What Is the Oxford Comma and Why Is It Important?

It is common knowledge that writing is fun and exciting, especially when you want to express yourself vividly. You want to write from the heart, devoid of the standards of journalism. But to some extent, you would have to write based on the conventions of grammar. One of these conventions includes the use of the Oxford comma.

A lot of people have no idea what the Oxford comma is. However, they might have unknowingly used this in the past already. In this article, we are going to be talking about the essentials of Oxford comma: from its importance to its history.

The Oxford Comma Defined

The Oxford comma, also known as the serial comma, is the final comma that is placed before a coordinating conjunction in a set of three or more objects. These coordinating conjunctions include “and” or “or.” Editors and writers have varied opinions on whether or not people should use the serial comma. Even its use also differs between and among regional varieties of English. Nevertheless, the comma has been used in various pieces throughout the ages.

Let us provide you with an example:

Sentence 1: John brought us apples, oranges and grapes.

Sentence 2: John brought us apples, oranges, and grapes.

 

If you look at the Sentence 1 above, the Oxford comma was not used. Hence, we can conclude that the two fruits namely, “oranges and grapes” are considered as one. In Sentence 2, the Oxford comma was used. This changes the whole structure of the sentence. We can safely assume that John brought three different fruits: apples, oranges, and also grapes.

You should note that the Oxford comma is optional, which means you are not required to use it. As a matter of fact, it is not a common practice in countries such as the United Kingdom, South Africa, or Australia. Although it is a standard grammar rule in the United States, it is more common when dealing with non-journalistic forms of prose.

Importance of the Oxford Comma

As we have mentioned earlier, using the serial comma or Oxford comma is entirely optional. However, the meanings of most – if not all – sentences might change drastically without it. This is one of the reasons why the Oxford comma is important.

Let us take for instance several examples presented below.

Sentence 1: Cynthia invited her two bosses, Larry and Bert.

Sentence 2: Cynthia invited her two bosses, Larry, and Bert.

With the omission of a comma, the meaning of the sentence changes completely. For the first sentence, Cynthia invited two people – her two bosses. This is because the absence of the Oxford comma makes it appear that the bosses are in fact, Larry and Bert. However, in the second sentence, Cynthia invited four people – her two bosses, Larry, and finally, we have Bert. The presence of the Oxford comma makes it appear that Larry and Bert are separate entities from the two bosses.

One of the other reasons why the Oxford comma is necessary is so that we could make our thoughts as clear as possible. When writing, the stress or pause which we intend might not be translated fully into text. This might confuse a lot of readers. Let us look at another example where this reason is evident.

Sentence 1: Dimitri drove with his best friend, a doctor and an engineer.

Sentence 2: Dimitri drove with his best friend, a doctor, and an engineer.

If we try to study the first sentence, we may conclude that Dimitri’s best friend is a doctor and an engineer at the same time. This is because the absence of the Oxford comma allows us to think that these two terms (namely, the doctor and the engineer) describe his best friend. However, if we try to add the Oxford comma after the conjunction, the whole sentence forms a new meaning. The second sentence now means that Dimitri drove with three different people – his best friend, a doctor, and also the engineer.

Here is another example where confusion might arise when the Oxford comma is absent.

Sentence 1: She dedicated her speech to her parents, Walt Whitman and God.

Sentence 2: She dedicated her speech to her parents, Walt Whitman, and God.

Basing from the first sentence, it is likely that the speech was dedicated to her parents, namely Walt Whitman and God. This might confuse readers since they could comprehend that her parents’ names are indeed Walt Whitman and God. To avoid confusion and ambiguity, the comma is essential. If we look at the second sentence, it becomes more evident – that the speech was dedicated to her parents, to Walt Whitman, and finally, to God.

To read more about common oxford comma issues and other punctuation errors, you should read Eats, Shoots & Leaves.the oxford comma

History of the Oxford Comma

Like the comma itself, the origins of the Oxford comma is also ambiguous. But before we do get to know the person who is attributed to this grammar style, we have to give credit to the person who introduced comma. An Italian painter in the 15th century, Aldus Manutius (or Aldo Manuzio as others call him) introduced the concept of the comma in order to separate things.

Horace Hart, on the other hand, is attributed to be the person who introduced the serial comma to the world. Hart is a controller of the Oxford University Press from the year 1893 to 1915. In the year 1905, he published a book entitled, “Hart’s Rules for Compositors and Readers,” which served as a style guide for the employers who used to work at the press. The Oxford comma was included in such rule.

There were others, however, which were attributed to being the one who introduced such concept. Peter Sutcliff credited F. Howard Collins for introducing Oxford comma. It was noted that Collins stated it in his 1912 book entitled, “Author & Printer: A Guide for Authors, Editors, Printers, Correctors of the Press, Compositors, and Typists.” Nevertheless, it was Sutcliff himself who called the Oxford comma as such in his 1978 book regarding the history of the Oxford University Press.

No matter the ambiguous history, there is one thing that is clear – the need to use the Oxford comma. Why not try using it today?

Capitalizing Names of Holidays and Holiday Terms

Holidays, whether religious, secular, or national, are proper nouns and therefore should be capitalized. This includes all national holidays when businesses are closed, such as Columbus Day, and most religious and holy days, such as Hanukkah.

The holiday capitalization rules include whether you use the short or long form of the title. For example, both New Year’s Day and New Year’s are capitalized. This also includes related “eves” such as New Year’s Eve or Halloween Eve.

If you are using the holiday in a title or headline, any proceeding adjectives that are referencing the holiday, such as “Merry Christmas,” are also capitalized.

