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Writer’s Intuition is an instinct for what is correct or “works” in every assignment you write. It consists of your innate logic, common sense and everything you’ve interalized about writing and reading since the age of five. Everyone has a Writer’s Intuition. You must learn to recognize and develop it. It’s the key skill that separates experienced from inexperienced writers and the missing link in writing instruction. Your Writer’s Intuition helps you make the many judgement calls you encounter when writing. We’ve all heard the rule, “Avoid long sentences.” But how long is a long sentence and how many are too many? You can’t find the answer to that question in any writing guide. But your Writer’s Intuition will tell you.
Good writers have been ending their sentences with prepositions for centuries. The real rule regarding this grammar point is the same rule regarding all sentences: if it sounds awkward, don’t do it (in this case, end your sentence in a preposition). The rule “do not end sentences with prepositions” was an attempt, like many writing rules, to give inexperienced writers the cut-and-dried guidelines they so desperately wanted in order to write correctly “all the time.” Such rules ignore the fact that good writing requires the writer to make subjective judgement calls “all the time” (“Does this sentence sound okay with the preposition at the end, or not?”) and actually lead to bad writing because no one can write well if they try to remember dozens of writing rules while writing.
An anecdote that appeared in Sir Ernest Gowers’ Plain Words (1948) states that an editor once clumsily rearranged one of Churchill’s sentences to avoid ending it in a preposition, and the Prime Minister (who won the Nobel Prize for Literature), scribbled the following note in reply: “This is the sort of bloody nonsense up with which I will not put.”
The title “Plain Writing” is a relatively new term for a very old goal of writing teachers around the world. In 1664, the Royal Society of England set up a committee (which included the poet, John Dryden, and the diarist, Samuel Pepys) to recommend ways to improve writing skills. Their advice: writers should aim to achieve “a close, naked, natural way of speaking; positive expression; clear senses; a native easinesse, bringing all things as near the Mathematical plainnesse, as they can.”
“For more than forty years, I have studied the documents that public companies file. Too often, I’ve been unable to decipher just what is being said or, worse yet, had to conclude that nothing was being said…. There are several possible explanations as to why I and others sometimes stumble over an accounting note or indenture description…. Perhaps the most common problem, however, is that a well-intentioned and informed writer simply fails to get the message across to an intelligent, interested reader. In that case, stilted jargon and complex constructions are usually the villain.”