Blogs about writing

Apostrophes or Apostrophe’s? Most important uses for the apostrophe.

Here is everything you need to know to make sure that you are punctuating correctly when it comes to the apostrophe.

Ever been told off for not using an apostrophe? Or perhaps using one when you don’t need to?

It’s an easy mistake to make, especially when people on social media or text messages don’t seem to use them at all sometimes.

If used improperly, they can completely change the meaning of a sentence.

Take these examples:
I wont eat the fish n chips cause it tastes bad.

James cat is more friendly than Andreas moose.

Shed like to come, but shes busy tonight.

Without the apostrophe, these words have a different meaning. The words “wont”, “cause”, “Andreas”, and “shed” are all words with their own meaning.

The examples above don’t have apostrophes and this makes meaning unclear. After you read through this article, you’ll be able to come back and fix the errors. Let’s get into it…

So what are apostrophes and how are they used?

There are two main reasons for using apostrophes. There are other reasons to use them, which we’ll get to later.

Using apostrophes also varies depending on certain style guides or common practice. This means that the way one organisation uses them might differ from others, and even the way they are used in different countries.

However, the two main reasons for their use remain the same across the all of the English speaking world.

These two reasons are:

1. Apostrophes are used for Contractions

This is also called “omission”.

It means that letters or sounds have been left out from the full word. Many words do this and speech is where words tend to be shortened. We then take these shortenings into our written work to mimic the spoken form.

For example:
Can’t = Can not or cannot

There are even a couple of strange ones like:
Won’t = will not
He’d’ve = He would have

Note: These contractions are not usually accepted in formal styles of writing, such a academic papers, government documents, formal public speeches, etc…

Contractions are really commonplace, but they can be tricky to work out why they have been used.

This can also be because the writer is trying to make dialogue read like it is spoken.

For example:
“Don’t make a fool out of me, ‘ey!”
“Ain’t never been there a’fore!”

What about this example from Jackie French’s novel, Tom Appleby: Convict Boy:
“We was ‘ere, see, up in England. We went down the coast of Africa and now we ‘ead to ‘ere, across the Atlantic Ocean.”

This is a way to mimic the way this cockney Englishman speaks. You’ll notice that it does take a while to get into the swing of reading this kind of dialogue.

The other main use of the apostrophe is for possession.

The sailors of the First Fleet used to clip their words – I’m ‘aving me lunch!

2. Apostrophes for possession.

This type of apostrophe helps us to distinguish between ownership. This can be when a person or object owns a thing or idea.

For example:
Jane’s table was full of magazines and stuff.
The dog’s tail wagged with joy.
The cat’s face looked grumpy due to a lack of punctuation.
The houses’ roofs were littered with leaves.

In this case, the apostrophe helps to distinguish between words which would be plurals if they didn’t have the appropriate punctuation.

Sometimes your noun will end in an ‘s’. In this case, you just put the apostrophe at the end of it.

For example:
Lucas’ legs are really long.
Thomas’ books were covered in slime.

3. Apostrophes for possession and plurals

Now, you almost never use an apostrophe to make a plural. Almost…but we’ll get to that later.

You do, however, use the apostrophe when your plural noun owns something. And this can be tricky to work out.

When you make a plural using an ‘s’, and you need to show possession, you need to put the apostrophe after the final ‘s’. You do not need to add another ‘s’ to show possession.

For example:
The horses’ hay was scattered over the field.
The windows’ glass was not very clear.
The mountains’ sides were covered in snow.

This is a very strange rule which pretty much only applies to this word!

4. Strange uses for the apostrophe

Sometimes we use apostrophes for other things besides possession and omission.

This can be because it can make the clarity of meaning much better. These can break the rules as stated above, and they can vary from place to place, or an organisations preferred style.

Here are some examples:

  • 1990’s, 2000’s – note that a plural is being made here. Some style guides simple omit the apostrophe (1990s, 2000s).
  • When naming a letter in a sentence – Apple has two p’s, Academic has two a’s. If the apostrophe were omited, then the sentence would be more difficult to decipher: Apple has two ps, Academic has two as.
  • Its and it’s – “it’s” is only used when there is a contraction (“it is” or “it has”). The “its” is used for possession. This is a very strange rule which pretty much only applies to this word!

You try…

So, can you insert apostrophes in these examples?

I wont eat the fish n chips cause it tastes bad.

James cat is more friendly than Andreas moose.

Shed like to come, but shes busy tonight.

Need to know more?

Watch this short video for great examples of how to use apostrophes…

Apostrophes explained…

5 Best Ways to beat writer’s block

Writer’s block is simply a lack of motivation or direction in your writing. This comes and goes from time to time, but it’s not something that can be cured. After all, it’s not a disease. It’s just a temporary slump which can be beaten by…

Blogs about writing

5 Best Ways to beat writer’s block

Writer’s block doesn’t have to stop you…

Writer’s Block.

