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A Writing Tip or Two I’ve Learned

I’m going to begin this post by saying rather emphatically, “I’m no expert.” So, take anything I say here with a grain of salt. Now having said that I do want to share a few things I’ve learned about writing along the way.

What I Learned in School

Hmmm, don’t remember too much about that. It was a long time ago and English was my worst subject. I read because they made me and wrote because I had to.

Learning through Feedback

I became interested in writing when on occasion, out of boredom, I would write a story. The stories were not earth-shattering or brilliant. However, I found that whatever I wrote would make people smile. I mean, folks other than my parents actually liked what I wrote so I wrote a little more often.

Write the Way You Want to be Spoken to

Often folks would read my work and say, you write just like you talk. Hmmm, didn’t quite know if that was a good thing or bad thing. I’m not the Writermost articulate speaker in the world so I didn’t know how to take it. It was only later on in my business career that I found it to be a good thing.

I found that my business clients liked the straight from the hip writing that gets to the point immediately. Business people don’t have time for a lengthy story buildup. You know the type of building I’m talking about. Sort of like listening to a pre-teen girl tell a story. If you haven’t had the pleasure of listening to a pre-teen tell a “he said, she said story,” be prepared for a very long introduction.

Remove Information Not Germaine to the Story

Going back to the pre-teen example, there are way too many unnecessary details. If all of the extraneous details were omitted, the 45-minute story would take 5 minutes to tell. My brother’s solution to wordy he said/she said stories is to hang an imaginary noose around the neck, pull tight. That’s the ‘wrap it up’ signal.

Write Actively

If you use Word as your word processor, enable the “Show readability statistics” when performing a spell check (On word 2003 you can find it by selecting Tools – Options – Spelling & Grammar). It will help you to see just how active or passive your writing is.

As I said before, I’m no expert, but I find active writing is more direct and easier to read.Learned Woman

Don’t Impress Yourself, Think of the Reader

I worked with a writer who, in one of our initial conversations, told me that people often accused her of being pedantic. I looked at her quizzically because I honestly didn’t know what pedantic meant. After I looked up the meaning, I realized she was right. For folks like me who didn’t know what it means, pedantic, as defined by dictionary.reference.com is

“Characterized by a narrow, often ostentatious concern for book learning and formal rules.”

In other words, she had an impressive vocabulary and was extremely proud to display it.

Her personality came across in her writing. Unfortunately, because of the nature of the job (taking complicated concepts and regurgitating them into user-friendly documents), her style of writing was not a match. Her tenure at the job was short lived. She was no doubt a learned woman, but her manner of writing didn’t impress anyone but her.

Perform the Basics

When I say the basics I’m talking about things like spell check and word usage. Know when to use waste vs. waist or their vs. they’re. I know there are a few tricky words like effect and affect or lay and lie, but a quick search on Google (or a quick visit to Cassie’s blog ) will point you in the right direction.

Why This Post?

I spent some time doing a lot of internet reading. I read blogs and websites of freelance writers who were upset because they spent untold Spell Checkamount of hours writing for various content sites or building their own blogs with poor results.

Most often the writers were impatient and hadn’t given their articles and blogs enough time to earn (I find it takes about 6 to 9 months before an article begins to hit its stride). I also found poorly written articles peppered with grammatical and spelling errors. Most commonly the articles were loosely focused and somewhat difficult to read.

It’s my belief that a writer can improve an article tremendously if she would only read it aloud before publishing it.

The purpose of this post isn’t to change anyone’s writing style. Writing style is a reflection of one’s personality. The reason for the post is to help those writers who are not getting the results they had hoped for. Selecting the right keywords may not be the problem; it might be the way in which the keywords are written.

{ 6 comments… add one }
  • MsMayor August 24, 2009, 12:41 pm

    Hey Felicia,

    I’m still trying to I guess find my writing voice and niche. Your posts continue to inspire me.
    .-= MsMayor´s last blog ..New York New York…The Park In the Sky Welcome To The High Line Park =-.

  • Cassie Tuttle August 24, 2009, 2:10 pm

    Hi Felicia,

    Great post with some great tips!

    And thank you for linking to my blog. 🙂

    You have just inspired me to become more active in posting more frequently to my blog. I often get questions about word usage (effect vs. affect, assure vs. insure, etc.), so I’ll be posting more of those kind of tips.

    A couple other tips I would give your readers if they want to become better writers:

    First, read, read, read. Eventually, good writing will “sink in.” Second, always – I repeat always – proofread what you’ve written. An occasional typo in informal e-mail exchanges is okay; but anything else you write should be as “perfect” as you can make it.

    I know …. I hate clichés too. But I’m a firm believer that anything worth doing is worth doing well.
    .-= Cassie Tuttle´s last blog ..New Words in 2009 =-.

  • Cassie Tuttle August 24, 2009, 2:16 pm

    Hi again,

    After posting my comment, I noticed that my final words, “you can make it” now have a URL attached to them.

    Just wondering what that is. Is it an affiliate marketing arrangement?
    .-= Cassie Tuttle´s last blog ..New Words in 2009 =-.

    • Felicia August 24, 2009, 7:14 pm

      The links were generated by Infolinks. There an advertising service that I signed up for.

      They’re not very profitable on this blog, but they work very well on my other sites.

  • Felicia August 24, 2009, 10:32 pm

    Ms Mayor, I meant to respond to you earlier, but I took the day off to celebrate a small milestone.

    I visit your blog from time to time. It looks like you are developing your own voice. All it really takes is gaining confidence in your writing style and taking it to where you want to take it.

    There will always be someone who won’t like what you write and the way in which you write it. By the same token, some people will follow you for the same reason others won’t.

    Find your voice and become confident in it. That confidence will carry you through the times when the ‘haters’ are hating.

    Personally, I consider myself a writing hack. I write because I enjoy it. There are others far more eloquent and learned than I, but that doesn’t stop me from writing. There is a little corner on the internet for my NJFM blog and I intend to live and write comfortably in that space.

    Once you find the confidence to occupy your FYBL (find your better life) space to the fullest you’ll be amazed at where it will take you.

  • Elizabeth August 28, 2009, 9:01 am

    Great tips Felicia! And, by the way, I do consider you quite the expert. Keep up the great work and congrats on your 250th post!
    .-= Elizabeth´s last blog ..Splitting Time Between Writing and Jewelry =-.

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