communication, education, language, learning, organization

Effective Writing – a primer

There are many reasons for writing. One can write an online blog, a book, a magazine article, a letter to a government agency or company complaining about a service, a term paper, a letter to the editor, an application to college, an application for a job, and/or much more. Yet, while each of these has its own specific requirements, there are some general rules one can follow to be a demonstrably good writer and a more effective one. Here are some of those rules (with a caveat that this listing is a work in progress). Please note that items listed need not be done in any specific order and not all items may fit a particular writing activity (i.e., as appropriate is the rule that dominates).

  1. Recognize the type of writing you will be doing. If someone else defined the requirements for the writing, be sure to follow them. As appropriate, use personal and/or professional formats. For a job application, you will want to sell yourself; for a scientific journal article, you’ll want to document references and build to a valid, objective conclusion. If there are article or letter length requirements, follow these or your written efforts may be discarded. For example, one southwest Florida newspaper caps letters to the editor at 275 words. Write a 300 plus word letter and it won’t get published!
  2. Think about the message you want to convey. Why is it important that someone read about it? This holds for everything, even personal blogs.
  3. Start with a strong introductory sentence, and build from there. This ensures that the first part of your first paragraph, or your entire first paragraph, serves to grab the reader’s attention. In writing, this is known as a “hook.”
  4. Introduce your topic in the first paragraph. Ensure that the storyline builds appropriately.
  5. Provide strong supporting statements and/or links/references to prop up your main discussion. This enhances your discussion and also provides the reader with additional reading material, should they desire to learn more about your topic.
  6. Throughout, use active voice and action verbs (e.g., reading, working, organizing) rather than passive voice or “to be” verbs (e.g., was, had been, should).
  7. Avoid over-using transitional words (e.g., however, moreover, furthermore, therefore), and ending sentences with prepositions (e.g., “it’s what we talked about.”).
  8. Don’t repeat words and/or phrases; the English language has a plethora of adjectives, nouns, and verbs. Use them!
  9. Check grammar and spelling throughout (but don’t just rely on a computer-based spelling or grammar checker). Ensure that verb and subject are in agreement.
  10. Be clear and concise.
  11. Proofread your document more than once (keying on spelling, grammar, storyline, factual information, and unit conversions). This includes reading your writing out loud and/or having colleagues, family members or others proofread it, as well. If you are embarrassed to read aloud around other people, go to a quiet place to do so.
  12. Use an editing functionality (like “track changes” in Microsoft Word) to allow you to see changes as you make them, while still allowing the original text to remain. You can always accept changes at any point in the review/edit process (Fig. 1).
  13. Check for and eliminate “run-on” sentences. These are sentences that are, simply put, far too lengthy. A good rule of thumb for detecting these, keys on having to pause and take a breath while reading the sentence out loud. That pause point can suggest a location for a needed period or semi-colon.
  14. To be continued… Updates to this list will follow in the coming months. Stay tuned and check back for more!

We ask that readers of this article consider sharing other ideas for enhancing effective writing with us. We’ll consider all ideas that we receive.

In advance, thanks.

© 2017 H. Michael Mogil and Matt Bolton

Originally posted 7/27/17

* Although we have been proactive advocates of writing for many years, this article has resulted from activities conducted at our Southwest Florida Weather Camp Program during July 2017.


photography, weather

Naples’ Sunsets – Part 1 (H. Michael Mogil, CCM, CBM, NWA-DS*)

The Naples area has had a plethora of rainfall during the past 35 days. Locally, amounts have topped 25 inches at many locations, with one report in the Piper Cove area (of north Naples) in excess of 30 inches.

Lakes levels are up; mosquitoes are swarming; snails are heading for high ground (actually climbing on my garage door and outside home walls); and sunsets have bordered on spectacular.

It is the latter that warrants attention today.

About a week ago, I wrote about cloud watching in Naples. Today, I’m sharing just two recent sunset images that I captured from near my home in north Naples. Unfortunately, I wasn’t at the beach to capture unobstructed scenes. That’s on my agenda for this weekend; so please stay tuned.

