Friday, 23 November 2018

10 Tips for Better Writing

As a proofreader of business writing, I see many of the same errors made again and again. Errors in your writing (be they in advertising copy, correspondence, or a web site) are more serious, I believe, than most people realize.

Why? Well, the standard of your writing has always been important. Today, though, more than ever before, FIRST IMPRESSIONS COUNT. We are bombarded by the written word in its many forms -- books, pamphlets, magazines, signs, e-mail, websites and many other media.

We are all suffering from information overload and are forced to find ways of screening out as much as we can. We thus tend to make quick decisions on what to read and what not to. First impressions increasingly determine what we read and what we don't, and poor writing leads to a poor first impression.

The following list of tips should help you to avoid some of the most common slip-ups.

1. Capitals: Avoid the temptation to capitalize words in the middle of a sentence Just To Provide Emphasis Like This. If you want to be more emphatic, consider using bold face, italics, color or larger text.

2. Commas: The most common use of the comma is to join together short sentences to make a single longer sentence. We do this with one of the following small joining words: and, or, but, yet, for, nor, or so. For example:

We have finished the work, and we are looking forward to the weekend.

Notice that the two halves of this sentence could each be sentences in their own right. They thus need to be separated with a comma and joining word. In the next example, though, we don't need a comma:

We have finished the work and are looking forward to the weekend.

The halves of that sentence could not stand alone, so no comma was used.

3. Ellipsis: The ellipsis is a series of three -- and ONLY THREE -- full stops used to mark missing words, an uncertain pause, or an abrupt interruption. Avoid the temptation to use six or seven dots -- it looks amateurish. For example, we write:

Niles: But Miss Fine's age is only ... Fran: Young! Miss Fine's age is only young!

4. Excessive punctuation: Only one exclamation mark or question mark should be used at a time. Consider the following over-punctuated examples:

Buy now!!! Great bargains!!!!!!!!!!

Excessive punctuation looks too much like hysteria and detracts from your credibility. Avoid it.

5. Headings: For long works, establish a clear hierarchy of headings. Microsoft Word's heading styles are great for this. (They also allow you to automatically create a table of contents.)

6. Hyphenating prefixes: Most prefixes don't need a hyphen; i.e. we write "coexist", not "co-exist". There are exceptions, though. The prefixes "self-" and "ex-" are almost always hyphenated.

7. Numbers: Numbers of ten or less are normally written as words.

8. Quotation marks: Users of American English should use double quotes (" "). Users of British English should choose either single quotes (' ') or double quotes and stick with them for the whole document. Incidentally, British English usage is increasingly moving towards single quotes.

9. Spaces: Modern style is to use a single space at the end of a sentence, not two. Also, most punctuation marks (e.g. commas, full stops, question marks) are not preceded by a space.

10.Tables: Set table text one or two points smaller than the main body text and in a sans-serif font such as Arial or Verdana. Avoid vertical lines as they tend to add unnecessary clutter.

Armed with these simple guidelines, your writing should be well received every time. Good luck!

(c) Tim North

You'll find over 200 tips like this in Tim North's much applauded e-book BETTER WRITING SKILLS. It's just $19.95 and comes with a 90-day, money-back guarantee. Download a sample chapter.

Tuesday, 6 November 2018

3 Tips to Achieve your Writing Goals

1. Make your goals achievable.

By achievable, we mean realistic and attainable. You might unconsciously have set a goal even others will have a hard time achieving, even if they had the means and the time to do so.

Here's what you can do: break down your goals into small, realistic goals set against reasonable time frames. Oftentimes, you'll achieve your bigger goals if you work on achieving the smaller goals leading to those. The important thing is making your goals as realistic and as achievable as you can.

2. Devise a feasible plan.

You know what you want, but do you know how to get what you want? Do you need technical or artistic training to achieve your goals? Or perhaps further studies? Do you have a set plan of action that will lead to the achievement of your goals? What things, both tangible and intangible, do you need to aid you in reaching your goals?

Take a moment to sit down and list the things you need and make your action plan. This is a good time to break them down into small, realistic goals and then tackle them one day at a time!

