When I started writing this, I thought English was the largest spoken language. But Chinese Mandarin is. English is ranked third. English is the official language in 53 countries. And I kinda get the feeling that it is one of the most abused languages in the world too. (Abused may be too harsh a term but you get the idea!) :)
If you find it difficult to write something, what do you do? Do you stop? Do you give up? Do you tell yourself, “This is not my cup of tea!”. I have friends who have thoughts I have never heard before, ideas that are unique, stories that would make people laugh. But those stories get limited to our circle of friends. They wouldn’t start a blog or write a web page because they fear their language. They think it is not good enough. (And I keep telling them, who cares! They should just write.)
Here are some tips that have helped me in my writing. They may not be the life-changing stuff you expect. But I believe if you apply these in your writing, you should be able to see some improvement.
- Keep it simple. If you use complex words, it does not make you hip. Using hard-to-pronounce words or words-that-make-me-look-up-a-dictionary-too-often is not really stylish. It puts me off sometimes. It does not mean that you don’t have to learn new words and use them at the appropriate time either. E.g. I came across the word ectoplasm used in a movie review – “When I was small, this movie would have scared the living ectoplasm out of me”. That was a new word for me. I would have just said, “it would have scared the living daylights out of me”. :)
- Spell it correct. Always use the right spelling. Use the spell-check feature on any text editor you use (unless of course you use Notepad!). Even browsers and online text editors come with this facility. Why is spelling so important? To give your writing a professional outlook. Your writing style may be casual, even targeted at people who couldn’t give two hoots for spellings but it definitely makes you look good. Typos, as they are popularly known nowadays, can be avoided using technology. So why not?
- SMS is for mobile phones. But not for online writing and that includes blogs, facebook, twitter etc. Avoid SMS jargons. E.g. “I luv wrtn tis way ten so i dun hv 2 wry abt splngs.” Unless you want to give your reader a headache, you don’t want to write like that. (I don’t agree to use them even in mobile texting.) Twitter sometimes forces you to use them because of the 140 character limit. But even then, please keep such usage to the bare minimum. Maybe one word. Definitely not more than two words.
- Don’t repeat words. Not too often at least. E.g. “I could say what I want to say when I want to say it.” There is nothing wrong with that statement. But you could just say, “I can say what I want, when I want to”. This is important because if you keep repeating your words, the text would drag and become boring. To keep your readers tuned in, be crisp and to the point.
- Try get the grammar right. This is the tough part. I really don’t know how to make this easy. Reading helps. Read anything you get – newspapers, magazines, online articles, bumper stickers. Listen lots. I used to love listening to the radio when I was younger. That helped me develop my language. Television can help you there too (assuming you watch English programming). Speaking helps. The more you speak, the more comfortable you become with the language. Ask a close friend who is good at the language to correct you when you make a mistake. And when they correct you, be willing to swallow your pride and accept that correction. You may also want to check out the Grammar Girl’s podcasts too.
- Write first. Edit later. You don’t have to get it right the first time. Neither the second or third time. Just keep writing. You can polish your work later. I always start with a framework – a list of things I want to cover in the article and then add the bacon and cheese. I think only Mozart was able to write masterpieces the first time he wrote it. So if you get an idea, just start writing. You can edit it later.
- Definitely Edit. Having said my previous point, it would be sin not to review your work before you publish it. Someone once told me he reads what he has written at least three times before he publishes it. He catches most of what he can change in those three reads. You owe it to yourself and your reader to give it your best. If it is important work, ask your wife, friend, colleague to review it for you. They have the advantage of giving your work a fresh eye that could catch mistakes you overlooked.
- Write. And write. I am happy that the greatest writers in the world are not literary geniuses nor do they hold doctorates in literature. They are people like me and that tells me I have a chance. I believe that you only need a desire to communicate your passion to the world and do it.
If you haven’t started writing yet, will you pick up that pen (or open your word processor)?
Did you find these tips useful? Do you have any tips you would like to share. Share them in the comments below.
Black book & pen: http://www.sxc.hu/photo/1176000 (typofi)
Bottle & Cork: http://www.sxc.hu/photo/632972 (sritenou)
Coffee cups: http://www.sxc.hu/photo/1214847 (Pintaric)
Reading glasses: http://www.sxc.hu/photo/1232904 (mihow)
Typewriter: http://www.sxc.hu/photo/966154 (abcdz2000)
Pencil Eraser: http://www.sxc.hu/photo/1123441 (nkzs)
Paper with writing: http://www.sxc.hu/photo/441337 (hopee)