The first image was taken just after sunset on Sat., Jul. 1, 2017. It shows the sun’s rays emanating from a near-horizon location and lighting the underside of leftover thunderstorm debris clouds (most likely altostratus at an altitude of about two and a half miles above the ground). Clouds near the horizon were blocking some of the sunlight and caused shaded/shadowed regions (which allowed easier viewing of the sun’s rays).

The second image (taken Thu., Jul. 6, 2017) also has crepuscular rays, these coming up from the lower left corner of the image. These rays are illuminating “fall streaks” or areas in which rain or snow is falling from the clouds. These streaks are more vertical than the crepuscular rays.

Obviously, the sky colors are something to behold, as well. But, that will be the subject of a future article.

So consider this article as the appetizer for more sunset stories. I plan on having some of the future sunset images include Gulf Coast beach perspectives.

© 2017 H. Michael Mogil

Originally posted 7/8/17

* The National Weather Association Digital Seal (NWA-DS) is awarded to individuals who pass stringent meteorological testing and evaluation of written weather content. H. Michael Mogil was awarded the second such seal and is a strong advocate for its use by weather bloggers.


photography, weather

Cloud watching Naples style (H. Michael Mogil, CCM, CBM, NWA-DS*)

Most will agree that Naples (located in southwest Florida, just south the Fort Myers area, for some of my readers who might not be familiar with where I live) is a cloud watchers paradise, especially during the warmer and wetter months. The daily cycle of morning thunderstorms over the Gulf of Mexico, balanced by the parade of afternoon storms over land areas, provides an almost infinite variety of cloudscapes for photographers of all types. Thurs., Jun. 29, 2017, was just such a day.

In the morning, I had coffee with Susan Castle (Fig. 1), a writer by trade, but a photographer by chance. I reached out to her because Shelby Reynolds, a writer for the Naples Daily News, wrote about Susan and her love of the sky back on Jun. 3.

Castle moved to Naples some five ago and was immediately captivated by the sky. Through a series of chance opportunities and interactions, Susan wound up publishing her own book about the “Clouds of Old Naples” (Fig. 2). The book showcases an amazing display of sunsets, a few sunrises, an outpouring of convective storms (Fig. 3) and even her favorite, an all-alone, small cumulus-type cloud, with a cirrus backdrop. There’s even a rainbow thrown in for good measure. Many of the scenes in her book capture the cacophony of sunset colors, so often seen with a sun near the western horizon and the rest of the sky covered by thunderstorm debris clouds.

Easily recognizing patterning, Susan captured sky and ocean wave scenes, providing views that many of us would love to see. However, because she lives near the beach, it is easier for her to just look out and see the ever-unfolding sky and water symphony.

 Prior to meeting with Susan, I was fortunate enough to capture pictures of a line of thunderstorms just offshore from Naples. Not close enough to the beach to mimic Susan’s photography, I went to the top of a downtown Naples parking garage. The storms were still spectacular (Fig. 4 and Fig. 5).

Then later in the day, Alison Sciacqua, a colleague here in Naples, pulled out her iPhone and started showing me beach scene sky pictures that she had recently taken (Fig. 6).

So, this is a request, for those of you who aim your cameras and cell phones skyward, to think about our Sky Awareness Week Facebook page. While SAW is a designated week in April to focus on the sky, every day is a great day to “look up!” And I’d love for the Facebook page to be a place where anyone can visit and share and also see what others have shared.



If you opt to post, please add a copyright or ownership notice onto the lower corner of the photo, if possible. Should I grab any of the photos to use in an article, I will be sure to credit you.

Until my next article about the sky (and it will be coming soon, I promise), I hope your sky watching time provides you unparalleled enjoyment. If the forecast for the next seven days is any indication, many across the eastern half of the U.S. will be looking upward at the ever-changing cloud show.

NOTE:  People interested in getting a signed copy of Susan Castle’s book can contact the author directly at: or just

People (especially earth science teachers) interested in obtaining a full-color cloud chart can contact How The Weatherworks at 

© 2017 H. Michael Mogil

Originally posted 7/2/17

* The National Weather Association Digital Seal (NWA-DS) is awarded to individuals who pass stringent meteorological testing and evaluation of written weather content. H. Michael Mogil was awarded the second such seal and is a strong advocate for its use by weather bloggers.