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63 votes

Is it wrong to use the same word multiple times within a few sentences?

I think it weakens the prose, unless it is clearly intentional ("he had a big head, big teeth, a big nose, a big attitude.") In your example, "sleek" is not a very precise description, to me. The ...
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  • 91k
54 votes

Should items separated by commas be alphabetical?

There's no rule about the order of listed elements, so this is not a question of grammar, but of style. There are a few different approaches you could take: An alphabetical order might make it easier ...
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  • 2,870
48 votes

Is there any pronoun in English that can include both HE and SHE?

"They" is typically the English pronoun you would use here. It is a generally accepted, gender-neutral pronoun that has been in usage for centuries to refer to any of the following: A group ...
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  • 8,622
31 votes

Should the name of a mythological creature be capitalized?

Yes, if it's the Grinch A unique creature, which is the Manananggal (effectively THAT creature's name), should be capitalized. No, if it's a fairy Even if your creature is rare, if you are likely ...
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  • 7,883
30 votes

Can basic grammar rules be skipped when writing text for machine safety labels?

I really like this question. I cringe to say it, but I somewhat agree about breaking grammar rules in the interest of safety. I frequently write technical emails/IT system announcements that are ...
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  • 1,574
30 votes

I am trying to find an online, free to use and algorithm-based grammar checker, that can reliably point out mistakes. Any suggestions?

To the best of my knowledge, no grammar checker yet developed is "reliable" enough to never or rarely give incorrect suggestions. This includes commercial as well as free ones. The best that ...
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  • 3,690
30 votes
Accepted

How can I avoid overusing "I" and "I'm" in a first person short story?

The way to stop overusing 'I' and 'I'm' is to examine the words following those terms. Usually, they are filter words -- thought, felt, heard, et cetera -- and are putting a kind of layer between your ...
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  • 7,485
24 votes

I thought I understood tenses

There's not an exact right or wrong here, it's a matter of stylistic choices. Your beta readers disagree with yours --that's part of why you have beta readers, but ultimately you're still the writer ...
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23 votes

Do academic papers have to be necessarily grammatically correct?

An important purpose of writing is to organize thoughts and communicate them to an audience. You would not write in French if the audience was fluent in only English. If the goal is to communicate, ...
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22 votes
Accepted

Can basic grammar rules be skipped when writing text for machine safety labels?

Of course you can't just ignore all basic grammar rules. For example, writing: Not cover the opening machines power be while do. obviously makes no sense to anyone, even though it's got all the ...
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20 votes

How can I avoid overusing "I" and "I'm" in a first person short story?

Remember your first person POV is the narrator: When I am describing what is going on in third person, it wouldn't occur to address people about me as narrator. But in many ways, first person POV is ...
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  • 12.5k
19 votes

Should I start a new paragraph after a dialogue if the action is being taken by a new person?

I would say it is definitely a new paragraph if only to indicate 'he' didn't say 'I thought ...'. I teach that you start a new paragraph when you change speaker, place, time or character. Here the ...
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  • 7,443
19 votes
Accepted

I thought I understood tenses

You do, you do understand tenses. Direct thought follows the same rules as direct speech, except that it is italicized rather than quoted. The same Wikipedia article describes both. This means it is ...
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  • 7,485
16 votes

Can basic grammar rules be skipped when writing text for machine safety labels?

The label should be as short as possible without creating ambiguity. In many workplaces, the employer is required (OSHA, ISO, FDA, etc.) to train anyone who would be working in a particular area with ...
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  • 291
16 votes

Is there any difference between these two sentences? (Adverbs)

The reason for the "adverbs are the devil" rule is they are generally "telling", not "showing". The reason we want to "show" instead of "tell" is that it is the writer's job to assist the imagination ...
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  • 91k
16 votes
Accepted

"Lack of [plural]": should accompanying verb be singular or plural?

I agree, it's not the answers (plural) that "cause" has to agree with, it's "the lack of answers...". You have A LACK OF something, so the singular verb form is correct. It's not ...
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  • 1,220
14 votes
Accepted

When quoting, must I also copy hyphens used to divide words that continue on the next line?

Except in poetry, which retains its line breaks even when put on a single line, it doesn't make sense to retain a line end hyphen elsewhere on the line. It just wouldn't make sense and it would look ...
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  • 3,463
13 votes
Accepted

How to write about transgender issues while avoiding cognitive dissonance?

Without getting into social commentary, it seems to me that it's practically impossible to talk about the life of a transgender person without getting into the sort of paradoxical or at least ...
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  • 25.2k
13 votes

Should items separated by commas be alphabetical?

No. And particularly not in your example of a list of historical periods, in which the obvious listing would be in chronological order. Alphabetical order would be perverse! In most other cases, ...
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13 votes

I am trying to find an online, free to use and algorithm-based grammar checker, that can reliably point out mistakes. Any suggestions?

English grammar is a bit of a mess. Even smart humans can disagree about the correctness of a particular grammatical construction. You ask a great deal of an application, free or otherwise, to be &...
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  • 4,914
12 votes

How can I improve my sentence construction or flow in general writing?

1. READ A LOT I agree with @Cloudchaser that writing is a craft you have to practise. You should absolutely read these books that have been recommended to you. Read as many as you can on the craft of ...
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  • 9,893
12 votes

Should I start a new paragraph after a dialogue if the action is being taken by a new person?

First of all, I'll admit I had some trouble identifying who said “I thought you said that name was already taken?” I'm assuming that Oddie said it in reaction to Arden's suggestion and that Nat, the ...
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12 votes

I am trying to find an online, free to use and algorithm-based grammar checker, that can reliably point out mistakes. Any suggestions?

Checking grammar using a computer program has indeed turned out to be much harder than computer scientists thought when the computer was a new concept. Some even thought natural language, logic, and ...
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  • 4,668

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