Writing Essentials - Tips and Techniques

Utilise this movella to aid your writing needs from punctuation to correct verb usage! You will review important mechanics of writing in order to create sentences that express coherence and fervour. Each chapter in this movella will discuss various writing tools that have the ability to turn any piece of writing into a magnificent work of art.


10. "Coulda Shoulda Woulda"

These three commonly used verbs are thought to be useful because people who do use these are trained to write indecisively. In academic writing, be aware that using couldshould, and would has the ability to harm your standpoint if you are not careful with these verbs.

Just in case, let's review what these three verbs do.


Potential form of can, stating a possibility that may or may not occur.

I know I could; I just do not feel like it.

Could you run this to the bank for me, please?



Potential form of shall, stating an expectation of something to happen.

I should do my homework earlier; maybe then I could socialise more often.

I think you should stop talking to her.



Potential form of will, stating an option to do something.

I would do it if I had stronger arms.

If you would do this for me, I will do this for you in return.


Standing alone, each verb predicts something that can, will, or is expected to happen.


When to Use Should and Would

These two verbs in their potential form are often mixed up, but that does not mean it is completely incorrect.

Take a look at these two sentences:

When would you do it?

When should you do it?

If would and should were changed to their auxiliary verbs, will and shall respectively, both questions will have their own concrete need of an answer.

When will you do it?

This question is asking when this event is going to be done, already anticipating it happening.

When shall you do it?

This question is asking what expectations are needed in order for it to happen.


Here are two full examples of both.

When will you do it?

I will do it when I'm finished cooking dinner.

The event is happening after dinner is finished.


When shall you do it?

I shall do it as soon as I get my report card.

The event cannot happen unless the report card is received.

In casual speech, I will and I shall are contracted to look the same: I'll. Because many speakers contract their words, especially in an engaging conversation, the correct usages of these potential verbs are often disregarded.


Keep in mind that using potential verbs will make too many holes in your writing and will often lose grip on your main subject. Writing must be firm and premeditated (just don't give away the plot).


Take a look at this paragraph that overuses these verbs.

I would leave my house every day to visit my aunt. On occasions, she would bake me cookies for me to take home for the weekend. I could bake her something delicious as well, but I should not compete with her culinary expertise. I already know I would lose a cooking battle against my aunt because she could make a lot of delicious meals and desserts. Perhaps I should consider enrolling in a cooking class; maybe then I would have some knowledge about culinary arts.

Now, take a look at this paragraph, using more concrete verbs.

I leave my house every day to visit my aunt. On occasions, she bakes me cookies for me to take home for the weekend. I could bake her something delicious myself, but I know I will not be as good as my aunt, considering her culinary expertise. Perhaps if I enroll in a cooking class I will have some knowledge about culinary arts.

Notice the length of the second paragraph when revising the verbs that gave too many decisions for the reader. This is because the paragraph is taking control of the story and not leaving the reader wondering what is actually happening. Moreover, you are deleting information that is slightly unimportant about the main topic of the story. Never leave a sentence to be guessed by the reader, unless it is absolutely necessary and that is the purpose of it. Control the paths for your reader, don't lead them to a fork in the road.

Bear in mind that using these verbs are not totally off-limits. You can still use them in writing, as long as you are utilising them wisely.


Rule of Thumb:

Stray away from using potential verbs unless it is absolutely necessary. Overusing these verbs will result in indecisiveness.

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