#writing / I got 99 grammar problems and Oxford commas ain't one.

You’re going to want to bookmark this handy reference. An English grammar reference guide written based on data gathered by the AI-powered tool, Writer.

One of the questions our subscribers ask most, whether they’re proofreading pros or full-time students, is how they can avoid the most common grammar mistakes. In this list, we outline some of the most common grammatical errors we’re seeing, based on millions of data points from Writer subscribers.

My favorite of the list, Run on Sentences:

Contrary to popular belief run-on sentences aren’t necessarily long they simply occur when commas and/or other types of punctuation are missing like this.

My second favorite, the list of “7 major types of grammatical errors” that’s actually ten. I’m not sure if that’s an AI joke or not, but the information is super helpful none-the-less.

#writing / It’s not about the struggle, it’s about what you learned.

Julia Evans writes, “When I learn something that helps me, I write about it so that it can help other people too.”

In addition to this great advice, writing also helps you process what you have learned. A secondary benefit is that it can help others who are learning the same thing. Writing about what you are learning is also a great way to start to gain followers. Finally, in sharing your thoughts through writing, you’re expressing vulnerability which is still very difficult for many people.

Julia’s advice is especially poignant to everyone in the midst of a career change. Be hungry, stay curious, and write about everything you discover.

#writing / How to overcome writer's block.

Medium asked for advice, and writers answered the call. I laughed when I came across this tip because I don’t know that I’ve come across anyone else who does this:

If I’m stuck on a section, I simply insert a row of X’s: XXXXXX as a marker to come back to later.

This method helps a lot by the way—to get as many of your thoughts into words as possible. I use the second pass to fill in the gaps and X’s. It’s not until the third-or-fourth pass that I check for spelling and grammar. If the story doesn’t make sense, then correct spelling and grammar do not matter—it’s still a fail.

Everyone should consider bookmarking this article and saving it to Pocket for later reference. There is a lot of great advice here for all kinds of situations.

#writing / The Jerry Seinfeld Guide to Writing.

David Perell, shares his method of writing apparently based on this snippet from an interview with Seinfeld (I write that because the post does not include a citation or link to the statement quoted—still it’s good advice).

Writing and editing should be separate activities.

When I’m in this creation mode, I shoot for a flow state. I keep my fingertips on the keyboard and measure progress by how many words I put on the page. I have one rule: write down every epiphany immediately. The more, the merrier.

If this creation mode is defined by quantity, the subsequent editing mode is defined by quality.

When the editing phase begins, my body chemistry changes. I change my physical environment so I can adopt a calmer and more deliberate mindset.

This is the way.

I’ve known a few folks who edit while they write, and it takes them forever just to knock out a sentence. The kind of flow kills creativity, and it’s highly likely that’s what gets in the way of so many people writing more frequently.

My initial drafts are a disaster—as are the second and third—but I’m driving to get as much out of my head as possible. Even after editing as much as I can find on my own, I still rely on Grammarly to help. I use the app to clean up my assault on the English language. And it helps me recognize bad patterns in my writing. Over the last two years, I can genuinely say that the application finds fewer mistakes to correct these days.

Thank you Mr. Stokes for the inspiration.

#writing / Obama on writing.

From an adapted excerpt of President Barack Obama’s new memoir, A Promised Land published by The Atlantic comes this thought from Obama about writing while he drafted his presidential memoirs:

I still like writing things out in longhand, finding that a computer gives even my roughest drafts too smooth a gloss and lends half-baked thoughts the mask of tidiness.

I haven’t written anything by hand in so long I don’t know what I might be missing. Though it does not share any insights into his process, here’s an interesting story on Obama’s literary past including authoring his first book, Dreams From My Father.


There's a voice inside your head that prevents you from sharing ideas—punch it in the face.

If we have worked together or you’ve asked me for career advice, there is a high probability that I have encouraged you to write and hit the publish button often. There are so many benefits to writing that includes processing your thoughts and ideas, improving your ability to communicate, and increasing your thought leadership in the industry (presuming you write about your industry from time-to-time). The excuses—or, I’m sorry, reasons—I hear folks say they can’t write include: I’m not very good at writing (you can’t improve if you don’t write often), my website isn’t finished (classic, and also guilty so shut up), and I don’t know what to write about, there’s nothing new for me to add (oh boy).

The last challenge has always perplexed me because if you look through the archives of my writing, you’ll find a cornucopia of nonsense sprinkled with a few solid posts with well-formed thoughts. Most of my early writing was observational humor laced with misplaced road rage and a complete disregard for people living in the state of Arkansas. To some degree, it doesn’t matter what you write about as long as it is coherent. If you start a thought, finish the thought. Feel free to lead the reader through a backwood of tangents and subplots just as long as at the end you’ve come back full circle.

When I challenge the idea of topics—especially when I suggest writing about a design topic—the “I don’t know what to write about” excuse goes to level two: Someone has already written about [design topic]. And that might be true, but by Great Gutenberg’s Ghost!, if that was a hard requirement for publishing, we’d have one newspaper, a few magazines, and maybe a thousand books. Hollywood would be a ghost town because we got to the end of all of the movie tropes by 1989. We’d only have seventy-five songs with lyrics, but re-recorded in every music style and still, everyone would hate Yanni. The point is you can’t let the people who published something before you be the excuse to stop you from writing or, frankly, creating.

Now, I want to add that I am guilty of this too. There have been some lean years where I wrote lots of articles but deleted them before hitting the publish button. My friends who are prolific writers have also confessed to me that they, too, have suffered from this problem. To be a writer, to be successful at anything, we have to create like no one is watching, listening, or reading. We have to fight that inner voice that says don’t do the thing because we are wired to question sharing our ideas based on originality.

Earlier today, I found a short post by Scott Olster, Editor at LinkedIn. He writes:

Before you discard that brand new idea, you just cooked up into your mental dustbin, hold on for just a moment. According to researchers from INSEAD, The Open University of Israel, and The Technion, people consistently underestimate the originality of their ideas. One reason we do this? We tend to think that everyone else is thinking the same way we are. Turns out they aren’t, or at least not nearly as often as we assume. So, if you feel an urge to keep your suggestion to yourself, speak up instead. Being aware of this tendency can help, and managers can help even more by openly encouraging people to share their idea seedlings.

Did you catch this? “We tend to think that everyone else is thinking the same way we are. Turns out they aren’t, or at least not nearly as often as we assume.”

I don’t know about you, but this made me feel slightly better about feeling that way in the past. As I get older, I realize more and more that as much as I think everyone is thinking the same thing as I am, they are, in fact, seldom thinking in the same way. I have learned that it is important not only to share my ideas but also to get the people around me to share their ideas and thoughts through writing and otherwise. As our world and our work get more complicated, knowing how to express your views is increasingly critical. And writing, whether it’s about the design of the U.S. Presidential Briefing Memo or that one time a father-in-law almost killed himself by hammering a screwdriver through a live wire, will help you develop those skills tremendously.