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Concise explanations for writing and communicating in the English language. No advertising. Mobile-friendly. Feedback welcome! Enjoy!

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Know You Audience

Know your audience – presentation skills

Presentation skills culture varies widely from industry to industry, organization to organization. In the absence of specific guidelines or expectations use our concrete guidelines to design and give great presentations. If possible, review examples of previous presentations given at your organization and adjust accordingly.

Mastering Online Presentations

The strong shift to making fuller use of digital presentation and meeting tools like Zoom, Teams, WebEx, etc. is one of the most lasting impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. This is not a temporary measure; it is the way of the future. Mastering effectively presenting to...

Parallel Structure

Learn to use parallel structures in your sentences for emphasis and sentence variety.

Fallacy: Non Sequitur

Imagine the following conversation between you and a friend:  “I can’t wait to go to the beach!”  “Oh, I didn’t know you liked camels.” they respond.  “What? I said I was going to the beach.”  “Right and the beach is full of sand and camels live in the sand, so you...

Lying With Charts

Mark Twain popularized the saying that, “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.” Numbers seem objective. A chart seems authoritative. But most people’s numeracy and statistical knowledge is quite low. Which unscrupulous communicators can...
Three Keys to Slide Design

Three Keys for Better Slide Design

Create presentations that will impress your audience, not put them to sleep. These three simple tips will be useful for beginners and skilled presenters alike.

Should You Be Listing References on Your Resume?

References are important, but they’ll only weigh your resume down. Read on to find out why listing references on a resume is a bad idea.

What’s the Difference Between a Letter of Interest and a Cover Letter?

Is a letter of interest the same as a cover letter? Not quite. Learn the difference between the two and when you’d want to use each (or a cold email.)

Analyzing Your Audience – the First Rule of Effective Writing

The first step to effective communication? Understanding your audience – including TEACHERS. Specific help for writing for the teacher audience.

Block Quotes

When quoting material from sources in your writing, you should generally try to trim down the quotes as much as possible. Sometimes though, for one reason or another, you may need to quote a long (generally a hundred words or more) passage from something. In these...

Awkward Construction

Sometimes a sentence sounds awkward or is difficult to understand because it contains multiple grammatical or punctuation errors or it might be that the idea you were trying to convey was too complicated to fit into a single sentence. It can sometimes be difficult for...


In math, there can be more than one way to correctly solve an equation. Some might be easier or more difficult, but the most important thing is that you get the correct answer. For example, 2+2 and 1+1+1+1 and 2x2 and 22 all mean the same thing and will yield the same...

Verb Tenses

One of the most difficult things for fledgling writers and English learners is verb tenses. Most memoirs and fiction stories are written in the past tense for the obvious reason that we tend to tell stories about things that happened in the past. Even science fiction...

Subject/Verb Agreement

Ensuring that verbs agree with their subjects is a problem that less-experienced writers frequently have and, while it sounds complicated at first, the truth is that it’s a fairly simple problem to fix. In English, (and Latin and Spanish and some other languages)...


Because English is a hybrid language of Old German, Latin (via French), some Greek, and a smattering of others, there are a few words that have different meanings, but sound the same. We call these words “homophones” and they can be very confusing for people learning...


And so it went… Ellipses are usually used to show that words have been left out of quotes, but occasionally they are used in dialogue to show a trailing off or…something. Don’t put any spaces around them; they go right up against the words on both sides. Just try to...


Capitalizing the first letters of words is a tradition in English that comes from German. In traditional German, all nouns are capitalized. The Idea behind capitalizing Letters is that it makes the important Things in a Sentence stand out, but some Nouns, we have...

WIN From the Start: Write an EVOCATIVE Title

One of the fastest strategies to use as a writer? Use a clever title. Read through some examples and avoid calling your work “English Paper.”

Balancing Repetition and Variety

As you learn to write in English, you will learn how to balance repetition and variety, to ensure cohesion. One strategy to accomplish this purpose is to vary the way you refer to people and things. After the first reference to a noun form, you can refer to it with pronouns and demonstratives until the topic changes.


It’s sometimes difficult to know with an apostrophe where its proper place is. The answer is that you put an apostrophe in a word to show that letters have been left out. We call these words “contractions” and we use them a lot in daily speech. If you have trouble...



One of the largest challenges to moving from high school writing to more advanced work is the challenge to write something original. This doesn’t mean you have to invent some whole new theory of life, the universe, and everything. Rather, it means you have to make your reader think.

You can’t just regurgitate a bunch of facts from the internet or your class notes. So how do you turn the general idea of “Holden Caulfield is alienated from his community” into something original? Something that hasn’t been written about hundreds of times already?

Read on Macduff…


Using Evidence to Win the Day

After developing an original, argumentative thesis, using evidence well is the key to academic writing. Dirty secret: many readers (yes, including teachers) will forgive grammatical errors if you’ve got a compelling argument, have thought deeply about the right evidence to use, and analyze that evidence.

The two are inseparable, really. If you think deeply about evidence – whether key quotes from the novel you are reading or statistics on the subject of your research paper – chances are an interesting, original angle will dawn on you…


Write with Style

What does it mean to write with style? Particularly in an academic environment?

It doesn’t mean:

  • Using big words
  • Padding your writing to reach word/page minimums
  • Picking the right font

Writing teachers joke that “flow” is the “other four-letter ‘F’ word” because students use it as such a grab bag catch-all…

Writing style is difficult to articulate. If you’ve ever listened to a master comedian parse what makes something funny you’re in the right ball park.

The good news? Style in academic writing has some pretty concrete and, honestly, low barriers to entry.

Research & documentation

MLA, APA, Rules Rules Rules...

Research is crucial for writers trying to argue a point and be judged as credible. Including quality research, in the age of Google and Wikipedia, is often one of the most challenging aspects to writers moving into advanced high school and college work. Crucial concepts include:

  • Developing quality sources
  • Citing information properly
  • Creating accurate Works Cited pages

Presentation Skills

Presentation Skills

Presentation skills are crucial to success in today’s business world. While details change a lot from company to company and culture to culture, many skills are consistent: eye contact, slide design, handling questions.

Resumes & Cover Letters

Get a great gig with a differentiated resume

Fantastic tips and insights on writing modern, relevant resumes from 11trees’ partner Let’s Eat, Grandma – a resume writing and career coaching startup based in Austin, TX.