100 Ways to Improve Your Writing (Mentor Series)

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Table of Contents
 
Questions That Every Writer Must Answer
 
—Where do good ideas come from?
 
—Should sentences and paragraphs be long or short?
 
—When should rules of grammar be obeyed, and when should they be stretched?
 
—Why does one piece of writing succeed, and another fail?
 
—How can you look at your own work and judge it fairly?
 
Whether you are a student writing a paper, a copywriter writing an ad, a business person writing a letter, a reporter writing a news story, an author writing a short story, novel, or nonfiction book, you will find all the ways to write it better in
100
WAYS TO
IMPROVE
YOUR
WRITING
 
GARY PROVOST is a teacher of writing, as well as the author of over 1,000 stories and articles and ten fiction and non-fiction books, including FATAL DOSAGE and THE FREELANCE WRITER’S HANDBOOK, available in a Mentor edition.
 
MENTOR
Published by New American Library, a division of
Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 375 Hudson Street,
New York, New York 10014, USA
Penguin Group (Canada), 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 700, Toronto,
Ontario M4P 2Y3, Canada (a division of Pearson Penguin Canada Inc.)
Penguin Books Ltd., 80 Strand, London WC2R ORL, England
Penguin Ireland, 25 St. Stephen’s Green, Dublin 2,
Ireland (a division of Penguin Books Ltd.)
Penguin Group (Australia), 250 Camberwell Road, Camberwell, Victoria 3124,
Australia (a division of Pearson Australia Group Pty. Ltd.)
Penguin Books India Pvt. Ltd., 11 Community Centre, Panchsheel Park,
New Delhi - 110 017, India
Penguin Group (NZ), cnr Airborne and Rosedale Roads, Albany,
Auckland 1310, New Zealand (a division of Pearson New Zealand Ltd.)
Penguin Books (South Africa) (Pty.) Ltd., 24 Sturdee Avenue,
Rosebank, Johannesburg 2196, South Africa
 
Penguin Books Ltd., Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England
 
Published by Mentor, an imprint of New American Library, a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
 
First Printing, October
 
Copyright © Gary Provost, 1972
All rights reserved
REGISTERED TRADEMARK—MARCA REGISTRADA
 
The Library of Congress Cataloging Card Number: 85-61266
 
 
Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise), without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher of this book.
 
 
The scanning, uploading, and distribution of this book via the Internet or via any other means without the permission of the publisher is illegal and punishable by law. Please purchase only authorized electronic editions, and do not participate in or encourage electronic piracy of copyrighted materials. Your support of the author’s rights is appreciated.
eISBN : 978-1-440-67078-7

http://us.penguingroup.com

Acknowledgments
 
Some of the material in this book appeared in different form in
Writer’s Digest
magazine. I want to thank Bill Brohaugh, Rose Adkins, and Tom Clark at
Writer’s Digest
for their work on the original articles.
 
At New American Library I want to thank Channah Taub, Andrea Stein, and Helen Eisenbach, each of whom watched over the book at some point.
 
And special thanks to Claudia Reilly, who edited the book at New American Library, and to Jon Matson.
 
Also I want to gratefully acknowledge permission to reprint the following material:
 
Excerpt from
Dandelion Wine
by Ray Bradbury. Copyright © 1975, Ray Bradbury. Reprinted with the permission of Doubleday and Co.
 
Excerpt from
Psychology Today,
Copyright © 1983.
 
Excerpt from
The Great Gatsby
by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Copyright © 1926 Charles Scribner’s Sons; copyright renewed 1953 Frances Scott Fitzgerald Lanahan. Reprinted with the permission of Charles Scribner’s Sons.
 
Excerpt from
The Sun Also Rises
by Ernest Hemingway. Copyright ® 1926 Charles Scribner’s Sons; copyright renewed 1954 Ernest Hemingway. Reprinted with the permission of Charles Scribner’s Sons.
 
Excerpt from the
Boston Globe
by John Bierman. Copyright © 1983, John Bierman. Reprinted with the permission of John Bierman.
 
Excerpt from “Kelly’s Gift” by James Ricci,
Reader’s
Digest, June 1983.
 
Excerpt from
No Time For Sergeants
by Mac Hyman. Copyright © 1954 by Mac Hyman. Reprinted with the permission of Random House, Inc.
 
Excerpt from
The Stepford Wives by
Ira Levin. Copyright © 1972 by Ira Levin. Reprinted with the permission of Random House, Inc.
 
Excerpt from
The Last Good Kiss
by James Crumley. Copyright © 1978 by James Crumley. Reprinted with the permission of Random House, Inc.
 
Excerpt from “How to Get More for Your Money” by Barbara Gilder Quint,
Glamour,
February 1981. Courtesy
Glamour,
copyright © 1981 by the Condé Nast Publications Inc.
 
Excerpt from
Ping
by Gail Levine-Freidus. Copyright © 1983, Gail Levine-Freidus.
 
Excerpt from
Popcorn
(Bradbury Press) by Gary Provost and Gail Provost, copyright © 1985, Gary Provost and Gail Provost.
 
Excerpt from
On Becoming
a
Novelist
by John Gardner. Copyright ® 1983 by the Estate of John Gardner. Reprinted with the permission of Harper & Row.
 
Excerpt from
Everything You Want to Know About Your Husband’s Money and Need to Know Before the Divorce
by Shelley Aspaklania and Gerson Geltner. Copyright © 1980 by Shelley Aspaklania and Gerson Geltner. Reprinted with the permission of Harper & Row.
 
Excerpt from “Walking on Water,” by Frank Rose. Copyright © 1982, Frank Rose. Reprinted by permission of the author.
 
Excerpt from “The Height Report” by Ralph Keyes. Reprinted by The Sterling Lord Agency, Inc. First appeared in
Esquire.
Copyright © 1977 by Ralph Keyes
 
Excerpt from the
Boston Globe,
copyright © 1983. Reprinted with the permission of the
Boston Globe.
 
Dedication
 
As a free-lance writer I live and die by the mailbox. During the past twenty years I have sent and received more than forty thousand pieces of mail that had some part of my heart attached to them. And during that time there haven’t been more than one or two mishaps concerning the handling of my mail. Though I have laughed at post-office jokes and have made a few myself, the fact is that the United States Postal Service has the highest success record of any business I have ever dealt with. For that reason this book is dedicated to the men and women of the post office at South Lancaster, Massachusetts 01561, and to postal workers everywhere.
 
Introduction
 
This book will teach you how to write better ransom notes.
 
It will also teach you how to write better love letters, short stories, magazine articles, letters to the editor, business proposals, sermons, poems, novels, parole requests, church newsletters, songs, memos, essays, term papers, theses, graffiti, death threats, advertisements, and shopping lists.
 
If your writing does not improve after you read this book, you have not failed. I have. It is the writer’s job, not the reader’s, to see that writing accomplishes whatever goal the writer has set for it.
 
One bit of advice I will give you in this book is “Make yourself likable.” Readers who like you are more inclined to trust you, to laugh at your jokes, cry over your anguish, sign the petition, buy the product, put the check in the mail, or do whatever else it is you are trying to get them to do through your writing.
 
I want you to like me so that you will follow my advice—and recommend my book to your friends. And that’s important for you to know because it means I am on your side. I’m not here to tell you that you’re writing wrong. I’m here to show you how to write right.
 
CHAPTER ONE
 
Nine Ways to Improve Your Writing When You’re Not Writing

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