Yep, it’s a thing.

You get to your computer, fire it up, fingers hovering over the keyboard and then…

The mind draws blank and the words do not come. You sit, ready and waiting for inspiration, but there is a chasm between your thoughts and the amazing writing you normally see pouring out.

You stare at the blank white page. The blank white page stares back at you. It seems to shrug. “I’ve got no ideas either”, it says.

This can be particularly frustrating when you’re in the middle of a really long story or article. You’ve got so much developed already, but then everything seems to stop. There seems to be no end to your tale, no punch line to the joke, no focus or resolution to your problem.

So what can you do about it?

Well, it can be difficult to navigate out of writer’s block, but don’t fret. There are a few things you can do to get the creative juices flowing again.

Just a word of warning before we get into the nitty gritty of it all…

Writer’s block is simply a lack of motivation or direction in your writing. This comes and goes from time to time, but it’s not something that can be cured. After all, it’s not a disease. It’s just a temporary slump and most writers go through this at some stage or another.

How to cure writer’s block…

Crush Writer’s block with these ideas…

1. Play word games

One great thing to do is simply play with language.

Here’s one idea:

Create a list of similar words to ones you are using in your writing. Perhaps there’s a spooky house you are trying to describe and it’s just not working. You feel blocked.

Take the word: Spooky

Let’s get some other similar words (synonyms) and then some opposite words too (antonyms). The opposite words will help later on when describing other characters or places which contrast the spooky house.


Synonyms/ Antonyms
chilling earthly
creepy natural
eerie normal
ghostly usual
mysterious obvious

What about some colors -words:

From here, we’ve got so many options to work with.

See if you can describe another element of the house with some of these other words. Perhaps focus on small details and create a vivid image of the house.

Add adjectives until it’s overloaded and it’s actually sounding really bad. Then remove the words which don’t sound right.

Here’s an example for a creepy house in a children’s picture book:

The weird creepy blackened opening of the doorway opened like a creepy mouth with a grey-white mist seeping out.

The description above has way too much going on. It’s really clunky, but that’s fine because we now go in and edit to clean it up. Remember to focus on the parts which are most important. Don’t describe obscure sections or give them too much focus in the sentence.

Let’s go back to our example and fine it:
The weird creepy blackened opening of the doorway opened gaped like a creepy mouth with an eerie grey-white mist seeping out.

Notice how I’ve deleted much of the clunky phrasing from above? I’ve edited it so that it has focus and doesn’t burden the reader with too much “guff”.

Take a look:
The blackened opening of the doorway gaped like a mouth, an eerie grey mist seeping out.

See if you can improve the above sentence. Perhaps add a description of the doorway seeming like it will eat the character looking at it. Or perhaps the mist seeming like it is coming towards the viewer.

These two ideas seek to make the house come alive, as though it is sinister or dangerous, rather than just creepy.

Here are some other word games to try.

The blackened opening of the doorway gaped like a mouth, an eerie grey mist seeping out.

2. Write short stories

Sometimes, to defeat writer’s block, you’ve got to take a break from your main project and try some smaller, fun writing ideas.

Maybe you need to focus on a tiny story, like a fable or a vignette.

These are really effective as they focus your attention on writing for specific qualities in story.


• Focus on plot – orientation, problem and resolution
• Characters – stereotypes of animals, personification (being made to resemble humans)
• Simple settings – farms, fields, woods

Here’s an example of a fable:

The Lion and the Mouse

A Lion lay asleep in the forest, his great head resting on his paws. A timid little Mouse came upon him unexpectedly, and in her fright and haste to get away, ran across the Lion’s nose. Roused from his nap, the Lion laid his huge paw angrily on the tiny creature to kill her.

“Spare me!” begged the poor Mouse. “Please let me go and some day I will surely repay you.”
The Lion was much amused to think that a Mouse could ever help him. But he was generous and finally let the Mouse go.

Some days later, while stalking his prey in the forest, the Lion was caught in the toils of a hunter’s net. Unable to free himself, he filled the forest with his angry roaring. The Mouse knew the voice and quickly found the Lion struggling in the net. Running to one of the great ropes that bound him, she gnawed it until it parted, and soon the Lion was free.

“You laughed when I said I would repay you,” said the Mouse. “Now you see that even a Mouse can help a Lion.”

A kindness is never wasted.

If you want to learn more about writing fables, click here for a full explanation.


Writing a vignette can be supper fun and rewarding too.

A vignette is like a memoir or short autobiography. You can select a moment from your life and describe it in vivid detail.

• Focus on vivid description
• Feelings and emotion are highlighted
• Personal reaction to memories – introspection

Christmas Day – 1991

I slipped on my dressing gown and tiptoed down the hall, following my elder brother, in the pale dawn light. The clock must have just ticked 6am, but the heat of the day was already permeating the house.

