordinating conjunction.

Semicolons aren't just for eliminating conjunctions to connect two related clauses, though, so I'd like to go over some of the uses for semicolons as we go forward in this guide.

How and when do you use it?

A semicolon is, of course, not one size fits all. "Are you going to the store first; the library?" does technically make sense, but may be better served with "or" instead of a semicolon. If it sounds like a word is missing and it's not for intentional dialogue purposes, you'll want to stick with a conjunction. Writing depends on a good flow to read well, which is why some of the "rules" of writing seem to change depending on context. Some things are incorrect no matter what, while others are subjective.

After six months back on the job, he probably didn't need to remind himself every time; he did it anyway, just in case.

[my writing partner in the first semicolon I could find]

Here, my writing partner is replacing the word "but" in their sentence. Conjunctions can read as clunky or amateur in some cases because your compound clauses start relying on too many commas, and a semicolon just feels nicer; other times, your conjunction is what fits best.

"So we're starting from scratch," [he] said. That wasn't a problem; it meant he wasn't trying to fix someone else's shoddy job.

[my writing partner]

This example isn't necessarily omitting a conjunction, but it is connecting two related clauses with a longer pause than a comma while not ending the statement the way a period would. My writing partner is expressing two thoughts for their character here: that it isn't a problem for the character, and why it isn't a problem for him. They're closely related enough that a semicolon does the job just a little bit better than a period would, eliminating the risk of choppy, curt sentence structure—unless that's what you're going for, of course.

Using semicolons for descriptive lists

We're used to using commas to separate list items. Milk, eggs, bread, and tea are all things we might need from the store. That being said, sometimes a semicolon can be appropriate! If your list of items is wordier, say the things being listed are more abstract or complex thoughts, you may benefit from a semicolon instead—especially if you need a comma within the listed phrases.

She loved the way she felt when he looked at her; how his presence warmed her, even when it was a quiet one; the way he understood what she was trying to say, even when she hadn't said much at all.

[on the fly example]

Most of the above clauses are complex in nature, meaning they need their own commas, and using commas to separate each clause would confuse the natural flow considerably. Using semicolons to separate related clauses, and commas for pauses in each clause for appropriate pauses, clears up just where one ends and the next begins. You could use periods to separate these thoughts, but to avoid fragmented sentences you'd need unnecessary wordiness where the semicolons would have served you better. (In my opinion.)

Can you use semicolons and conjunctions at the same time?

Some people say no; I say yes. Most of the time I don't think it's needed, but in some cases (complex compound sentences like the previous example), the context might be better served with a conjunction after the last semicolon in the sentence.

"Moving along," he said, walking quickly as he launched into his explanation. "On the first floor you'll find your bunks, the mess hall, and rec areas; the second floor is dedicated to our training rooms, state of the art, of course; the third floor is Research & Development; and the basement is restricted to full clearance personnel only."

[on the fly example]

This is admittedly a little clunky, and I could definitely opt to write this with shorter sentences instead if preferred, but it's still an example where a semicolon can coexist next to a conjunction.

Well, I guess that's it for me on this one! I hope you walk away from this guide with a better understanding of semicolons, and more confidence using them in your writing. If you have any questions at all, please feel free to comment!

Common Misspellings & Mix-Ups

If it's wrong, why does spellcheck say it's right? A preface:
Otherwise known as: Why spellcheck, predictive text, and autocorrect are making us worse at spelling.

Spellcheck (and predictive text on mobile), on most platforms, can only be so intuitive; which is to say, you are only being checked for spelling most of the time and not context. Applications like Google Docs on Drive will probably catch your contextual errors, but if you type, "Your not spelling that right." on Discord, you won't see an angry red line, because "your" is a correctly spelled word. It just isn't the right word.

When your phone suggests "who's" when you want to ask, "Do you know whose Twitter that post was on?" it's because the word exists, but the system doesn't understand that it's the wrong context for the word. Additionally, with predictive text, it's also taking into account which spelling of the word you use more often and placing it higher on the list of suggestions.
Common Word Mix-Ups
This word
is often misused as
Learning the difference!
accept except
Please accept this humble list of spelling tips! This word means that you're willing to receive something, be it a physical object, or maybe just some advice from an internet weirdo—except when the advice is bad.

affect effect
Is this list going to affect your spelling habits? Maybe! This can be one of the most confusing mix-ups. You can affect something, but you'd have an effect on something. Affect is the impact something makes, like how someone's words affect you. This can also mean to take something on, like affecting an accent.

allot a lot, alot
I've allotted a lot of this list to mixed up words, which you'll see as you go down the list! To allot something is to set it aside. You've allotted a certain amount of time for exercise, or you want to allot five shelves of your bookshelf for graphic novels. Alot, I'm sorry to say, is not a word.

a lot allot, alot
A lot of words are misused or misspelled all across the internet! When there's a lot of something, there's many or a high volume.

bellow below
Coming Soon

below bellow
Coming Soon

brake break
Coming Soon

break brake
Coming Soon

effect affect
Perhaps this list is going to have an effect on how you think about grammar. The effect something has on something is the change it has caused. It's the end result or consequence, not how something is affecting you. This word can mean multiple different other things too, further clouding its use. There are personal effects that belong to you, and special effects in movies!

except accept
We've all heard "I before E, except after C," but did you know there are many exceptions? When you're excepting something, you're excluding it, not taking a gift.

it's its
It's not unheard of to forget what contractions are! A contraction joins two words together to create a shortened version of that word. So it's going to be informative to read this handy guide, because it is going to be useful information.