Here’s a list of some of the msot common holidays that are capitalized:

Advent

All Saints’ Day

Australia Day

Bastille Day

Boxing Day

Canada Day

Christmas (also Christmas Day and Christmas Eve)

Coming of Age Day (Japan)

Easter

Epiphany

Father’s Day

Good Friday

Hanukkah

Holocaust Remembrance Day

Holy Thursday, Holy Saturday, Holy Week

Independence Day (US) also the Fourth of July and July Fourth

Kwanzaa

Labor Day (US)

Labour Day (Canada and other nations)

Lent

Martin Luther King Jr. Day (US)

Maundy Thursday

May Day

Memorial Day

Michaelmas (the feast of Saint Michael the Archangel)

Mother’s Day

New Year’s (also New Year’s Day and New Year’s Eve)

Passover

Presidents’ Day

Purim

Ramadan

Remembrance Day

Rosh Hashanah

St George’s Day

St. Patrick’s Day (also Saint or St Patrick’s Day)

Thanksgiving (also Thanksgiving Day)

the High Holy Days

Twelfth Night

Valentine’s Day

Veterans Day (no apostrophe)

Victoria Day (Canada)

Victory Day (Russia)

Yom Kippur


Do these holiday capitalization rules always hold?

No. As with any rules, there are exceptions. When written in standard text, the following should not be capitalized.

  • happy birthday
  • happy Thanksgiving
  • happy holidays
  • happy anniversary
  • season’s greetings
  • happy or merry Christmas
  • happy New Year

Active vs Passive Voice

Using active or passive voice in the construction of sentences is a characteristic that makes the English language distinct. Whether writing for formal speeches or delivering conversational messages, these two voices are often used to convey a message.

However, the proper use of these voices sometimes confuse many writers. It creates a dilemma that might be difficult to solve, especially if you lack the know-hows. In this article, we are going to differentiate active voice from passive voice. We are also going to discuss when you should use them, and why you should use each.

Active Voice and Passive Voice

Before differentiating the two, we need to identify the components that are crucial in the construction of sentences. The first component is the subject. The subject performs the action. It serves as the primary character of the sentence. The next component is the verb. The verb is the action that the subject is doing.

To further understand what subjects and verbs are, we have to take a look at some examples.

The bird is flying in the air.

In the sentence, the bird acts as the subject while flying is the verb.

Jomar sent another proposal to his client.

In the sentence, Jomar acts as the subject who does the verb, sent.

After identifying the main components of the sentence, you have to examine the relationship between the subject and the verb. You have to gauge whether the subject performs the action, or it is being performed by something else. This is where active and passive voice come in.

Fundamentally speaking, the active voice highlights the subject that performs the verb. This type of voice is apparent when the subject goes first, followed by the verb. The passive voice, on the other hand, gives emphasis to the verb or the recipient of the verb, rather than the subject. Usually, the verb comes first followed by the subject.

To further understand the difference between the two, we try to look at several examples of passive and active voice.

Example 1

Active voice: The student receives his certificate.

Passive voice: The certificate is received by the student.

In the example above, we can clearly gauge the difference between the active and the passive voice. For the active voice, we can identify that the student is the subject that does the receiving of the certificate. The passive voice, on the other hand, focuses on the certificate rather than the subject.

If we try to analyze the sentences more, we can also see that the active voice is more concise and more direct than the passive voice.

Let us take a look at another example and try to study it.

 

Example 2

Active voice: The teacher demonstrated the lesson in such a way that the students understood.

Passive voice: The lesson was demonstrated by the teacher in such a way that the students understood.

The sentences above are more complex than the examples given earlier, but it is still relatively easy to spot which among them is in active voice and passive voice. In the first sentence, the teacher is highlighted. It was also clear that the verb used was demonstrated. In the second sentence, the lesson – or the object of the sentence – is given importance. The teacher, who serves as the subject, was only stated after the verb has been stated.

There are instances when the subject cannot be identified, hence the use of passive voice is more proper. Let us take a look at this example.

Example 3

Passive voice: The flash drive was retrieved yesterday.

Active voice: Someone retrieved the flash drive yesterday.

In this sentence, we can feel a sense of mystery since it was not stated who retrieved the flash drive. If a subject is not identified, then the passive voice may be used. We cannot just say someone as the subject.

But this is not the only instance when the passive voice can be used.

Example 4

Passive voice: The bags were delivered late.

Active voice: You delivered the bags late.

In the example above, you may want to be discreet by not naming the subject of the sentence. Hence, you could use passive voice. Using active voice on the sentence only shatters your tactfulness.

Example 5

Passive voice: Her proposal has been rejected by the client because of lack of expertise.

Active voice: The client rejected her proposal because of lack of expertise.

You could also use the passive voice – like the example above – when you want to highlight the action rather than the subject. Since the term rejected is more powerful than that of the client, it should be given more emphasis.

Example 6

Passive voice: The papers should be given not later than Thursday night.

Active voice: You should give the papers not later than Thursday night.

In certain instances, you could use passive voice when you want to create a tone with authority. In the sentence above, using the active voice would just make it less authoritative.

Why Use the Active Voice

While there are many instances where passive voice is used, many writers prefer active voice rather than the passive voice because with active voice the subject of the sentence is clear. With the use of active voice when writing, your output becomes more concise and straightforward rather than all over the place. This makes your essay much easier to understand and comprehend.

In other cases, using active voice will also add impact to your sentences. Since they are shorter, your sentences become sharper and clearer, giving readers the chance to visualize what is really happening.

Example 7

Active voice: The bamboo waved as the breeze blew softly.

In the sentence above, you create a vivid image, making readers understand you better. When the sentence becomes passive, the whole imagery of the sentence becomes a blur.

In addition to this, using active voice would keep your readers interested with what they are reading. Since your output is short, they are lead to believe that they will gain more information rather than those unclear ones.

Conclusion

In writing essays, it is important that you pay attention to the voice and one of your sentences. Doing so could help you improve your performance as a writer. In addition to this, your output becomes much easier to understand, attracting more readers along the way.