Thick pine scents wafted from the living room as we crept slowly, delicately twisting the door knob to our sister’s room. She was still fast asleep and hadn’t yet felt the urge to see what had been left for us in the living room. Dan gave her a poke in the arm and she stirred. Sensing our excitement, a smile of recognition lit her face and she threw off her doona and jumped to the floor.

We three, barefooted and messy-haired, scampered to…

To read the rest of this vignette, click here.

You can check out more details about how to write a vignette by clicking here.

3. Edit your previous couple of pages

Here’s an idea which keeps you focused on the larger work at hand.

If you’re struggling with writer’s block, going back over your work and reading it again can help you to get back in the groove.

You may tweak your phrasing here and there, as well as adding bits and pieces too.

Pick a particular focus for your editing like:

  • Making sure your narrator’s “voice” is consistent throughout. If your narrator is first person, ensure that the character’s likes/dislikes, attitude and personality come through.
  • Tenses – if you’ve set your story in the past, make sure the narrator uses past tenses. The same goes for present or future tenses. You don’t want your reader becoming confused due to mistakes around whether he “jumped over the wall” or whether he “jumps over the wall”.
    It doesn’t matter which you choose, just remember to be consistent.
  • Inserting and refining dialogue.
    This can be really tricky to make it sound “right” but keep working at it. Maybe get a friend to say one character’s lines with you out aloud.
    Perhaps there’s a point in a scene which needs some dialogue, even just one or two lines.
  • Avoiding certain bland words or phrases which do very little.

Writer's block doesn't have to be such a problem. The most effective way to move on with your writing is...

4. Chat it out

Chat to a fellow writer or person you trust.

If the problem with your writer’s block is more ideas-based, then it might be time to let someone read your work.

This can be a super scary thing to do because you might feel like they will judge you or not appreciate your work the same way that you do.

But as writers, we need to make sure that we are connecting our work with a real-life audience from time to time. And writer’s block is a great place to start.

Choose someone you know well, a parent or friend, and let them read your work. Asking someone who also writes is a great option too, as they know just how you are feeling.

They may give you some ideas, or you might simply work out where to go next.

Remember, ask them to comment on specific things, rather than relying on them to come up with feedback.

If you want to know about whether your writing makes sense, ask them about specific things like: punctuation, descriptions of characters/places/scenes, narrator’s “voice” or perhaps whether the dialogue flows well.

Here are some sample questions to ask before they read:

  • Does the punctuation help to make my meaning clear?
  • How can I make the character seem nicer, meaner, ruder, more aggressive?
  • Where do you think the story is set? How can I make the scenery more beautiful/ugly?
  • Can you describe the conversation between the two characters?

    This will mean that the feedback you get will help you with the specific parts of your writing which might be tripping you up.

5. Write garbage

This sounds like super bad advice, but it’s not.

One way to combat writer’s block is to simply write a scene or paragraph which you know is not your best work.

Give yourself the freedom to not write perfectly all the time and just get the ideas or a whole scene down on the page.

By the end of a 20-minute garbage writing session, you’ll have quite a lot which you will discard, but a whole heap which you will need to edit. And as we’ve seen above, editing your work is simply another step in moving through writer’s block.

While writer’s block can feel real in the sense that it stops you from writing, it is actually just stopping you from writing what you know is “good” or your best writing. There’s nothing wrong with writing some work which you know is not your best.

You can them go over it and make it better.

I often give this advice to people who find it so hard to start writing. The blank page is just too intimidating. It’s as though perfectionism stops some people from even starting.

Well, here’s your free license.

You have permission to write garbage!

You then have some great fodder to work with and edit to make it better.

In summary

Writer’s block can feel impossible to overcome, but you have some really great tools to break through this mental stop-sign and get writing again. Just get back on the horse and get writing again!

  • Apostrophes or Apostrophe’s? Most important uses for the apostrophe.

    This is a very strange rule which pretty much only applies to this word! The most important rule to follow is…

  • 5 Best Ways to beat writer’s block

    Writer’s block is simply a lack of motivation or direction in your writing. This comes and goes from time to time, but it’s not something that can be cured. After all, it’s not a disease. It’s just a temporary slump which can be beaten by…

  • Who me? How to tell the difference between “Jane and I” and “Jane and me”.

    Is it Jane and me or Jane and I? Do you struggle with when to use these in a sentence? The important thing to remember is…

  • 5 Easiest Steps to Writing Fables

    Writing fables doesn’t have to be difficult. In fact, the first and most important aspect to writing fables is the…

  • Top 7 Words to avoid in your writing

    We all know good writing when we read it, but it’s hard to put our finger on how exactly it is created. However, the worst words to use in your writing are…

  • How to Write a Vignette

    What on earth is a vignette? Essentially, a vignette is a short scene or moment. It’s kind of like a memoir or autobiography, but super short. It draws from your own personal experience, and, as good writers do, you need to write about what you know. There’s noone who knows your story like you do.……

Blogs about writing

Who me? How to tell the difference between “Jane and I” and “Jane and me”.

