The answer is less a matter of word count, but making your words count. It’s what I call the 5 C’s of critical writing. At the risk of turning away those readers who vote for brevity, here they are pared down to tweet-size.
1. Be Clear. Use short, crisp sentences, as your building blocks. Use active verbs and avoid adjective overkill, jargon, and acronyms.
2. Be Correct. Make sure that quotes are accurate and attributed to the right speaker and use only reliable sources for background information.
3. Be Concise. Put your writing on a Low-Fat Diet. Be precise. Avoid run-on sentences. Guard against linguistic fat traps like of, due to the fact, the majority of, despite the fact, to be.
4. Be Comprehensive. Conciseness is a linguistic virtue, but it should never come at the cost of imprecision. A word left out of a sentence can often distract or confuse.
5. Be Compelling. A compelling review immediately grabs attention, reads smoothly and without reliance on cliched phrases, and leaves the reader with a snap, crackle, and pop windup.
Discover the ABCs of grammar with this alphabetically ordered list of definitions that will help you with your writing. We can work on updating it together so if you have a grammar or writing-related definition to add, please leave me a comment with your entry and I will update the list so that you can refer to it again and again. And if you find this blog post helpful, please share it.
Action verb – a verb that tells what the subject is doing.
Adjective – a single word that modifies a noun or pronoun.
Adverb – a single word that modifies a predicate.
Allegory – noun
1. A poem, play, picture, etc., in which the apparent meaning of the characters and events is used to symbolize a deeper moral or spiritual meaning.
2. The technique or genre that this represents.
3. Use of such symbolism to illustrate truth or a moral
4. Anything used as a symbol or emblem.
Antecedent – the word in the sentence to which the pronoun refers.
Antonym – a word of opposite meaning.
Assertive/Declarative Sentence – an assertive sentence is also called a declarative sentence. In the English language, this sentence gives information about facts, opinions, and beliefs. This sentence is used most commonly in books, informative articles, reports as well as in essays. This sentence ends with a full stop. As this sentence asserts, states or declares is also called a Declarative sentence.
Auxiliary verb – a verb (such as have, be, may, do, shall, will, can, or must) that is used with another verb to show the verb’s tense, to form a question, etc.
Bare predicate – one verb.
Bare subject – one-word subject without a modifier.
Case – the term used to indicate the form/position of a noun/pronoun in a sentence and shows the relationship of the noun to the other words in the sentence. A noun may have three cases: subjective/nominative, objective and possessive.
Catenative verb – a verb often followed by a function word (such as to or on) that occupies a position other than final in a succession of two or more verbs together forming the main part of the predicate of a sentence. (i.e. ought, try, keep)
Collective noun – a noun that names a collection or group.
Common noun – general names; a noun that may occur with limiting modifiers (such as a or an, some, every, and my) and that designates any one of a class of beings or things.
Complement – a word or group of words that completes the meaning of the verb.
Complete predicate – verb including a modifier.
Complete sentence – is comprised of a subject and predicate (verb).
Complete subject – two-word (or more) subject that includes a modifier.
Compound predicate – a predicate consisting of more than one part.
Compound relative pronouns – function as the subject or object of a sentence while introducing a subordinate clause. (i.e. whoever, whomever, whichever)
Compound subject – a subject consisting of more than one part.
Definite article – the word the used in English to refer to a person or thing that is identified or specified.
Demonstrative pronoun – a pronoun that specifies a noun. (i.e. this, these, that)
Diction – choice of words especially with regard to correctness, clearness, or effectiveness.
Direct object – a word or phrase denoting the receiver of the action of a verb.
Exclamatory sentence – is used to express a strong feeling!
Expletives – a syllable, word, or phrase inserted to fill a vacancy (as in a sentence or a metrical line) without contributing to the meaning; an exclamatory word or phrase.
Idiom – an expression in the usage of a language that is peculiar to itself either in having a meaning that cannot be derived from the conjoined meanings of its elements (such as up in the air for “undecided”) or in its grammatically atypical use of words; the language peculiar to a people or to a district, community, or class; the syntactical, grammatical, or structural form peculiar to a language.
Imperative sentence – gives a command or makes a request. The subject of the sentence is implied because it is understood to be you.
Indefinite articles – a and an – considered to be adjectives, used in English to refer to a person or thing that is not identified or specified.
Indefinite pronoun – a non-specific pronoun. (i.e. all, any, none, some)
Indirect object – is the verb complement that tells to whom or for whom the action is performed for or directed to. Verbs that can take indirect objects are called ditransitive verbs.
Infinitive – base form of the verb that begins with the preposition to.
Interrogative pronoun – a pronoun used in questions. (i.e. what, which, who)
Interrogative sentence – asks a question or ends with a question mark.
Intransitive – a verb characterized by not having or containing a direct object.
Juxtaposition – the placing of one concept or object next to another, often for purposes of comparison.
Linking verb – a verb that tells what is happening to the subject or the state of being of the subject (i.e. to be).
Metaphor – noun; a figure of speech in which a word or phrase literally denoting one kind of object or idea is used in place of another to suggest a likeness or analogy between them (as in drowning in money).
Noun – a word that names a person, place, thing or idea.
Object of a preposition – a word that follows a preposition. (i.e. above, behind, for, like, or on)
Object of a verb – a word that completes the meaning of a verb in a sentence.
Personal pronoun – a pronoun (such as I, you, or they) that expresses a distinction of person (first person).
Possessive case – is used to show ownership or possession; applies to nouns, pronouns and determiners.
Predicate – the part of a sentence or clause that expresses what is said of the subject and that usually consists of a verb with or without objects, complements, or adverbial modifiers.
Predicate adjective – an adjective that completes the meaning of a linking verb and modifies the subject.
Predicate noun – a noun that completes a linking verb.
Preposition – a word that is placed before a noun or pronoun and shows the relationship of the noun/pronoun to another word in a sentence. (i.e. to, from, through, around, into, in, past, towards)
Pronoun – a word used in place of a noun to avoid repetition and monotony.
Proper noun – a specific name that is always capitalized.
Relative pronoun – a pronoun (as who, which, that) that introduces a clause modifying an antecedent; an indefinite relative (as who, whoever, what, whatever) that introduces a clause functioning as a substantive.
Semantics – the meaning of a string in some language, as opposed to syntax which describes how symbols may be combined independent of their meaning.
The semantics of a programming language is a function from programs to answers.
Sentence – a collection of words expressing a complete thought/idea.
Sentence fragments – incomplete sentences (the subject, predicate or both are missing).
Simile – noun; a figure of speech comparing two unlike things that is often introduced by like or as (as in cheeks like roses).
Slang – language peculiar to a particular group; an informal nonstandard vocabulary composed typically of coinages, arbitrarily changed words, and extravagant, forced, or facetious figures of speech.
Subjective completion – complements of linking verbs related to the subject.
Synonym – one of two or more words or expressions of the same language that have the same or nearly the same meaning in some or all senses.
Syntax – the structure of strings in some language. A language syntax is described by grammar.
Transitive verb – a verb that does not express a complete thought unless the sentence contains a complement.
Verb phrase – a combination of helping verbs with a main or principal verb.
Verisimilitude – noun
1. The appearance of truth; the quality of seeming to be true.
2. Something that has the appearance of being true or real.