Grammarly Review 2018: The Best Free Grammar Checker

Although I’ve been running this site for a while, I had yet to use or write a Grammarly review until recently! Grammarly is the best free grammar checker on the internet. About a month ago, I decided to install the Grammarly Chrome plugin for the first time and have been amazed. It is a really awesome tool that helps me check the grammar in my blog as I go. Since I loved the tool so much, I wanted to share my experience in this review of Grammarly to let you know how you can use this awesome free grammar checker, too!

What is Grammarly?

Grammarly is a free online grammar checker that lets you proofread articles, essays, emails, book chapters, and more for common grammar and spelling mistakes as well as typos. You can either write directly in their editor or upload documents you have written. There’s even a Google Chrome plugin that will edit documents and blog posts created outside of the Grammarly website. I used the plugin to edit this post! Hopefully this Grammarly review will convince you that Grammarly is an amazing tool.

They also offer a premium service that will uncover deeper grammatical issues and plagiarism detection.

I think you’ll agree with me when I say typos and grammar mistakes are embarrassing. Grammarly takes the guesswork out of proofreading.

Features

Grammarly has a number of unique features that make it the best grammar checker on the market:

  • Grammar checking: It has a highly effective grammar checking feature that can greatly benefit writers and bloggers. It has very high accuracy which was quite surprising coming from an automated tool.
  • Integrates seamlessly with Google Chrome: One of the best features of Grammarly is that it works flawlessly with Google Chrome. Simply install the Grammarly Chrome plugin and start letting Grammarly correct your writing across the internet.
  • Proofreading: It can be used to proofread business cover letters and academic papers. It can also be used to edit a novel or a casual email. Proofreading comes free with Grammarly unlike other proofreading tools which are available in the market.
  • Plagiarism detector: Plagiarism checking is a premium feature of the application. It can successfully check more than eight billion web pages when it is used to make documents. This is good for making data both standard and unique.
  • Suggestions for vocabulary enhancement: The application has an excellent database of vocabulary. It gives suggestions to improve the usage of vocabulary as you type. This feature is useful for people who have the habit of repeating some words when preparing documents.
  • 150 critical spelling and grammar checks: Grammarly has an algorithm that is designed to check for over 150 critical grammar checks on documents. This feature is useful for people who are victims of making many mistakes during writing. Furthermore, it has a user interface that is both responsive and very simple to use. This is because Grammarly executes when the user begins writing and provides results when writing stops.

Pros

  • Integrates into Google Chrome so you don’t need to do anything else to get feedback
  • Excellent grammar proofreading with an extensive online knowledgebase
  • Extremely useful for non-English speakers
  • Free version checks for over 100 different grammar rules (Premium does over 400)

Cons

  • Grammarly Premium costs $29.95/mo ($11.66/mo for annual plan) which some users may balk at
  • A proofreading is still necessary since Grammarly will not catch every mistake

grammarly discount banner - grammarly review

What Grammarly Checks For

Grammarly checks for three main things: grammar, spelling, and vocabulary.

  • Grammar: Grammarly checks your text for over 150 grammar rules (over 250 if you get Premium). It can check everything from subject-verb agreement to article use to modifier placement.
  • Spelling: Spell checkers have been around for a long time, but Grammarly takes spell checking to another level. Their algorithm spots erroneous use of lose/loose, affect/effect, lie/lay, there/their/they’re, and many other commonly confused words.
  • Vocabulary: In addition to the grammar and spell checking, Grammarly will also suggest synonyms that it thinks will make your writing more powerful by analyzing the content as you write.
  • Plagarism: One of Grammarly’s unique features is its ability to automatically check for plagiarism within your work so that you know immediately whether you need to include citations or redo the writing.

Is Grammarly Premium Worth It?

The Grammarly cost for a premium package is $29.95/month (or $11.66/month if you buy the annual package) which offers additional features you can’t find in the free version or the Grammarly Chrome plugin.

The features that are found in the premium version vs the free version can be seen in the table below:

FeatureFreePremium
150 critical grammar and spelling checks
250+ additional advanced grammar and spelling checksX
Vocabulary enhancement suggestionsX
Genre-specific writing style checksX
Plagiarism detector that checks more than 8 billion web pagesX

Premium customers have even seen dramatic results over the free version:

  • 99% of students see improved writing grades
  • 76% of customers find writing more enjoyable
  • 85% of customers are stronger writers

Overall, the premium version offers some great features that definitely help people become better writers.

How to Use Grammarly to Check Grammar

Using Grammarly was a breeze. All I did was go to their website and create an account. I also added the Google Chrome plugin when I registered.

Once I had an account, using Grammarly was very natural. The interface is very similar to Google Docs.

When you first log in, you can either create a new document or upload an existing one.

grammarly-dashboard

Once you have created a new document you can click on it and be taken to the editor. I used two paragraphs from one of my other sites, Viola Central, as an example:

viola-central-post

As you can see from the image above, Grammarly does a great job of capturing the key errors. While it is not 100% (it says my use of the word “viola” might be incorrect and could possibly be “villa”), it certainly works well enough.

The interface is very similar when using the Google Chrome plugin. Grammarly will check for grammar errors and typos while you type, underlining words and phrases it thinks may have issues.

Testing Grammarly

In order to show you how powerful Grammarly’s algorithms are, I have taken a sample poorly written paragraph from an English class website at Penn State University.

According to the PSU website, the paragraph has the circled four errors that were identified by human proofreaders:

psu-example-answers

Let’s see how Grammarly did:

grammarly-psu-example

Wow! Grammarly identified more errors than the human did and actually offered suggestions.

How Does Grammarly Compare with Competitors?

Grammarly vs Ginger

Grammarly’s closest competitor is Ginger Software. Like Grammarly, Ginger offers a Google Chrome and Microsoft Office plugin in addition to the online portal. They are also free. In fact, the offer plenty of options for which devices you can use Ginger on including: Windows app, iOS, Android, Chrome extension, Safari extension.