Me and Jenny or Jenny and I – what’s the difference?

What’s the difference between “I” and “me”?

Maybe some obnoxious person has corrected your pronouns in the past. “It’s ‘Andrew and I’, not ‘Me and Andrew!” they’d exclaim.

And I’m sure that gives us pause to stop and think, is that right? And what’s the difference anyway.

Apart from that, who cares, right?

Well, there is a technically ‘right’ answer to this question, which is quite important to get right if you’re writing to an audience who cares. It can take the gloss off your amazing piece of writing if you make this kind of mistake.

In other words, if you’re trying to write to an audience who is aware of these kinds of grammatical errors, it undermines your ideas. Just take a look at social media posts. When an argument inevitably occurs online, one way of dismissing someone’s opinion or deflecting an argument is to pick on someone’s incorrect grammar.

For example:
Samantha: Harry Potter is clearly in love with Hermione. He and her are just made for each other.

Jane: What is “He and her”?! Where did you go to school? You can’t even write a sentence properly. lol

What is “He and her”?! Where did you go to school? You can’t even write a sentence properly. lol”
– Jane

You notice with the interaction above the Jane made no attempt to discuss Harry Potter or Hermione? Instead, Jane simply makes fun of Samantha’s incorrect use of “Him and her”. It’s not a very nice way of having a discussion, but we’ve seen it happen plenty of times, especially on social media.

Can you imagine going for a promotion at work, or even a job interview, and something as petty as grammar losing you a great opportunity?

Sadly, our world is full of people who judge others based on small things like this. Speaking and writing correctly is still regarded as a sign of good education. And if you can’t speak or write “correctly”, then you’ve just shown a lack of education.

In the written word, it can often show a lack of care. If someone hasn’t taken the time to write using standard English, then they either don’t know better or they don’t care. In either case, it’s not good if you’re trying to show off how competent you are.

Think this is bad? See the 7 worst words to use. Click here.

So what is the difference?

Basically, the “I” sits at the beginning of a sentence or clause as the “subject”. This means that “I” is the one doing the verb.

For example:
Jenny and I went to the movies.

“Jenny and I” is the subject of the sentence or clause. They are the ones doing the verb.

Subject, verb and object.

Here, “I” is used as the subject of the sentence. In most sentences, the subject is BEFORE the verb in a sentence.

The pronoun “me”, however, works in a very different way. “Me” is the object in a sentence or clause. The object comes AFTER the verb.

For example:
Jenny went to the movies with me.

Notice how the “me” appears after the verb “went”?

It would also work in a list like this:
Jenny went to the movies with Amanda, Jane and me.
Jimmy hit golf balls at Andrew and me.

Want to learn how to write a short autobiographical story? Click here.

How do you tell which one to use?

Well, you need to know where your verb is in the sentence.

“I” will always be the subject in the sentence or clause, sitting before the verb. “Me” will always be the object in a sentence, sitting somewhere after the verb.

This does require knowledge of the different word classes: nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, etc…

Now you try:

I want cereal for lunch, because it makes me feel great!

Can you identify the mistakes in the following extract? Make a mental note of how to fix them.

Morning hunger…

I woke up and yawned quietly, trying not to disturb Jamie and Anthony’s sleep. I smelt the remains of an all-night movie marathon, popcorn, soda and left over pizza. Me tried to open an eye-lid but it was stuck fast, the other one opened just a crack.

I squirmed inside my sleeping bag. My stomach now telling me to find breakfast. An angry growl erupted from my stomach. I needed to get up and satisfy my hunger. Last night’s meal had not done its job on me.

Walking on the cold tiles, me crept closer to the pantry. My stomach growled again. I opened the pantry door with care, but a creak rang out. I worried that I might wake the others.

I looked, top shelf, and there it was. A tall, thin box, filled with sugary flakes looked down at me. It is a diabetics worst nightmare, but I love it.

Now, see if you can find “I” and “me” in this passage. Do they sit before or after a verb?

If it sits before a verb, it should be “I”. If it sits after a verb, it should be a “me”. The verbs are: woke, smelt, tried, squirmed, telling, needed, had not done, crept, opened, worried, might wake, looked, looked, love.

Want more grammar rules? Click here.

Here are some more examples to illustrate the point:

“I” as subject

I want to go to school today.
After dinner, I want to show you how to knit.
All day, I have been waiting to eat that cake.
Josephine, Daphne and I are not going to work well together.
Can I have a large cup of coffee with no sugar?

