With the growing popularity of online magazines, news websites and blogs, many people are declaring themselves to be writers. One doesn’t have to look very hard to find examples of the work of these authors, especially when one views social media. But, like anything else, not all of this content is good. In fact, some is terribly written.
Using click bait titles, performing little or no research, having poor structure and being riddled with grammatical errors, many of these poorly written pieces are often misdirected and difficult to read. The frustration felt by the readers is often reflected in the comments section below these articles.
So, what are some useful tips to avoid a poor writing style for your articles?
I will offer some general tips for anyone who wishes to begin writing.
1. Start by doing your homework.
Make sure that what you are saying is fact and not an assumption or a rumour. Why?
It is not difficult for people to verify what you’ve said, or made a claim to, in your article. Since the comments sections are wide open to whomever reads the article – it’s easy for someone to inform your readers that your story is not factual or is poorly researched.
2. Take time to organize your notes.
Remember the times that you had to present research and rough drafts for essays in school? There was a reason for this; it helped you organize a paper so it wasn’t going all over the place like a drunk on a unicycle. The same rules apply to writing an article. Just sitting down to write on the fly, without pausing to consider the structure, can result in an article that is disconnected, does not stay on topic and is annoying for the reader.
3. Have a direction, make points.
What is it that you are trying to tell readers? Is it an article about a new product, technical information or an update about a well-known person? Establishing a direction and making points will not confuse the reader about what you are trying to tell them. The old saying ‘Think before you speak’ certainly applies to writing.
4. Pay attention to grammar.
Basic grammar has rules that are fairly easy to follow. Why? Simple; the rules of basic grammar are the foundation of clear communication.
This is not to say that you must become annoying, nor a self-appointed grammar pundit who clog up websites (and forums) with debates about the Oxford comma and word meanings. In fact, these people are usually incredibly dull and, when they write, their work is so sterile that it feels as though you are reading instructions for taking cough medication.
Paying attention to basic grammar, without going overboard, will help create an article that is clear, flows well and easy to follow for the reader.
5. Spell words correctly.
Use Spell Check, have someone else read it, double check everything.
No spelling errors – ever.
6. Review and revise.
After you finish writing your article or story, set it aside for a day or two and then come back to it.
Ask yourself such things as:
Is everything that you’ve said relevant to your points?
Does the wording make sense?
Have you achieved a nice flow to your work?
If the answer to any of these is ‘No’, then fix it with a revision.
Remember – until you’ve submitted your work for print, it’s not cast in stone. You can change it as many times as you wish to improve the quality of what you have produced.
7. Hire an editor.
Even top writers and publications use editors to help produce better quality work, so why would someone just starting out believe they wouldn’t benefit from an editor? An editor will spot flaws and weak spots in your work that you may have overlooked, and will help you to produce a better quality piece of work that readers will enjoy more.
Editors do not need to be expensive. There are many good editors who offer their services to university students (for help with their papers at a reasonable fee) who will be willing to edit your work.
8. Make sure you are using the right format.
Each style of writing has required elements that are expected. Applying the principles of one to another does not always work. The easiest way to check this is to research samples of articles similar to the one you want to write and compare the two
Finally, a few quick tips:
– Read your work out loud.
If it doesn’t make sense to say, how will it make sense for someone to read?
– Be conscious of length.
Often there are word limits for different types of publication.
– Many people think they are writers
This means that you will have a lot of competition, so by not paying attention to what you are doing may result in your being ignored or replaced.
– Conversation and writing are not the same
In conversation, there are audio and visual clues to convey your meaning.
Written text does not have these elements, and you must communicate your intentions with your word choices.
– Use your own ‘voice’
Don’t attempt to sound like an established writer.
You’re not them, and the readers know it.
There are so many great resources available through local schools, organizations libraries and the Internet, to help with the basics of writing. This means that there is no reason why articles declaring a new product to be ‘a neat idea’ or that are poorly researched should exist. And yet, so many of these terribly written articles appear on the web every day.
Which brings this article full circle.
The points listed throughout this article are the most basic of the basics. They are meant as a starter’s guide for people who wish to write their first article, and do not want to create an annoying piece of junk whose only purpose is to satisfy a shrivelled ego.
Furthermore – as you gain experience, do not be afraid to learn about what you are doing by seeking out more in depth information about writing.
There are great resources available, by true experts, for learning about writing. There are also many examples of great writing that one may read to experience what good writing looks like.
So, you want to write?
Good, then do it.
Just take your time and pay attention to basic rules and guidelines, so that what you write will be enjoyed by people rather than giving them a headache as they try to mentally wade through a quicksand of words.
John Goodale is the author of ‘Johnny Gora’ (available through Amazon.com), and a number of articles here on TMRZoo.com. His monthly column ‘Indy Comics Spotlight’ appears here and through his blog Indy Comics Spotlight