I personally prefer Grammarly’s online interface over Ginger’s. Grammarly immediately shows you the errors on the right-hand side of the screen whereas Ginger forces you to scroll over the word/phrase.

Ginger's interface requires users to hover over the word
Ginger’s interface requires users to hover over the word

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Grammarly vs Hemingway

Hemingway is another app that can be used for checking your writing. However, it does this in a different way than Grammarly. While Grammarly will point out specific grammar issues, Hemingway will focus on the bigger picture of your writing. Hemingway will give you feedback on whether sentences are hard to read and some general stats about your writing, such as how many adverbs you used, but it won’t give you much else. You are on your own to make the corrections it suggests.

We love Hemingway as a writing platform, but cannot recommend it as a good grammar checker.

hemingway app

Other Benefits of Grammarly

Grammarly boasts of providing consumers with a ton benefits including:

  • It has the potential of scanning for up to one hundred and fifty common and even advanced grammar rules. This is very good as it only shows its robustness and how thorough it is
  • It is designed to even check for plagiarism and go the extra mile to create references that it considers the text was lifted from
  • It has free online services i.e. community-driven forum, reference guide and a thesaurus
  • The application is available as a plug-in for Microsoft Word
  • The premium version contextually scans texts for typos and mistakes and proceeds to provide suggestions to improve the writing
  • It has 100% money back guarantee. This means that consumers can have their money reimburse if they are not happy with the product
  • It allows people to utilize either UK or US standards
  • Its features are customizable
  • It can be used for by schools, businesses, and individuals

grammarly discount banner - grammarly review

Final Words

In using Grammarly for the past month, I have come to love this grammar checker. As the example above proved, Grammarly actually performs better than a human proofreader in most cases. However, Grammarly does offer human proofreading in their Premium service at 2 cents per word for 24-hour turnaround. Hopefully this Grammarly review proved why this free grammar checker is amazing. Here’s a quick recap:

Pros

  • Integrated within your browser so you don’t need to do anything else to get feedback
  • Excellent grammar proofreading with an extensive online knowledgebase
  • Extremely useful for non-English speakers
  • Free version checks for over 100 different grammar rules (Premium does up to 250)

Cons

  • Pro version costs $29.99/mo which some users may balk at
  • A proofreading is still necessary since Grammarly will not catch every mistake

Go ahead, give Grammarly a free try and see if you don’t feel the same as me! I hope this Grammarly review has convinced you.

Best Laptops for Writers 2018

Are you wondering what the best laptops for writers are? Or just browsing laptop possibilities? You have come to the right place. As a web tool catered to writers of all kinds, we are uniquely able to tell you about the best laptops for writers. With each laptop review, we will also tell you for what writing the laptop is suited, be it for writing books, novels, notes, business proposals, etc.

Given that most writers need to be mobile, we will keep this list to only laptops, but plan to review desktops as well in the future. The following guide of best laptops for writers is geared towards full-time writers who need great writing laptops for their jobs, but anyone is welcome to read this guide.

Before we begin, let us define what makes a great laptop for writers:

Best Laptops for Writers 2018

LaptopProcessor | RAM | Storage
1. Acer Aspire EIntel® i5 | 4GB | 1TB
2. Lenovo IdeapadAMD A12 | 8GB | 1TB
3. MacBook AirIntel® i5 | 8GB | 128GB SSD
4. HP Notebook ay011nrIntel® i5 | 8GB | 1TB
5. Acer ChromebookIntel Celeron | 4GB | 32B SSD
6. Lenovo ThinkPad T470SIntel® i5 | 8GB | 256GB SSD
7. ASUS ZenBookIntel® i5 | 8GB | 256GB SSD
8. Dell InspironIntel® i5 | 8GB | 1TB
9. Microsoft Surface BookIntel® i5 | 8GB | 128GB SSD
10. MacBook ProIntel® i5 | 8GB | 128GB SSD

What makes the best laptop for writers?

Buying a new laptop can be a challenge if you don’t know what to look for in a laptop. The eight key things you need to look for when buying a new laptop are below:

Recommended laptop configuration for writers:

Storage: These days, at least 250GB is ideal. If you travel a lot, you may want to look into an SSD drive upgrade

Graphics: Getting a discrete is recommended, but not necessary

RAM: Buy at least 4GB, but more than 6GB is preferred

Software: Buy Windows or Mac OSX and your preferred word processor

Processor: AMD A6/ Intel i3 OR better

Keyboard: Buying a full keyboard might be beneficial if you have to type numbers a lot, have big hands, or just prefer one. You can either get a larger laptop (heavier) or buy a lightweight USB keyboard. Also, we highly recommend getting a backlit keyboard so you can write in low light.

Weight: Choose something lightweight (less than 4lbs) if you will carry it often

1. Acer Aspire E

The Acer Aspire E could be one of your best investments as a writer since it has everything you need to spend hours writing. It has a long battery life (12 hours), a backlit keyboard, and plenty of RAM and storage.

The Acer Aspire E packs a 15.6 inch full-HD screen, an Intel i5 processor and 8GB of RAM. Also, the Acer includes 2GB of dedicated graphics RAM so if you are planning to do a lot of image editing, this is a great buy.

The laptop comes preinstalled with the Windows 10 operating system, but that can be customized. It also included a backlit keyboard which is great for writers who love late nights.

2. Lenovo Ideapad

Lenovo is known for making quality, lightweight laptops. The Ideapad is one of their most value-driven laptops available making it perfect for the budget-concious writer.

It comes with a 2.7GHz AMD Quad Core processor, 8GB of DDR4 RAM, a 1TB hard drive, and a DVD reader (rare these days) all for less than $400 att the time of this writing. It also has 2 USB 3.0 ports and a USB Type-C port so you know it will work with all of your accessories.