“Me” as object

The dog licked me.
She hates me.
Those crayons are bad for me to eat.
Please don’t let me down.
Alfred takes really good care of me.
For Christmas, Daniel is going to give me a large gift of roses.
Can you come with me?

So, know you’ll know when to use “I” and when to use “me”.

Blogs about writing

5 Easiest Steps to Writing Fables

Want to learn how to write great fables?

Fables have been used for hundreds of years to entertain and to educate. Within these fun stories lie truths about how humans should live and important lessons on how we should behave. Fables rarely have characters which are human. Instead, the authors rely on animals who speak and interact much like humans do. This has a fancy word for it, called “anthropomorphism” – in short, making animals more like people.

Before we get into writing our own, let’s take a look at a couple of famous fables.

The Tortoise and the Hare

In the field, the Hare was once boasting of his speed before the other animals. “I have never yet been beaten,” said he, “when I put forth my full speed. I challenge any one here to race with me.”

The Tortoise said quietly, “I accept your challenge.”

“That is a good joke,” said the Hare; “I could dance round you all the way.”

“Keep your boasting till you’ve beaten,” answered the Tortoise. “Shall we race?”

So a course was fixed and a start was made. The Hare darted almost out of sight at once, but soon stopped and, to show his contempt for the Tortoise, lay down to have a nap. The Tortoise plodded on and plodded on, and when the Hare awoke from his nap, he saw the Tortoise just near the winning-post and could not run up in time to save the race.

Moral of the story – Plodding wins the race.

Aesop (1867) Aesop’s Fables

The Frogs and the Ox

An Ox came down to a reedy pool to drink. As he splashed heavily into the water, he crushed a young Frog into the mud.

The old Frog soon missed the little one and asked his brothers and sisters what had become of him.

“A great big monster,” said one of them, “stepped on little brother with one of his huge feet!”

“Big, was he!” said the old Frog, puffing herself up. “Was he as big as this?”

“Oh, much bigger!” they cried.

The Frog puffed up still more.

“He could not have been bigger than this,” she said. But the little Frogs all declared that the monster was much, much bigger and the old Frog kept puffing herself out more and more until, all at once, she burst.

Moral of the story – Do not attempt the impossible.

Aesop (1867) Aesop’s Fables

If you’re super keen to read more fables, check out Aesop’s Fables.

So how do we write a fable?

1. Decide on a moral.

Notice how at the end of each fable there is a moral or a lesson listed? This is because the writer of the fable is seeking to use the story to illustrate an important lesson which he wants the reader to learn.

Often these stories are told to children and have some kind of basic lesson. But they also speak of how people should relate to each other, or even ideas such as what is good or valued in society.

Choose a moral to write about, then that will help you to choose characters, setting and plots to explore.

Here are some intersting morals to teach:

  • Don’t mess with snakes
  • Never trust strangers
  • Keep your friends close
  • Bullying leads to more bullying
  • Or even something as simple as: Don’t stay out past sun down

2. Choose characters which suit your moral.

Now that you know what you want to write about, you need characters to help illustrate your important lesson.

Choosing the right animals is key in fables. You’ll notice that each animal has certain characteristics which are used as a stereotype. Basically, the bad animals are mostly the carnivorous ones, and the herbivores are saved for the more upright and ‘good’ characters.

For example:

  • Fox – cunning and clever, but always trying to trick other animals. They generally want to eat other animals or use them for his own advantage.
  • Pig – messy and greedy, pigs are generally interested in themselves and being lazy.
  • Frog – frogs are generally ‘good’ characters, because they are innocent and only eat insects, something which annoys humans. They are also prey for foxes or cats.
  • Cat – lazy and sleepy, they like to chase mice and rabbits to eat them, or just for fun. They are sneaky and care only for themselves.
  • Donkey – trust-worthy and honest, donkeys might not be the prettiest animal going around, but they are true-hearted and their humility often wins out. Read The Silver Donkey, by Sonya Hartnett. A beautiful tale of trust and honesty.
  • Mouse – shy and poor, mice are generally mistreated by other animals and not viewed as very important. They often save the day due to their small size or cleverness.
  • And so on…

Notice how these animals are all common animals found around the farmyard or home?

You need to choose a protagonist, or hero, character, then choose a villain. These two characters will help you to develop the plot.

You may also decide later that you need another character or two. But be careful, fables generally have very few characters, so keep it to a minimum.

Check out a great list of amazing fables here.

3. Plan your plot

Now’s the time when you start to create a setting and storyline for your characters to follow.

Rather than just beginning to write, good writers generally have a plan of how the story is going to turn out before they begin writing. That way, they can know where they’re heading in their first paragraph and add little hints and clues as to how it might turn out. This is called “foreshadowing”.

