Writing Skills Success in 20 Minutes a Day


This fully updated reference provides a step-by-step guide to improve writing skills with quick, but thorough lessons that anyone can fit into a busy schedule. A pre-test and post-test are included, along with access for free online exercises and scoring.


LESSON 1 Capitalization 13
General rules, specific rules regarding proper nouns and adjectives

LESSON 2 Periods, Question Marks, and Exclamation Points 21
Ending a sentence, alternate uses for periods

LESSON 3 Avoiding Faulty Sentences 27
Sentence fragments, run-on sentences, comma splices

LESSON 4 Commas and Sentence Parts 37
Relating commas to clauses and phrases

LESSON 5 Commas That Separate 45
Independent clauses, items in a series, items in a date or address,
two or more adjectives preceding a noun, contrasting elements and words

LESSON 6 Semicolons and Colons 53
Introductions, subordinate relationships, common confusions
with punctuation

LESSON 7 Apostrophes and Dashes 61
Using apostrophes to show possession or omission; dashes to emphasize

LESSON 8 Quotation Marks 69
Dialogue, direct quotations, other punctuation, double and
single quotation marks

LESSON 9 “Designer” Punctuation 75
Hyphens, parentheses, brackets, ellipses, diagonal slashes

LESSON 10 Verb Tense 81
Present, past, future tenses; switching tenses; subjunctive mood

LESSON 11 Using Verbs to Create Strong Writing 89
Capturing a reader’s interest; using active voice

LESSON 12 Subject-Verb Agreement 97
Matching subject and number, special singular subjects,
singular and plural pronouns, compound subjects

LESSON 13 Using Pronouns 105
Antecedents, the cases of pronouns, ambiguous pronoun references,
reflexive pronouns

LESSON 14 Problem Verbs and Pronouns 111
lie/lay, sit/set, rise/raise, its/it’s, your/you’re, whose/who’s,
and other problem pairs

LESSON 15 Modifiers 119
Adjectives, adverbs, phrases acting as modifiers

LESSON 16 Easily Confused Word Pairs 127
Confusing words that sound similar

LESSON 17 More Easily Confused Words 133
Small but tricky words that are often used and misused; killer a’s and al’s

LESSON 18 Diction 139
Wordiness, the passive voice, redundancy, precise language,
abstract vs. concrete, clichés, jargon

LESSON 19 More Diction 147
Colloquialism, loaded language, consistent point of view,
parallelism, gender-neutral language

LESSON 20 Communicating Your Ideas 157
A piece of writing as a whole, developing ideas effectively,
focusing on the purpose of writing


APPENDIX A How to Prepare for a Test 175

Making a study plan; strategies for success on the exam

APPENDIX B Additional Resources 181

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