Even with all of these features, the Ideapad weighs a mere 4.85lbs and is only 0.9 inches thick, so your backpack won’t be weighed down by this laptop.

3. MacBook Air

The MacBook Air is the most portable laptop on this list. While it is one of the more expensive laptops, it weighs only 2.95 lbs, making it the lightest laptop on this list and a great choice for writers on-the-go. It has everything a writer needs and the Mac OS makes it extremely simple to use.

The MacBook Air features a 13.3-inch display, 8GB RAM, a 128GB SSD, and up to 12 hours of battery life. The MacBook Air doesn’t have a retina display so as to limit the amount of extra weight added from a bigger battery and graphics processor.

We recommend the MacBook Air if you want a lightweight laptop that features the Mac operating system. The asking price of ~$900 may be off-putting, but if you love the Apple ecosystem, this is the laptop for you.

4. HP Notebook ay011nr

The best laptop for writers by far is the HP Notebook ay011nr and it packs a load of features. It’s really hard to match the bang for your buck with this laptop.

This gem features a 15.6 inch full-HD screen, an Intel i5 processor, 8GB of RAM, and a 1TB hard drive. It even has a backlit keyboard to boot. For an additional $30, you can get an SSD hard drive which will make it less prone to heating issues and will eliminate your worries about losing data from a hard drive crash.

The laptop comes preinstalled with the Windows 10 operating system, but that can be customized. The only downside to this laptop is the weight which comes in at a little under 5 lbs.

Very rarely can you get a laptop with such great features for such a great price. We highly recommend you snatch this laptop up before it’s gone since it is the best laptop for writers!

5. Acer Chromebook

The lowest priced laptop on our list, the Acer Chromebook certainly offers many of the tools writers are looking for out-of-the-box.

While it may not pack the same power as the other laptops on this list, the Chromebook doesn’t need to. It has a 14-inch screen, which is plenty for writing,  4GB of RAM, and a 1.6 GHz processor. It only has 32GB of storage, but that’s because everything it does is stored in the cloud so you never have to worry about losing files!

All Chromebooks run on Google’s proprietary Google OS which functions very much like the Google Chrome browser.

For the price of less than $250, it’s hard to beat the Google Chromebook, especially when it has all the features writers are looking for.

6. Lenovo ThinkPad T470S

One of the higher-priced laptops on this list, the Lenovo ThinkPad T470S book offers plenty of perks to make up for the price tag.

This laptop features a 14-inch touchscreen, an Intel i5 processor, 8GB of DDR4 RAM, and a 256GB solid-state hard drive. It even has a backlit keyboard and it is very lightweight at only 2.9lbs and 0.8″. The battery will also last for your entire writing day since it boasts a 12.5-hour battery.

If you’re willing to spend a little bit more on this laptop, we’re sure that you will get your money’s worth.

7. ASUS ZenBook

One of the higher-priced laptops on our 2016 list, the Asus ZenBook book offers plenty of perks to make up for the price tag.

This laptop features a 13.3-inch multi-touch (yes, you can tap it!) screen, an Intel i5 processor, 8GB of RAM, and a 1TB hard drive. It even has a backlit keyboard and it is the lightest laptop on this list. Obviously, the main differentiator between this laptop and the others on this list is the touchscreen. This is a huge benefit for writers who want to archive their work immediately in real-time on their laptops.

If you’re looking for a laptop on which you can handwrite notes, this is the laptop for you!

8. Dell Inspiron

Another great laptop, the Dell Inspiron has everything you’d expect from a great laptop for writers at a reasonable price.

An i5 Intel processor, 8GB RAM, 15.6 inch touchscreen, a 1TB HDD, and Windows 10 operating system. This touchscreen is cheaper than the Asus ZenBook which makes it a great buy if you are looking for a touchscreen. The wide palm area is ideal for writers as well. The 7 hours of battery life also makes this laptop a steal.

If you are a looking for a reliable, great laptop with a touchscreen this is a great laptop.

9. Microsoft Surface Book

Microsoft really knocked it out of the park when the developed the Surface Book. It is a beautiful laptop that is perfect  for writers who love touchscreens. While a lot pricier than most of the laptops on this list, it definitely makes up for it with value. We do only recommend this laptop for serious writers though due to the price.

Being a Microsoft laptop, the Surface Book comes preinstalled with Windows 10. The base model comes with 4GB RAM, a 13.5-inch PixelSense Display works perfectly with the included pen, an Intel i5 processor, 128 GB of storage, 8GB RAM, and up to 12 hours of battery life. The keyboard disconnects from the screen, allowing you to use it as a tablet as well.

The best part about this laptop is the screen. The included pen works seamlessly with the laptop, making this is the best touchscreen we have on this list. If you enjoy writing on laptops or tablets, this is the laptop for you.

10. MacBook Pro

No list of the best laptops for writers would be complete without the MacBook Pro. While we love this laptop, it is quite pricey which is why we don’t rank it higher in our list.

The MacBook Pro 13.3-Inch Retina Display, 8GB RAM, a 128GB SSD, and up to 9 hours of battery life. MacBooks come with the Mac OS X Yosemite, but you can install Windows by using the Parallels program. It is also one of the lightest laptops on this list. It has a backlit keyboard for writing in low light and a spacious palm rest.

We recommend the MacBook Pro if you prefer the Mac OSX operating system environment or prefer a really great screen resolution. The asking price of $1,200 may be off-putting, but if you love the Apple ecosystem, this is the laptop for you.

Capital vs. Capitol

Capital and Capitol are one of the most frequently confused pairs of words since the distinction between the two is subtle and the words are used infrequently unless you work in finance or in the government.

Capital and Capitol are an example of homophones, words that sound the same, but have different meanings and spellings.

 

Etymology of Capital and Capitol

Let us take a close look at the words “Capital” and “Capitol”. The words “Capital” and “Capitol” both are derived from the Latin word “caput” which means “head”.