Once you decide your hero, you need to put them in their setting. Having a mouse in a field or in a house is typical, and this works well. As soon as you put an animal in a different setting to the one they normally live in, you probably need to explain why, and this can detract from your original message.

After you put your hero in their setting, let’s focus on the villain.

You need your villain to behave as that animal would normally do in the wild. A fox will try to catch the mouse in order to eat it. Once you have your villain, you know what the problem will be.

For example:

  • mouse lives in a hole in the field
  • Fox wants to catch the mouse and eat it for dinner

Now if your moral is to warn against being out after sun down because it is dangerous, you need the sun to go down in your story, and for a negative consequence to happen to the mouse.

  • mouse forgot to pick up some ants for his stew, so he goes out in search of some after sunset
  • the fox, seeing the mouse out late collecting ants, knows that mice don’t see well in the dark and waits for him outside the mouse’s hole in the field

Maybe you can see where this tale is headed already?

Surely the mouse will be caught by the fox because he can’t see well at night. Or maybe the mouse escapes in a dramatic chase. Either way, the lesson is still the same: being out after dark is dangerous.

4. Write the first line

Once you have a first line, the rest flows on from there, but that doesn’t mean that the first line is easy. In fact, writing the first line can be the hardest bit.

Fables have a very simple style, not too much flair with language, and quite straight to the point.

For your first line, put your protagonist in their environment, and have them doing some kind of action. Take a look at the examples above. The animal is named, then the environment is stated, and then they are either talking or getting ready to drink.

For example: The toad croaked loudly in his pond. Or, the horse trotted happily in its paddock.

5. Finish the first draft

Once the first line is written, hopefully the story unfolds for you.

You’ll need to set the scene a bit further and introduce the problem. Once this is established, you need to resolve the problem for your protagonist.

Be careful to give enough detail that the reader can see the scene that you are describing, but not too much that you lose what action is taking place.

Send your fable in to Word-smiths and have it published in our magazine! Click here to email it in!

Here’s a fable I wrote about swimming in icy water. Enjoy!

The Little Turtle

There was once a little turtle who thought he knew everything. His class was out on an excursion to the forest when they came upon a stream.

“Don’t jump into the stream,” Teacher Turtle said. “You’ll likely drown.”

The little turtle was hot and bothered from the summer heat and wanted to swim. He was sure that he could slip away when the class walked on and come and sit in the shaded water for a while to cool down.

The class walked on and the little turtle slunk away while his teacher was not looking and went back to the stream. The water was cold and wonderful at first, but before the turtle could get used to it, his legs and arms cramped from the extreme cold.

As the little turtle felt that he would breathe his last and his head went underwater, a loud splash erupted next to him. Teacher Turtle had come back to see where the little turtle had got to. He promptly grabbed hold of the little turtle and pulled him out onto the bank.

Moral: Don’t swim in icy cold water.

by Mike Symons, 2021

That’s it! Now you know the secrets to writing great fables.

Check out how to write vignette’s here!

Blogs about writing

Top 7 Words to avoid in your writing

There are some words which should be used only sometimes, or sometimes not at all. No, I’m not talking about swear words, I mean words that bore the reader to tears!

stop written with straws
Stop using these words!

If you’re looking to add detail and engage your readers, make sure to avoid the following words.

Good and bad

‘Bad’ and ‘Good’ are two of the most boring words one can use. They are also very vague and do not describe very accurately. Actually, there are so many meanings for these words that they’re rarely used for accuracy at all.

‘Your essay was good’ – was it in an battle of good versus evil? An epic struggle like Star Wars? Or are you asking whether it behaved itself?

 ‘He is a bad kid’ – is that the boy’s nature? Was he created incorrectly? No, this is just a lazy way to describe the kid’s actions or motives. Instead, try to describe the exact things that the kid has done or what they think which is bad.

Look at the title of this post – I could have easily used the word ‘bad’ to describe the types of words I am talking about. Instead, I used the verb ‘avoid’. This carries all of the connotation of the inferior and vague language I go on to describe.

So, kick this lazy habit and avoid ‘good’ and ‘bad’ in your work.


This is clearly breaking the rules of interesting writing. Put simply, got/gotten/get offer very little description of the action taking place in your story.

Take the following examples…

  • “Did you get given your spelling words?”
    Instead, substitute: ‘receive’ for ‘get given’. Did you receive your spellings word?

    Ah, much better.
  • “I got given a spade.”
    This one is just pure yukky. Substitute: ‘was’ for ‘got’. I was given a spade.
  • “Have you gotten a ticket to the concert?”
    You see how vague this is? How was the ticket obtained? Magic? No.
    Substitute: ‘bought’ for ‘gotten’. Have you bought your ticket?


What do you mean by ‘weird’?

