Jul 14, 2007

Yet More Thoughts on Improving Your Writing

This is part of a continuing series of posts on improving your writing.

Drill comma rules through your thick skull and keep practicing the use of commas. Yes, their uses can be confusing, but commas are an integral tool in the writer's toolbox. The best way to elevate your writing to a higher level is to grasp the proper use of punctuation, and comma abuse is a part of the sordid underbelly of bad writing. Visit a quality website such as Purdue University's Online Writing Lab (OWL) to learn more about the rules of comma use.

Invest in a quality thesaurus. The thesaurus that comes with Microsoft Word is pathetic, and those who wish to develop their writing skills need the right tools. Roget's Thesaurus is one of the best, and its unique cross-referencing system ensures that you always choose the correct word to convey your thoughts.

Write every day. No matter what project you are working on, it needs daily effort to get completed. Even if you are only writing a single sentence, you are making progress on that book, article, or poem.

Get involved with a writing community. I have learned more from other writers than I ever have from books or classes. Fellow writers are an incredible source of information, support, and inspiration, and they can provide you with critical feedback on your work to help you improve.

Know your audience. I remember one of the first lengthy articles I wrote for publication, and how much time and effort I put into the research. I submitted it to an editor, and he looked me in the eye and said: "This reads like a college research paper." And he was right - in my zeal to be impeccably factual, I neglected to make the article interesting for the reader. Don't use a ton of high-fallutin' words if you are writing for regular folks, and avoid using informal speech when composing an article for an academic journal.

Remember: writing is a learned skill. Certainly there are people for whom writing is an easier process, but with enough bananas and patience, I could teach an ape how to write coherent sentences. The more effort that you put into developing your skills, the better your writing will be.


Tina K said...

I just read a funny punctuation book called "Eats, Shoots and Leaves" - so funny, and a fun way to brush up on the rules.

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