“Capital” was derived from the words “capitalis” and “capit’le” which means “of the head” and “wealth” respectively. “Capitol” was derived from the word “Capitōlium”, the well-known temple of the gods in Greek history that was located on top of Capitoline Hill.

 

Meaning of Capital

The word “capital” can mean the capital of a city, the resources (both human and financial) of a business, or the uppercase letters in a word.

Examples of the correct use of “Capital”:

1. Meaning – Capital city:

In 1853, Olympia became Washington’s capital city.

2. Meaning – Alphabet in capital/uppercase letters

The name “Bill” begins with the capital letter “B”.

3. Meaning – Capital of a business

The startup raised successfully a capital of $1 million in the first quarter itself.

4. Meaning – Extremely important

Finding a solution to the sudden outburst of the people was of capital concern.

 

Meaning of Capitol

In the U.S., “Capitol” is the name of a popular government building where the U.S. Senate and members of the congress are housed. The word “Capitol” with a capital “C” is used to address the U.S. Capitol building.

Examples of the correct use of “Capitol”:

1. The United States Congress work in the United States Capitol building in Washington.

2. The discussion was to take place at the Capitol building today.

 

 

Now you know why understanding Capital vs. Capitol is important. The words mean completely different things and you cannot use the incorrect spelling unless you wish to confuse someone.

Best Gifts for Writers 2018

Are you looking for a gift for your favorite writer?  Whether it’s for Christmas, a birthday, or something else, you’ve come to the right place. As a community of writers, we can tell you the best gifts for writers. Below we’ve listed ten gift ideas for your favorite writer. While we have tried to provide gift options that will work for most people, we recommend that you only use the following list as a way to get ideas for gifts. You will want to buy a gift that you know will delight your writer.

1. Notebook

As one of the de facto best gifts for writers, the classic notebook is a must. There are so many options to choose from it can often be overwhelming. We recommend looking for a style that you think your favorite writer will like. Moleskine notebooks generally fit the bill pretty well as gifts for writers. You’ll want to make sure that the notebook is small enough that it can easily be carried around and stylish enough that your favorite writer won’t be embarrassed to be carrying it around.

writing notebook

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2. A Cure for Writer’s Block

Most writers will encounter writer’s block occasionally if not on a daily basis. Why not get them a gift that will cure their writer’s block? This literal block features over 780 ideas to help your writer overcome their momentary inability to write. They can simply open this block anytime they are stuck and they will instantly get ideas for writing. This 3″x3″x3″ is so portable and small that it can easily be placed on any writing desk without taking up much space.

writer's block

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3. Writer’s Mug

If your favorite is a coffee or tea drinker, they will love this gift. Not only will they be able to caffeinate themselves for daily writing sessions, they can also show off their personalities with great writer sayings. Just be wary of any passive aggressive messages they may send you. You never know how true they could be!

Please Do Not Annoy The Writer Black

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4. Writer’s T-Shirt

Let your favorite writer show off their writing pride every day with a writing t-shirt! From portraits of Hemingway to “Writing Facts” shirts, Amazon has tons of options for t-shirts for writers.

writing tshirt

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5. A New Laptop

If you are willing to spend a little bit for, a new laptop can make all the difference for your writer. If they’ve been using the same laptop for years, they will certainly appreciate a quicker laptop with a longer battery so they focus more on the writing and less on the tech. Head over to our guide on the best laptops for writers for details on what to look for in a new laptop. You’ll want to make sure the laptop you buy has the right specs and battery life so that your favorite writer will love their gift.

laptops for writers

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6. Travel Scrabble

Most likely your favorite writer is also a word nerd so they’re sure to enjoy Travel Scrabble. It’s the take-anywhere version of the classic board game. The tiles click in so you don’t have to worry about tiles falling off of the board. Perfect when you are traveling in vehicles or simply at a hotel. If your friend is not already fed-up with Words with Friends, they’re sure to enjoy Travel Scrabble and might even ask whether you want to join in!

travel scrabble

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7. Writing Tablet

If your writer loves to write on the computer, they might even like to hand write. The Wacom Bamboo Slate Smartpad allows you to take hand written notes and then digitize the notes automatically with the touch of a button. No more excuses for partially filled notebooks lying around.

Wacom Bamboo Slate Smartpad A4

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8. Kindle Gift Card

There’s a great chance that your favorite writer also loves to read, so why not get them a Kindle gift card? With a Kindle gift card, they can purchase any book from Amazon’s wide selection to read instantly on their Kindle.

Click Here for Details and Reviews on Amazon

 

9. Writing Retreats

There is no better way to get started writing than getting away from the hustle and bustle of life. Why not treat your favorite writer to a writing getaway? Doing a simple Google search will return hundreds of available writing retreats. Check out some of the best here.

 

10. Messenger Bag for Laptop

If your writer often carries around their laptop in a backpack, this fashionable messenger will be a great upgrade. Made from high density washed canvas, genuine crazy horse leather, bronze hardware and high-density cotton straps, this laptop bag is sure to last for years and always be in fashion. It easily fits a 14-inch laptop and any additional accessories or notebooks.

laptop bag

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Conclusion

Making sure you get the right gift for your favorite writer is crucial. You never want to experience that feeling of knowing your favorite writer threw away or regifted your gift. With the gift ideas above, those scenarios are unlikely. We wish you well in your gift search!

 

How to Write a Descriptive Essay

Essay writing is part of any academic activity. From grade school through college, you will often be asked to write descriptive essays so it’s important to understand what a descriptive essay is and how to write one.

What exactly is a descriptive essay?

It is a type of essay that requires the writer to describe something whether that thing is an object, a person, experience, or a situation. Through descriptive writing, the writer describes the situation in such a way that the reader can see and feel the situation, almost as if the reader is interacting with the object or thing as they read. All of the human senses are given importance while writing such an essay. The reader is able to understand the situation clearly because of illustrative language and the writer should be able to convey the same using crisp and clear language.