1. The thing is strange to me. I am not used to it.

2. The thing is unacceptable, non-standard.

3. The thing is eerie or supernatural or extra-terrestrial.

Clearly, this word is used in too many ways. You can’t just leave this word dangling and rely on your reader understanding what you mean.

Focus on the features of the thing which make it unusual. Describe these and use key adjectives to show the reader that the thing is weird.

For example:
The creature shifted sideways, it’s legs a tangle, knees buckling unnaturally, its eyes gleaming.

In the above example, I could have said that “the creature looked weird”, but this would be doing an injustice to how horrific and disturbing the creature really is. I picked a couple of key features (legs/knees and eyes) and described its movement. These are the things which make my creature “weird”.


Now here’s one we use all the time. I’ve even used it in this post (see above). So am I breaking my own rules? Maybe.

Let’s check it out.

“The author does some things which are harmful to their case”.

“Things are tough right now.”

The examples above rely on the author going on to describe what they mean by “things”. If the author just leaves it as it is, then it is far too vague.

“Things” is often used to give a general answer without revealing detail. This is handy at times, but you need to be careful about this one in your writing.

In creative writing, and especially for students doing their school work, you should aim for clear description.

Remember: be specific, be accurate.

So, hopefully you have “gotten” some “good” rules for avoiding “bad” language in your “weird” writing and “things”.

Learn how to write a short autobiographical story here… How to Write a Vignette

Latest Blog Posts…


How to Write a Vignette

Write your story

What on earth is a vignette?

Essentially, a vignette is a short scene or moment. It’s kind of like a memoir or autobiography, but super short.

It draws from your own personal experience, and, as good writers do, you need to write about what you know. There’s noone who knows your story like you do.

The key, though, is to set up a punchy, interesting description of an interesting moment. Funny, tragic, or highly emotional stories work best for this.

Think of it like writing a chapter of a novel where you are the hero.

Here’s how to begin…

Think of a moment from your childhood which was really interesting.


  • getting your first pet
  • visiting someone in a nursing home, hospital, or overseas
  • dropping someone at the airport or picking someone up
  • your backyard tyre swing
  • Christmas day
  • first day of school
  • getting up to mischief with a friend

You can outline the time and place by adding these as headings at the top of your page.

remember to include:

  • first person perspective – use “I”, “me”, “my”, etc…
  • vivid description of the setting
  • description of the action taking place
  • thoughts and feelings about what you are doing or what is happening

Share with close friend or parent who also remembers this moment.

Here’s a really simple example:

Christmas Day – 1991

Arthurs Creek, Victoria

I slipped on my dressing gown and tiptoed down the hall, following my elder brother, in the pale dawn light. The clock must have just ticked 6am, but the heat of the day was already permeating the house.

Thick pine scents wafted from the living room as we crept slowly, delicately twisting the door knob to our sister’s room. She was still fast asleep and hadn’t yet felt the urge to see what had been left for us in the living room. Dan gave her a poke in the arm and she stirred. Sensing our excitement, a smile of recognition lit her face and she threw off her doona and jumped to the floor.

We three, barefooted and messy-haired, scampered to the edge of the hallway, peering around the corner to glimpse the enormous tree, lit with tinsel and ornaments, shining atop piles of perfectly wrapped presents.

We looked at each other in awe.

A stifled cry broke out excitement. The littlest one, Rosie, was waking from her sleep, keen for a warm milk breakfast and snuggles with her siblings. We tracked back down the hall and opened her door wide.

She was standing, sleepy eyed but smiling as we three piled through the door. She grabbed with pudgy hands, to our shoulders as we all tried to lift her over the sides of her crib. Safely down, she scampered off down the hallway, we three racing behind her, and straight into the living room.

For a girl of eighteen months old, she was terribly quick and agile.

Before we could stop her, she had darted into the living room, jumped over the cat, which was still slumbering, and crashed headlong into the piles of presents. We arrived all too late and looked on to see the mess of tumbled boxes and gift bags upended.

Rosie, sensing our presence, peered out from a mess of wrapping paper and tinsel, smiling her single tooth smile.

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3 Factors affecting your child’s reading

Evidence suggests that frequent readers perform better on academic tests. Regardless of the subject, students who are said to be “frequent readers” outperform those who “do not read for enjoyment” in international cognitive testing (according to the PISA Report 2009). Astoundingly, these statistics demonstrated that the academic difference between the two groups was the equivalent of as much as 2 years of schooling.

While it may seem like a straight forward idea, making children read can be a difficult task. At parent-teacher interviews I am regularly asked, “How can I make my child read more?” or the even more pertinent, “How can I make my son read more?”

Here are a few ideas associated with positive reading experiences which might help…

  1. Parents’ Attitude

Like it or not, children inherit many attitudes from parents, and this is no different with reading.

