Word Nerd: 5 Easy Guidelines For Writing Better

16 May

5-Easy-Guidelines-For-Writing-BetterWriting is a curious job. Everyone who is literate can write. And everyone who can read has an opinion on it. So how can you tell the really good stuff even if doesn’t make the top spot on NYT bestseller list? And how can you improve your writing? These are important questions.

Because, as with any creative field, writing isn’t just about the madness of inspiration, it also has a method.

So we found five guidelines for you to follow, which are guaranteed to take your work to the next level. Read more below.

1) “Never use the passive where you can use the active.” George Orwell

This is from Orwell’s famous essay on “Politics and Language”, where he laid the law on good writing. Using the active voice is a basic rule of writing, cited by everyone from Strunk and White, to your friendly English teacher.

Consider “Sonya ate seven shrimp for lunch” vs “At lunch, seven shrimp were eaten by Sonya.”

The first phrase is shorter and simpler. We know what Sonya likes to eat, and how much. The second phrase suggests that the shrimp had more of a choice in being eaten. We think that’s pretty unlikely.

2) “Go in fear of abstractions.” Ezra Pound

Pound was a poet. An imagist poet at that. But his dictum applies to all styles of writing.

Consider “There wasn’t much noise” vs “It was quiet as an empty house on a hill”. The second phrase brings out the meaning with greater clarity and beauty. Also, the reader is more likely to remember it.

You might think this is all too literary. But when it comes to reports, isn’t citing studies and statistical data, that much better? Pound would think so too.

So go in fear of abstraction, make your writing concrete.

3) “Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.” Kurt Vonnegut

A prolificwriter well known for his conversational style, Vonnegut taught creative writing at Harvard and City University, New York.

Imagining or defining the reader of your poem/essay/story/blog can help you fix many elements of your writing – from subject, tone, and style.

For example, if you write for grandmoms, will you use slang? Or talk about spiked leather jackets? Or PewDiePie? Hmmm.

4) “In writing, you must kill all your darlings.” William Faulkner

You sweat and cry over one page for a week and think you’ve come up with something decent. Then it starts to bother you that maybe the backstory of Leela’s heirloom hairpin isn’t needed in her interview scene.

Or that talking about the Tethys sea is not strictly relevant to your essay on the Australian sheep industry.

No matter how well you researched the subject, or how invested you are in the backstory, you must get rid of all the excess baggage and serve the writing. One way to do this is take a break and step away. Ask yourself – is it necessary? If not, wield that backspace.

5) “Do back exercises. Pain is distracting.” Margaret Atwood

No, really. Get out and stretch. Walk. Exercise that back and those fingers. Your brain needs all the oxygen. And taking a break is the best way to look at your work with fresh eyes. That’s what helps you to spot the typos and the tautology.

So go on, practice that cobra pose.

Which rules do you swear by, if any? Drop us a line below.

By Skendha Singh

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