 

Steps to Writing a Descriptive Essay

How to write a descriptive essay is something that most of the students and first-time writers ponder when they first are asked to write a descriptive essay. They may have a situation in hand, but conveying the same to the reader without losing the situation’s true essence is tricky. Here are seven steps you should follow to write a descriptive essay that conveys the idea in your mind:

  1. Understand the audience: The first and foremost step to writing a descriptive essay is to understand the audience for whom you are writing. The tone of the essay depends on the audience. If the audience is small children, then the description should contain simple words that small children are able to comprehend. For a more matured audience, the tone can be slightly formal. If it is an academic writing, the essay should be formal.
  2. Choose the topic: Having a good understanding of the audience will help you a lot in selecting the right topic for your essay. First, choose a few topics and brainstorm some more topics using those initial topics as seeds. Ask yourself questions about the topics and see whether you are able to answer them. This will provide a clear understanding as to how deep you know about the topic. The more you know about a topic, the easier it will be to write about it. Do some research online so that you are able to bridge the knowledge gap. Remember to take note of the source of the information as you might have to refer to the sources in your essay.
  3. Create a draft: The next step in writing a descriptive essay is to create an outline of your essay. An outline provides a flexible structure within which you can write about your topic. This structure should be clearly subdivided so that the right picture can be conveyed to the reader. For example, if you are writing a descriptive essay about an event, it should be drafted in chronological order. For essays about a person or place, you can transition from a generic to a specific topic. Always use transition words to make your essay more logical and to connect various ideas. All senses of the human body such as sight, sound, taste, smell, and feel should be considered while writing the draft. School students are normally asked to write five-paragraph descriptive essay whereas college students have more liberty with regards to choosing the number paragraphs.
  4. Write the essay: This is the stage in which you elaborate on the outline and write your detailed descriptive essay. A descriptive essay should have a good introduction that captures the attention of the readers and which conveys the main idea of the essay. Next comes an overview of the topics covered and then your detailed description. You can divide your description into various sections, if required. The description should include similes, adjectives and metaphors. For example, instead of writing “I heard the sound of the waves,” you can write “I heard the roaring gush of water splashing against the bank.” While writing the descriptive essay, you should “show” the reader what the situation is rather than telling them. Thus, emotion plays an important role in writing a descriptive essay. Always use the same tense and do not switch between past and present tense, unless required. The essay should be concluded by providing your view point about the topics discussed. The conclusion should be precise and to the point and should be written using appealing words because this is the last thing your reader will read in your essay.
  5. Review the essay: A review should be done after you come out of the hangover of topic. Take a short break so that the description and the characters in it leave your mind. Go through the essay with a fresh mind so that you can view the essay from a reader’s point of view. Is it easy to understand the language of the essay? Are you able to convey the ideas in your mind clearly? Do you need to rewrite any of the paragraphs in the description as it is not clear? Does any of the paragraph appear to be too confusing than descriptive? These are but few of the things you should consider during the review phase. You can read out the essay loud to get a clear picture.
  6. Editing stage: This is the stage when you get the description proof read by someone. If you are a student, you can do it by yourself. Correct any grammar, spelling or punctuation errors. Jargons, if any, should be edited. If there are any alien words used in the essay, remember to provide a proper introduction during the editing stage. At this stage, you can change the style of writing, if you want. Read the description one final time before submitting it for publishing. You can also do a final plagiarism checking to ensure that there is no duplication of any sentences.
  7. Final submission: This depends on who you are and what the purpose of writing is. Always remember that experience is the best teacher. You might make some flaws the first or second time. But take it as a learning phase and try to make up the flaws next time you write an essay.

 

Descriptive essay writing might appear to be a cumbersome task initially. But it is not so if proper attention is given to the above steps. If you are a school or college student and is required to write the essay as part of your assessment, then you can do a homework before appearing for the final assessment. If you are a writer, then after writing your essay hand it over to someone to read. This way you will be able to understand the flaws in your writing and improvise on the same. Whatever the purpose of the writing is make sure that the descriptive essay follows a chronological or generic to specific order for easy understanding.

If you are a writer, then after writing your essay hand it over to someone else to read. This way you will be able to understand the flaws in your writing and improve on your writing skills. Whatever the purpose of the writing is, make sure that the descriptive essay follows a chronological or generic to specific order for easy understanding.

 

Canceled or Cancelled?

The English language can play tricks on unsuspecting minds. One word may sound similar to the other but it could mean a totally different thing. There’s rug and rag. There’s pick and peek. One of the most common grammar problems in English is the use of canceled vs cancelled. Which is correct? How do you spell cancelled (canceled)? Is it really canceled or cancelled?

 

The spelling really depends on which version of the English language you use. American English uses “canceled” with a single “l”. It follows the general rule of appending “-ed” to the end of the verb if the word ends in a consonant.

 

However, British English spells “cancelled” with “ll.” The British do still spell “cancel” with only one “l” though and there is only one correct spelling of “cancellation” regardless of which style of English you use.

 

Americans prefer to use one L while the British prefer to use two Ls.

According to Grammar Girl, the difference in usage of cancelled or canceled can be attributed to the influence of Noah Webster in shaping the American English Language as we know today.

 

The AP Stylebook, predominantly American, uses “canceled.” Therefore, most American publications and papers written for an American audience use “canceled” in their writing. In addition to this, Mr. Webster has also incorporated standard American spellings that use shorter words compared to its British counterpart. There’s color vs colour, flavor vs flavour and favor vs favour.

 

By principle, both canceled and cancelled are correct. However, you need to keep in mind your audience and which method they will prefer. Even if you are used to American English, if you are writing for a British, Australian or Canadian audience, you will need to adjust your writing style to communicate more effecitively.

