The 5 C’s of Critical Writing

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.

Improve Your Writing with the ABCs of Grammar

Discover the ABCs of grammar with this alphabetically ordered list of definitions to help you with your writing. We can work on updating it together, so if you have a grammar or writing-related meaning 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 – An action verb is a verb that tells what the subject is doing.

Adjective – An adjective is a single word that modifies a noun or pronoun.

Adverb – An adverb is a single word that modifies a predicate.

Allegory – An allegory is a noun.

1. A poem, play, picture, etc. 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 is an antecedent.

Antonym – A word of opposite meaning is an antonym.

Assertive/Declarative Sentence – An assertive sentence is also called a declarative sentence. This sentence gives information about facts, opinions, and beliefs in the English language. This sentence is used most commonly in books, informative articles, reports, and 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 havebemaydoshallwillcan, or must) used with another verb to show the verb’s tense, form a question, etc., is an auxiliary verb. 

Bare predicate – A bare predicate is one verb.

Bare subject – A one-word subject without a modifier is the bare subject.

Case – Case is the term used to indicate the form/position of a noun/pronoun in a sentence and shows the noun’s relationship to the other words in the sentence. A noun may have three cases: subjective/nominative, objective and possessive.

Catenative verb – A catenative verb often follows a function word (such as to or on). It 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 collective noun names a collection or group.

Common noun – A common noun includes general names. It is also 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 complement is a word or group of words that completes the verb’s meaning.

Complete predicate – A complete predicate consists of a verb, including a modifier.

Complete sentence – A complete sentence is comprised of a subject and predicate (verb).

Complete subject – A complete subject contains a two-word (or more) subject that includes a modifier.

Compound predicate – A compound predicate consists of more than one part.

Compound relative pronouns – 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 compound subject consists of more than one part.

Definite article – The word the, used in English to refer to a person or thing identified or specified, is a definite article.

Demonstrative pronoun – A demonstrative pronoun specifies a noun. (i.e. this, these, that)

Diction – Diction refers to the choice of words, especially concerning correctness, clearness, or effectiveness. 

Direct object – A direct object is a word or phrase denoting the receiver of the action of a verb.

An exclamatory sentence – is used to express a strong feeling!

Expletives – Expletives consist of 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 – Idioms express the usage of language 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 word use. It is also the language peculiar to a people or a district, community, or class; the syntactical, grammatical, or structural form peculiar to a language.

Imperative sentence – An imperative sentence gives a command or makes a request. The sentence’s subject is implied because it is understood to be you.

Indefinite articles – The indefinite articles a and an are considered adjectives used in English to refer to a person or thing not identified or specified. 

Indefinite pronoun – An indefinite pronoun is a non-specific pronoun. (i.e. all, any, none, some)

Indirect object – The indirect object is the verb complement that tells to whom or for whom the action is performed or directed. Verbs that can take indirect objects are called ditransitive verbs

Infinitive – The infinitive is the base form of the verb that begins with the preposition to.

Interrogative pronoun – Interrogative pronouns are used in questions. (i.e. what, which, who)

Interrogative sentence – An interrogative sentence asks a question or ends with a question mark.

Intransitive – An intransitive verb does not have or contain a direct object. 

Juxtapose – To juxtapose means to compare alongside a transitive verb.

Juxtaposition – Juxtaposition places one concept or object next to another, often for comparison purposes.

Linking verb – A linking verb tells what is happening to the subject or the state of being of the subject (i.e. to be).

Metaphor – A metaphor is a 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 noun is a word that names a person, place, thing or idea. 

Object of a preposition – The object of a preposition is a word that follows a preposition. (i.e. above, behind, for, like, or on)

Object of a verb – The object of a verb is a word that completes the meaning of a verb in a sentence. 

Personal pronoun – A personal pronoun (such as I, you, or they) expresses the distinction of the first person.

Possessive case – Possessive case shows ownership or possession; applies to nouns, pronouns and determiners.

Predicate – The predicate is 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 – A predicate adjective completes the meaning of a linking verb and modifies the subject.

Predicate noun – A predicate noun completes a linking verb.

Preposition – A preposition is a word 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 pronoun is a word used in place of a noun to avoid repetition and monotony.

Proper noun – A proper noun is a specific name that is always capitalized.

Relative pronoun – A relative pronoun (as who, which, that) introduces a clause modifying an antecedent; an indefinite relative (as who, whoever, what, whatever) introduces a clause functioning as a substantive.

Semantics – Semantics refers to 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 sentence is a collection of words expressing a complete thought or idea.

Sentence fragments – Sentence fragments are incomplete sentences (the subject, predicate or both are missing).

Simile – A simile is a noun, a figure of speech comparing two unlike things often introduced by like or as (as in cheeks like roses).

Slang – Slang is 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 – Subjective completion complements linking verbs related to the subject.

Synonym – A synonym is one of two or more words or expressions of the same language having the same or nearly the same meaning in some or all senses.

Syntax – Syntax is the structure of strings in some language. The grammar describes the language syntax.

Transitive verb – A transitive verb does not express a complete thought unless the sentence contains a complement.

Verb phrase – A verb phrase combines helping verbs with a principal verb.

Verisimilitude – Verisimilitude is a noun.

1. The appearance of truth; the quality of seeming to be true.
2. Something that has the appearance of being true or real.