Word Confusion: Write vs Writing vs Written

Posted July 7, 2016 by Kathy Davie in Author Resources, Editing, Self-Editing, Word Confusions, Writing

It is a confusion, but primarily one of verb tense. Write and writes are present tense. Wrote (and writ) are the past tense version of write.

Writing is both noun and verb with the verb a present participle, i.e., it’s present tense using an -ing present participle.

Written is a past tense, specifically the past participle, albeit with an irregular ending.

Word Confusions…

…started as my way of dealing with a professional frustration with properly spelled words that were out of context in manuscripts I was editing as well as books I was reviewing. It evolved into a sharing of information with y’all. I’m hoping you’ll share with us words that have been a bête noir for you from either end. Consider sharing this Word Confusion with friends by tweeting it.

Write Writing Written
Credit to: Apple Dictionary.com

John Lennon and Paul McCartney at Kennedy Airport

Image by an unknown photographer for United Press International and is in the public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Lennon and McCartney wrote most of the Beatles songs.


Animation of writing a letter in Kannada

Image is Gopala Krishna A’s own work [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

I do love the look of script, and it’s fun to watch the pen writing.


Portion of the writing on the Rosetta Stone

Image courtesy of Bugboy52.40 [CC BY-SA 3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons

The Rosetta Stone is inscribed with a written decree in three languages, which provided the key to the modern understanding of Egyptian hieroglyphs.

Part of Grammar:
Verb, intransitive & transitive

Third person present verb: writes
Past tense: wrote
[Archaic] writ

Noun;
Intransitive and Transitive Verb as
Present participle: writing
Intransitive and Transitive Verb as past participle: written
[Archaic] writ
Verb, intransitive:
Mark (letters, words, or other symbols) on a surface, typically paper, with a pen, pencil, or similar implement

  • Have the ability to mark down coherent letters or words
  • Write in a cursive hand, as opposed to printing individual letters

Compose, write, and send (a letter) to someone

Compose (a text or work) for written or printed reproduction or publication

  • Put into literary form and set down in writing

Verb, transitive:
Mark (letters, words, or other symbols) on a surface, typically paper, with a pen, pencil, or similar implement

  • Fill out or complete (a sheet, check, or similar) in this way
  • Write in a cursive hand, as opposed to printing individual letters

Compose, write, and send (a letter) to someone

[Chiefly North American] Write and send a letter to (someone)

  • [Write in] Write to an organization, especially a broadcasting station, with a question, suggestion, or opinion

Compose (a text or work) for written or printed reproduction or publication

  • Put into literary form and set down in writing
  • Compose a musical work
  • [Write someone into/out of] Add or remove a character to or from a long-running story or series
  • [Archaic] Describe in writing

[Computing] Enter data into a specified storage medium or location in store

Underwrite an insurance policy

See the leftmost column for the intransitive and transitive verb definitions for writing.


Noun:
The activity or skill of marking coherent words on paper and composing text

  • The activity or occupation of composing text for publication

Written work, especially with regard to its style or quality

  • [Writings] Books, stories, articles, or other written works
  • [The Writings] the Hagiographa

A sequence of letters, words, or symbols marked on paper or some other surface

  • Handwriting
See the leftmost column for the intransitive and transitive verb definitions for written.
Examples:
Verb, intransitive:
He wrote very neatly in blue ink.

And that’s all she wrote, folks.

He couldn’t read or write.

She writes a beautiful hand.

Paul wrote almost every day.

Verb, transitive:
Baby, with your looks, you can write your own ticket.

He wrote under a pseudonym.

Mother wrote me and told me about poor Simon’s death.

If you want to learn more, write in with your query.

I didn’t know you wrote poetry.

“If I could write the beauty of your eyes, / And in fresh numbers number all your graces,” – William Shakespeare, Sonnet XVII

It’s nothing to write home about.

I get annoyed with authors who write down to their readers.

Janet’s granny will write her off, you’ll see.

Now, will you write her up!?!

Noun:
Parents want schools to concentrate on reading, writing, and arithmetic.

She made a decent living from writing.

The writing is straightforward and accessible.

He was introduced to the writings of Gertrude Stein.

She carried this leather briefcase with gold writing on it.

Doctors must take a special course in incomprehensible writing.

Verb, intransitive:
He had written about the beauty of Andalucia.

What’s she writing now?

Verb, transitive:
He is writing a song specifically for her.

I think he’s writing a complaint out.

Verb, intransitive:
It’s an invisible message written in lemon juice.

What has Georgie written about now?

Verb, transitive:
They’ve written Dr. Lester out of the show.

Amesco has underwritten the ship policy.

He had written his name on the paper.

Had Alice written down the address?

The check was written for $800.

Helen had written a letter to Elizabeth.

Every bit of code we’ve written will have to be redone.

Ah, geez, it’s written all over your face!

Well, it’s not like it’s written in stone.

Derivatives:
Adjective: self-writing, unwriting, writable
Noun: handwriting
Verb: miswrite, miswrote, miswritten, miswriting
Phrasal Verb
write something down
write someone in
write something off
write something up
History of the Word:
Old English wrītan, meaning score, form (letters) by carving, write, is of Germanic origin and related to the German reissen meaning sketch or drag.

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C’mon, get it out of your system, bitch, whine, moan…which words are your pet peeves?

Photo of Kathy Davie

Kathy Davie is an editor, author, and artist with degrees in Technical Writing & Editing, Digital Media, and History from Metropolitan State College in Denver, Colorado.

A huge believer in knowledge being power, Kathy has an ongoing and free set of Author Tools for authors interested in self-editing with an ongoing series of posts on Word Confusions, what’s Properly Punctuated, those tricky Formatting Tips, and the sleep-inducing Grammar Explanations. There is also an online tutorial on Using Microsoft Word’s Markup Tool.

And if you get too sleepy, explore KD Did It for various writing and editing services.


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