I don’t remember many English rules from my early years in school (who does?), but I do remember that I wasn’t allowed to put any periods on my paper until I was absolutely certain I had included a noun and a verb in every sentence.

When I landed in middle school, I discovered that the elementary school teachers had been withholding the “you understood” exception to that rule. So from that moment on, I sheepishly included single verbs in all my assignments, punctuated them with periods, and prayed that readers (especially adult readers) would try to correct my “mistakes” so I could share my superior knowledge with them.

I also remember spending hours crafting descriptive paragraphs about people and places in order to put my advanced vocabulary (which was actually my obsession with the thesaurus) on display.

Surprisingly, nobody ever expressed admiration for my knowledge of punctuation rules or for my stellar use of multisyllabic adjectives.

And now, it seems, it is too late.

Today, many rules have become negotiable. So many, that it is risky to challenge one without being labeled a “dinosaur.”

But for those willing to toss out Warriner’s English Grammar and Composition Handbook, here are two writing techniques that might be worth adding to your writer’s toolbox:


Emphatic words and phrases are regularly used in contemporary literature. These artful fragments add melodrama to narrative writing.

Mini-Lesson: Post the examples below, tell students to select one to use in a free write, and listen to the results.



No response.

Gone. Skipped out. Didn’t leave a note.

Slow-moving fans. Wooden tables. Wicker chairs.

No light. No sound. No movement.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      .Note: NOTE: Emphatic words and phrases are the “bad boys” of the literary world. They deliberately break rules and defiantly draw attention to themselves. That’s what makes them so irresistible.     


Brand-name proper nouns instantly conjure up sensory connections for readers. Instead of having to work to make audiences inhale, observe and salivate, writers can simply drop one into a writing piece and voila…c’est manifique! It’s almost too easy.

Mini-Lesson: Post the following brand names, ask students to incorporate one into a piece of writing, and ask them to share.




Olive Garden


Forever 21

NOTE: Invoking brand-name nouns may feel like cheating on a test or trespassing on private property. But since those nouns are always hanging around – begging to be exploited – take advantage of them guilt-free.

So there you have it: Two ways to grab the attention of readers that would never have received the approval of John E. Warriner in 1969.

About the author: Janice Malone is a teacher and owner of ELA Seminars. For more of her story, go here www.ELAseminars.com.

Share Point:

Okay, now here are two questions for you:

1.What unconventional writing techniques have you tried that have improved your own or your students’ writings?  and/or  2. What are your biggest pet peeves when you are reading professional writings or grading student writings?

Until next time…stay committed…teach with passion…and inspire students with who you are.