This article is another guest post I wrote for top career mentor, Bud Bilanich, who's asked me to write several articles on professional writing for his blog.
The 10 essential tips listed in my article apply to all kinds of writing, not just business communications – you can use them to structure your academic writing also.
You can read the whole article on Bud's blog here. Enjoy!
This article is a guest post I wrote for top career mentor, Bud Bilanich, who very kindly invited me to contribute to his blog last month.
You'll find that the 6 essential tips listed in the article apply to all kinds of writing, not just business communications.
You can read my whole article on Bud's blog here. Enjoy!
As the saying goes, there is always room for improvement. All writers can benefit from working on improving the quality of their work. Use these five tips to become a better writer and it will pay dividends in your studies and career:
Become an avid reader
It goes without saying that writers should also be readers, but sometimes time constraints stop us reading as much as we should or would like.
However, reading is vital when it comes to improving your writing. The key is to read as widely as possible – not just subjects that are in your field of interest but as many topics as you can. Everything you read will give you ideas, motivation, enjoyment and awareness of others’ writing skills. So read fiction and non-fiction, crime, romance and biographies.
Study good examples of writing
This is stating the obvious, but it’s important to study the language you read. Whether it’s a novel or article, if you find a piece of writing that you think is excellent, study its construction and re-read it as many times as you need to in order to understand why it works so well.
Think about why the writing has caught your attention. Is there something in the text that the writer does that you don’t currently use in your work? Can you use something similar into your style of writing (but remember that your own writing style is yours and yours alone and not something to copy from other writers)?
This can also be done with examples of “bad” writing. Study what makes the text poor and think about what improvements could be made. It is all good practice for your own work.
Increase your vocabulary
Reading is excellent for improving your vocabulary and adding words to your repertoire. The English language has an abundance of words – knowing how and when to use them is crucial to the quality of your writing.
Get a good dictionary, either in book form or download an internet dictionary and thesaurus, and make it your aim to learn a few new words each day or week. Check the meanings and spellings of words – don’t assume you simply know – it’s surprising how many words are misspelled and misused!
It’s also good to check the synonyms of different words – this can add to the richness of your descriptions as well as avoid clichés!
Read your work aloud
Reading your writing out loud allows you to check its rhythm and flow. If your work sounds odd to your ears or feels clumsy, it’s a sure sign that you need to revise and rewrite your text. Listen out for word repetitions and superfluous adjectives that make your work sound like long-winded waffle. In writing, less is usually more.
Also make sure you check the length of your sentences. Overly long sentences will stand out clearly when you read them aloud because you’ll need to take a breath mid-sentence!
Proofread and edit
As hard as it can sometimes be, you need to look at your work dispassionately and scrutinise the spelling, grammar, flow and effectiveness of what you have written. Proofreading and editing your text is vital.
Once you have completed your writing, it is best to put it away for a few hours or days and then return to it with fresh eyes.
Carefully read your work again and check the spelling, grammar, remove any unnecessary adjectives and check for repetitions. Are all your verbs in the right tense? Are the facts correct and is the text consistent? These are important considerations when you critically check your work.
Proofreading and editing polishes your text and helps to make it the best it can be and is something you should do after each piece of writing.
If you want your texts to be professional and clear, you need to pay attention to three key points. These points are essential for improving the quality and readability of your work.
1. Check All Your Commas
Punctuation can often be overlooked when it comes to writing, but correct punctuation is vital if you want your work to be taken seriously. The humble comma can be confusing for even the best writers. This punctuation mark has several uses and rules but the most helpful rule concerning its use is to not use a comma if it is better to have two sentences divided by a full stop. This will give your writing much more clout and make the reader sit up and take notice. Be daring. End that sentence. Don’t use commas unnecessarily.
If you follow this rule, your writing will be much easier to read and you will avoid run-on sentences.
2. Make Your Sentence Construction Simpler
Simplifying your sentences makes them stronger. Understanding what makes a good sentence construction requires some grammar knowledge. As we all know, sentences contain nouns and verbs, as well as adjectives and adverbs. Let’s look at an example of a sentence using nouns and verbs:
“The girl walked to the shops.”
There are three parts to this sentence. The most important is the action word, the verb, “walked”. The other two parts of the sentence are nouns, “girl” and “shops”. The “girl” is the subject, the thing carrying out the action, and “shops” is the object, the thing being acted upon. Therefore, the structure of this sentence is noun, verb, and noun.
A simple way to work out if a sentence is active and strong is to see whether or not it clearly answers the following questions in terms of its construction:
3. Activate All Your Verbs
Another way to improve the quality of your writing is to use the imperative form of a verb (to be, to walk, to sleep, etc) rather than the gerund form, which involves using the suffix “-ing” (being, walking, sleeping, and so on).
The reason for this is that the “ing” form of the verb can be an indication of an awkward or weak sentence. A verb’s imperative form is its un-conjugated form. If we use the verb “to walk” (imperative form) as an example, we can see that it can be conjugated into “walks”, “walked” and “will walk”, depending on the tense. Using the gerund form of the verb makes less of a statement in your writing. Let us see another example:
“The man went to the doctor asking for medicine.”
“The man went to the doctor to ask for medicine.”
While there is nothing incorrect about the first sentence, it is weakened by the use of the gerund form of “to ask”. That is why the second sentence is much stronger in structure – simply by using the imperative form of the verb.
These three simple rules will go a long way to helping you improve the quality of your writing. Remember to also check for spelling errors and word repetitions.
When submitting manuscripts to literary agents and publishers, you will generally need to use what is known as the “standard manuscript format”. For many writers, this term is often unclear and can jeopardize their work being taken seriously. So, let’s look at the twenty essentials for formatting your manuscript correctly:
To anyone out there who still thinks proofreading is a superfluous task that can be done in a rush, this is a reminder to always check and double check texts, especially important texts like an academic paper that is going to be published:
So spare your blushes (and other people's) – proofread not just once, but twice. And then one more time to be on the safe side. That way you can be sure there's nothing "crappy" about your document.
Like a lot of proofreaders and editors, I make most of my amendments through Word's Track Changes. It's easy and convenient and my clients prefer it too. But any proofreader worth their salt should also know the correct proofreading marks for any manuscript. It's like a rite of passage learning them.
If you are curious to know what they look like and what they stand for, check out The Free Dictionary for a comprehensive list. You might even recognize one or two of the many symbols.
Symbols aside, never underestimate the importance of proofreading your text. It polishes your work and saves you any unnecessary embarrassment from overlooked errors. Never ever skip this step!
There are lots of effective ways to proofread your documents, but if you are in a hurry, the best five tips listed below will ensure your documents are as error-free as possible:
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Hello and welcome to The Key Blog! This is where you'll find information and tips on writing, proofreading, and the English language in general. Feel free to use the articles in your own e-zines, blogs or websites etc., as long as you include the resource box. Thank you!