3. Resist spreading yourself too thinly.

Sometimes, it's better to work on one goal at a time, rather than doing and shooting for so many all at the same time. Work on so many goals at one given time and you'll find out you're nowhere near achieving even one goal. You won't be able to focus your full energy on one goal.

Prioritize your goals and start with either your top priority or your most realistic goal. You'll discover you're able to do more and achieve more using this approach.

(c) 2004 Shery Ma Belle Arrieta-Russ
Shery is the creator of WriteSparks! - a software that generates over 10 *million* Story Sparkers for Writers. Download WriteSparks! Lite for free - http://writesparks.com

Thursday, 1 November 2018

10 Quick Tips for Writers

These top tips will help you maintain enthusiasm for your chosen craft and make sure you have the mindset to improve and succeed.

All writers are readers first. Writing is how we give back the pleasure we’ve experienced. Good writers don’t read less as their career progresses, they read more, because seeing what everyone else is doing is an important part of staying informed – and relevant – not to mention being entertained and often inspired.

Seems obvious I know but you’d be surprised how many would be writers don’t write daily – the simplest component to assured success. Writing every day is a discipline you must adopt to ensure your work maintains consistency, depth and vision. You need to get used to transferring all of your thoughts into words. Over time, this habit enables you to overcome all kinds of writers’ blocks and guarantee quality output.

Research and Study
You can never hear good advice too often or be so jaded you don’t have something more to learn. Read and listen to what other writers say about writing. There’s always a new perspective. But don’t be feverish about it. Don’t expect every successful writer to know all the secrets to success – there aren’t any in particular. Except perhaps dedication to the craft – that’s all you really need. Once you’re truly committed, the rest will follow.

Try New Forms
Don’t limit yourself. All forms of writing enhance your chosen genre. Learning how to write copy or good poetry can teach you much about the nature of words and their effect. Writing outside of your preferred genre can teach you a lot about structure, characterisation, mood and texture. Trying different styles will help solidify your own. Experimenting with any kind of writing will improve your overall technique.

Nurture Your Creativity
Respect your craft as though it were a physical object, worthy of your love and devotion. Be kind to yourself and your body – the engine of your mind. Eat well, shun excess and harmful influences; seek out happiness and adventure. Don’t dwell on the crass or morbid. Do everything positive within your power to ignite and fan the fire of creativity.

Never forget that the purpose of writing is for it to be read. Writing is communication – of ideas, of information and of entertainment. Having good writing that is unread is wasteful. Get your best stuff out there – and on the desks of editors, publishers and producers. Post your writing to the web – and direct people to it. Share your gift and strive constantly for publication and your reader’s feedback. It’s the only way for a writer to live. Literally.

Seek Guidance
Don’t be afraid of criticism but remember that you need to measure other people’s advice. Criticism says more about the giver than the receiver. Other writers often want to diminish your success and make you give up, to quash the competition. But creativity cannot survive in a vacuum. It needs guidance and nurturing to blossom fully. Take on board suggestions that will improve your work – and file away the rest.

Love What You Write
You cannot fully engross yourself in an activity you do not cherish. Learn to be passionate about your creativity. Savour the life you bring to your characters and the stories they have to tell. Glorify the edifice your writing manifests. Pay regular homage to the spark inside of you that makes you want to write – it’s a precious thing, not to be taken for granted.

Let Go
Learn to be objective and circumspect about your creativity. No words are set in stone. Not all ideas are beyond potential for further development. Let others take what they like from your work – even if they see things you didn’t deliberately plan. Don’t be afraid to rework ideas. On request, edit, change and improve your work without angst or resentment. Don’t fret that your vision will somehow be lost. It won’t be. When asked to rewrite, don’t feel you must compromise your work, simply make it better.

Have Fun
Enthusiasm is infectious. Passion is a powerful influencer. Take the love you have for your work and direct it outwards – into the public arena along with your masterpieces. Writers need support, encouragement and (let's face it) financial sponsorship to survive. People want to experience your belief in yourself and your projects firsthand when they meet you. They want to be inspired too. Relate your honest and sincere commitment to your work and the people who can help will more readily feel inclined to support you.

I hope these points aid your writing. If you need extra motivation to write, my advice is to print out this article and tape it somewhere in your writing space, or perhaps on your fridge door.

And read it once a day.

Keep Writing!

(c) Rob Parnell