 

Aside from canceled vs. cancelled, other often confused words are “your vs you’re”, “their vs they’re”, “who vs whom”, and “hanged vs hung.”

 

 

How to Overcome Writer’s Block

Writer’s block is inescapable and happens to nearly everyone. Regardless of whether you are a prolific writer or amateur, sometimes putting down your thoughts on paper or a blank computer screen can be an uphill battle. If you have ever experienced it, you will probably agree that writer’s block can leave you stuck. In this article, we hope to give you some creative ways to overcome writer’s block so you can get back to writing.

You may have faced writer’s block when you first started writing or after you’ve already written several chapters. It doesn’t matter; it affects us in the same way. Writer’s block traps your mind, leaving you with little creative ability. Despite knowing what to say, it becomes hard to put it in words.

 

Common Causes of Writer’s Block

The common causes of writer’s block include poor timing, perfectionism, and fear.

  • Poor timing: Sometimes you feel that it is not the right time to do your writing or you are just too late in writing your piece. This is when you lose your ideas, and you end up procrastinating. Usually, in this case, you may need to spend some time processing your ideas.
  • The idea of perfectionism: This is when you want your writing to be perfect. You end up spending too much time fleshing out your ideas. Perfectionism can be very tempting, but if your writing isn’t done correctly, you may end up writing nothing at the end.
  • Fear: This is horrible and happens to all of us. You don’t want your audience and others to criticize your piece. In fact, fear, even the mere thought of it, is the big reason why most of the potential writers never take the first move.

However, writer’s block is a temporary problem that happens to everyone including beginner, intermediate, and experienced writers. The good thing is that it is possible and easy to break writer’s block. For centuries, writers from all over the globe have come up with solutions on how to overcome writer’s block. Here are ten tips on overcoming writer’s block.

 

Tips to Overcome Writer’s Block

1. Mind-mapping

Mind-mapping involves outlining all of the relevant things to include in your piece which gives you a head start. Mind-mapping connects your ideas with your main theme. It ensures that your information is organized and planned so that you can come up with structured content.

Mind-mapping relates to how your brain works. It is both analytical and artistic which helps make your brain work better. Mind-mapping makes your writing fun and drives away writer’s block since you can keep expanding on your ideas as the mind map grows. Even if you are handling a tough subject, mind-mapping enables you to gain insight making sure that you never get stuck.

To get started with mind mapping, you can find some great resources here.

2. Just start writing to break writer’s block

It sounds weird, doesn’t it? But it works. It is better to write something than to do nothing. Start by doing a free writing. Put down in writing anything that comes to your mind. Even if it is crap, gibberish, or junk. The muses and fears will soon vanish if you start writing right away. Never mind about the binding chains of perfectionism. If it is garbage, you can just delete or erase it later.

3. Go for a walk to get your blood flowing

Exercise is essential in balancing your work and your psychological, emotional, and physical health. Leading an active lifestyle is the best thing for any writer. It makes your blood flow well through your brain to keep your creative juices active. Among the exercises that can help you write better include walking, jogging, and biking. By the time you come back to your workstation after your workout your head will be clear. Ideas will flow easily when you have a fresh mind.

4. Just write about the big picture

Make your writing exciting. Just look at the big picture and read as much information as possible. This can make your research interesting, and you can remain motivated throughout. Make your writing loose and never worry about simple mistakes like grammar in the first draft. Again, just write even if it means starting your writing in the middle. The thing here is making the first move. Remember that a game becomes interesting after you start playing. Similarly, you can break the fears in your writing adventure by just starting to write.

5. Get help in the areas that make you stuck

It is common to get stuck if you are tackling a big or unfamiliar subject. If you ever get stuck and have no way out, try seeking help from another writer. Identify those gaps that made your project come to a standstill and ask for advice on how to get through it. Panic will never solve anything, in fact, it will just waste your time. The sooner you find help, the faster you can get back to writing.

6. Change your writing environment

Swapping your surroundings can work wonders in fighting writer’s block. Go outside your office to a silent place outside or to a park. If you enjoy the cafe vibe, find a local coffee shop with wifi. Sometimes distractions around you can be the source of your inability to write best.

The focus is vital for flawless writing. Go to a place where your sole intention is to write. Also, leave your phone behind and unplug from the internet. Emails and other notifications can easily distract you from writing. Additionally, start your writing early when your mind is fresh in the early morning. Facebook statuses and emails can put you into a reaction mode, distracting you from your writing.

7. File and handle it later

If your writing is not due soon, then plan your time. If you are getting bored or stuck, give it time and do other things first. Doing things in pieces can make your writing fun and exciting. You’ll complete your writing naturally without ever getting stuck or frustrated. Take a smart approach and get things done the easy way. A great tool I use to bucket my time is Tomato Timer.

8. A cup of coffee can do you good

It works for most of us. If you have a strict timetable and don’t have enough time to exercise, then coffee can be a quick solution. Work on your piece as you sip your coffee. It keeps your mind active so that you can continue to be creative and fight through the writer’s block.

9. Have a notepad to jot down ideas

Despite focusing our minds on one thing, our brains never stop wandering. If something important and related to your topic comes to mind, jot it down so you can think about it later. Once you’ve written down your thought, forget about it until you are finished with your current writing. A Moleskine notebook is a great way to jot down these notes.

10. Alternate your writing with rest

Your brain is not a machine, and it will get tired and wear out. Take regular breaks and let your mind rest. Research shows that human mind is more creative when it is at rest. Get a full nights sleep and take naps when you need to. Also, make sure you take regular breaks throughout the day. I mentioned the tool I use, Tomator Timer, above which is a great way to schedule your breaks.

Conclusion

Writer’s block happens to all of us. Nothing frustrates us more than staring at a blank piece of paper or computer screen and not knowing where to start. However, you have to push through the writer’s block and not allow it to paralyze your writing. We have talked about ten ways to help you overcome the hurdle of writer’s block.

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