Simply seeing a parent reading speaks volumes about the value of reading in your household. Having a shared reading time allows children the time and space to focus on their reading, but also the opportunity to have positive conversations with parents about their books, the issues the characters face, the setting or what the book says about their own life. Indeed, many parents who read their children’s school novels have been able to engage in a new avenue of conversation with their child, and speak into the themes and values of the novel being discussed in the classroom.

2. Choice

Also, autonomy in reading increases the likelihood of a positive reading experience. Put simply, if children pick their own books, they tend to read them.

Reading comfortable books, rather than those which might stretch them. Many people get pleasure from reading more complex books, though they do this after developing a positive attitude to simpler books. While student choice is a common feature in primary school, more complex books are required at high school which can put students off reading.

3. Start simple

While children might gravitate towards magazines, comics, picture books which we might not hold in high literary regard, they are actually forming positive associations with reading. In doing this, they are better equipped to face more difficult reading tasks and have a positive, more resilient attitude to reading more academic texts. Reading for pleasure is crucial to a positive association with reading in general.

Developing a reading culture at home may seem daunting at first, though with time, a habit will form and children will become contented, even excited, about what they are reading.

As one expert has observed: “Students who read independently become better readers, score higher on achievement tests in all subject areas, and have greater content knowledge than those who do not.” (Cullinan, 2000).

Some strategies to help your child read more:

  • Allow your child to choose reading material they like (novels, picture books, newspapers, comics, graphic novels, magazines, video game e-zines, etc…)
  • Read where you child will see – Let your child see your own enjoyment of, and need for, reading
  • Set aside a 20 minute timeslot each night to read – either individually or together in the same space
  • Read a book together – express what it means to you, what you liked, didn’t like, etc…
  • Talk about what you have read recently and why you read it
  • Read your child’s school texts – this opens up wonderful avenues for conversation, and allows you to help them when they struggle (yes, this applies to textbooks too)

Students who are able to enjoy and engage in reading are setting themselves up for future academic success. Whether they’re reading about Pokemon or politics, what matters is that they’re reading and enjoying it.

Mike Symons


Cullinan, B. E. (2000). Independent reading and school achievement. School Library Media Research3, 1-23. Retrieved from

OECD (2010), PISA 2009 Results: A Teacher’s Guide to PISA Reading Literacy


5 Ways to develop a positive reading culture at home

A common frustration of parents can be summed up with this question:
“How do I get my child to read?”

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on

In an age of screen-based entertainment and busyness, reading has lost its place as a relaxing pastime. Though it doesn’t have to be this way. Indeed, to enhance chances of success in school and the wider world, reading is a fundamental set of skills which can be nurtured at home. Moreover, reading is a wonderful way to spend quality time with your kids.

Here are some strategies to help you develop your own reading culture at home.

1. Set aside reading time each night.

Creating a routine around bedtime is a great strategy to get your kids to fall asleep, but it also works for reading. Providing a distraction free time where they choose the reading material so important. Children can read by themselves just before bed, or they simply go to bed early.

2. Read together.

Pick something fun to read – Dr Seuss, Roald Dhal, music reviews, footy match reports or other beloved classics and read a few pages before bedtime or while dinner is cooking.
Choose reading material on a favourite topic. And yes, magazines are totally up for grabs. What’s important is to choose something that you like to read, then go for it. Ask “how” or “why” questions to invite conversation, and steer clear of “what” or “yes/no” types of questions.

So take it in turns for you and your child should read out aloud and the magic will happen.

3. Take them out on a special trip to the bookshop or library.

I know this one costs a little money, but there is something amazing about being surrounded by books; floor to ceiling of brightly coloured spines and cover art is sure to inspire.

Give them a spending limit, say $10, then see what they come up with after rummaging around for half an hour. They may even give you some good ideas for birthday or Christmas gifts.

Part of the magic of this is spending time together, so be sure to book a place at a nice cafe to chat about what you found at the bookshop or library.

“Reading is a wonderful way to spend quality time with your kids” – Mike

4. Discuss what you are reading.

Kids can see right through us when we demand that they read, but don’t read ourselves.

Showing off our own libraries or book-stacks is an important part of creating reading culture. This shows that reading is not just something that is to be done at school or by children to learn. It is a vital part of living.

Model your enjoyment or use of reading in your life, which will prompt discussion of the role reading plays in their life too.

5. Read their school novels.

Borrow their English novels and read alongside them. You’ll be surprised by the conversations that flow from simply being able to discuss the ins and outs of their book with them.

Apart from the joy of reading something great (books chosen by English teachers are often quite layered and complex), you then become a great resource for their upcoming essays or assignments.

If you choose, reading can be viewed as a chore, but re-framing reading as a means of spending time with your children is very rewarding. Instead of viewing reading as homework, choose to see it as a simple yet profound a vehicle to loving your child.

Mike Symons

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