Usage Tips for Writers: Myths, Mistakes, and Little-Known Rules

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Taught by Zach West

Zach West has worked as an editor, writer, English teacher, soldier, rare book dealer, personal trainer, and paramedic. He lives in New York and feels more passionately about the Oxford comma than he probably should.

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What’s the difference between disinterested and uninterested, farther and further, or lie and lay? Should you feel guilty when you split an infinitive or end a sentence with a preposition? What’s wrong with phrases like “very unique,” “general consensus,” or “ten items or less”?

These are questions of English usage, which is much more interesting than it sounds (really). Whether you aspire to write novels or tweets, magazine articles or diary entries, cover letters or plays in blank verse, learning about usage can directly improve your writing by helping you choose the right words and avoid the wrong ones.

In this class, we’ll examine several widespread usage misconceptions—which, sadly, you may have learned in school!—that could be hindering your writing. Then we’ll discuss commonly misused words, frequent grammatical errors, and stylistic pitfalls you probably never even knew existed.

Usage is a matter of absolute necessity for any writer; and literally the most vital subject for any one that wants effectively to try and strengthen their prose and make it more crystal-clear. Hopefully we’ll see alot of you there! (There are fourteen usage errors in this paragraph; learn how to spot them all by taking this class!)

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