its it's
A possessive word, its usefulness is invaluable. If "it is" doesn't fit, then it's always "its" you're looking for!

loose lose
Let your inner grammar nerd loose! Or maybe you should check to see if your shoelace came loose? Loose is the opposite of tight in some instances, and in others you can be assured that it means you're relaxing the standard for something.

lose loose
Did you lose your place on this list? Sorry, it's getting pretty long! When you lose something, you can't find it. When someone loses, they have not won.

passed past
Did this list get passed along to you by someone else? Were you at the store the other day and couldn't pass another car? If so, once you were finally able to, you passed that car. "Passed" is direction-based; forward, to be exact! This means it's an action. Verb: It's what you do.

past passed
Don't scroll past this one! "Past" is something that is already done, so if something already happened, it's a past event. Where the confusion comes in: You can go past something, and you drove past that building, going to the further side of it, but you didn't past by that door. Being used this way, it's an adverb and it needs a verb to qualify it.

than then
Is this list more than we actually need? That's going to be subjective. "Than" is used to introduce a second element or an exception, not to indicate a time. You'd rather use the right word than have to edit it later, after all!

their there, they're
This possessive word means that something belongs to someone or multiple people. Whose phone is that? It's theirs!

then than
If you don't know the difference between "then" and "than", then you aren't alone. If you want to express a point in time, or state your case, then "then" is for you. "We went to the movies, then to dinner." Let's avoid some awkward situations where you'd rather donate to a charity, then commit arson. That would just be listing the order you'd like to do this odd combination of events rather than explaining you'd rather do one and not the other.

there their, they're
There's a place for this word, and that's because this adverb is location-based. If someone found the phone you lost in the couch, it was under there!

they're their, there
Not telling you who the phone belongs to or helping you find it when it gets lost, "they're" is a contraction for "they are", and can be applied to people or objects. They're going to help you find your phone, by the way!

to too
To be, or not to be, that is the question. If you're using "to" as an indication that one thing is more than another thing, or in addition to that thing, you're using this spelling wrong. If you're going to a place, or something is supposed to be done, or maybe you just need to indicate to her, then this is the "to" you're looking for.

too to
This is too often confused with "to", and I see it a lot! "Too" is what you mean when you want to express that it's additional or to a higher degree. "The amount of times I see 'too' misused is too damn high!"

wander wonder
Coming Soon

wary weary
Coming Soon

weary wary
Coming Soon

whose who's
Whose bag is this? Did someone drop this? "Whose" is a possessive word, so if you're trying to figure out who something belongs to, you want to know whose it is.

who's whose
Who's guilty of making this spelling mistake? Just remember your contractions and you'll be just fine! "Who's" is short for "who is", so this is what you mean when you ask, "Who's going to the store?"

wonder wander
Coming Soon

worse worst
Coming Soon

worst worse
Coming Soon

yea yeah
Hell yea! Or... maybe not. "Yea" is often used in place of "yeah" since they're both affirmatives meaning "yes", but this word actually rhymes with "yay" and is the opposite of "nay". This is also the word you want when you're describing the extent of something, so maybe he was about yea big.

yeah yea
Yeah, man! Now we're talking. This is the informal slang for "yes".

your you're
Your misuse of this word isn't uncommon, don't worry. "Your" is a possessive, which means that if this bag is yours, it belongs to you, whereas "Is this you're bag?" is actually saying, "Is this you are bag?"

you're your
You're also not alone in using this word wrong. Always keep contractions in mind—or more specifically, what they do. "You're" is a contraction of "you are", and if you're ever not sure if you're using the right one, as shown above, repeat it without the contraction to see if it still makes sense. This item does not belong to you are, but it could be yours!
Common Word Misspellings
This word
is often misspelled as
Learning the difference!
argument arguement
Coming Soon

relevant relevent, relavent
Not knowing quite where to put the A—or if there even is an A—is a common problem. For reference: there is an A, and it always comes last!

whoa woah, whoah, woe
Whoa—hold on there, buddy! You may have been spelling this word wrong. "Woah" and "whoah" are the most common misspellings of this word, and "woe" is sometimes mistaken for "whoa"; this is a real word that actually means great sorrow or distress.

y'all ya'll
Y'all know this is more of an informal contraction, but it does have a correct place for its apostrophe! "Y'all" is short for "you all", and it's common in the south of the US. Since "all" is the full word being used, the contraction is at the start of the word rather than the end, which is probably where the confusion comes in. "Ya'll" is assuming the full phrase is "ya all".
Common Idiom & Phrase Mix-Ups
This phrase
is often missaid as
Learning the difference!
by accident on accident
Maybe this doesn't quite fit the list, but I see it so often! Crap, have you accidentally done something wrong? This was by accident, not on accident. You want "by" because it's an adverb and it's qualifying an action.

first of all firstable
Coming Soon

for all intents and purposes for all intensive purposes
Coming Soon

UPDATED: June 16, 2020
[broke list into sections for ease of use; added upcoming word explanations]

Upcoming Posts

Planned Works

Upcoming Guides
Advocating for the Oxford Comma
Using & overusing "that" as a Conjunction
Using nouns, pronouns, & proper nouns
Upcoming Essays
That's what she said: Dialogue 101
Is it good or is it just verbose?
Finding Your Character Voice
Accents: Dialect vs Phonetics
Faking & Researching Character Knowledge
Artistic License in Formatting

Contact Me

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