Top Ten Tips (Part 1)

The following rules are essential if you want people to take you seriously.

Be yourself
Know your subject
Be interested
Punctuate proudly
Respect the apostrophe
Get great grammar
Spell well
Keep to the point
Read and revise
Sleep on it
Pay attention to detail

Be yourself

Write from the heart or the head or the gut, depending upon the type of writing you are doing. You can let your heart pour passion into a love letter but your head is better for the contents of a business letter and the gut feeling should never be ignored. Never try to imitate somebody else's style, no matter how much you might admire it, you will always appear fake. Find your own unique style, your own voice.

Know Your Subject

Write on topics you know about. Although that sounds obvious you don't have to look very far to find masses of people publishing articles when it is clear that they have very little idea about their subject matter. This type of writing appears thin, limp and unconvincing even to the untrained eye. You should aim for writing which has substance; a rounded, healthy thing with a life of its own. If, for some reason, you are obliged to write about a topic which is alien to you, make the effort to research it. If you can't get to the library, there is always the internet. There is no excuse for ignorance. There is no excuse for trying to foist a poorly researched article on your readers. Do you want your readers to point you out as someone who does not know what s/he is talking about?

Be interested

Write about things which interest you. If you are not interested in your subject matter, you have little hope of catching the interest of your reader. If you are in a situation where you simply have to write about a subject which holds no real interest for you, try at least to find an original angle; this could stimulate you as well as your reader. If you cannot spark even faint interest in your subject, your writing will be flat and boring.

Punctuate proudly

Don't be one of those people who pretend they don't think punctuation matters: it does. Ask your self this: if these people really believe that, why do they bother to punctuate at all? Why don't they just write on and on without any dots or commas? That, surely, is more logical than putting in dots and commas in the wrong places. The truth is, they are too lazy to learn the rules of punctuation and think they can get away with this by brushing punctuation off as unimportant. Punctuation has had a very bad time over the last forty years or so but I believe it is about to undergo a revival. These things go in cycles and it seems that punctuation is about to have its day at last. Correct punctuation could be the new black. If you don't believe this, how do you explain why so many thousands of people bought "Eats, Shoots & Leaves"? Even if you have no interest in creating elegant prose, you should learn about punctuation . Without it your writing will at best be difficult to read and at worst not make sense. You will be left wondering why people are laughing at your serious work.

Respect the apostrophe

I know, I know, this is part of punctuation. I happen to think that apostrophes have spent so long being either ignored or abused they now deserve a mention of their own. I can cope quite well with commas and full stops appearing in the wrong place but an incorrectly inserted apostrophe makes me see red. Why do so many people insist on using the apostrophe when they clearly have no idea of its function? Beats me. An improperly placed apostrophe is to writing what a huge, ugly wart is to the nose on a beautiful face. Cruel people will point and laugh at you. You think I am exaggerating? If I am part of a minority on this point, why did so many people buy "Eats, Shoots & Leaves" that it became Book of the Year? Perhaps they thought it was a story about a panda.

Get great grammar

The rules of grammar are not difficult. In the olden days even little kids were taught grammar at school. Like mathematical tables, grammar is no longer treated as an important subject. Most people can get through life without missing the tables which were once memorised by every child who ever went to school. People now have electronic calculators to do their mathematical thinking for them but nothing has replaced the need to understand basic grammar. Please don't make the mistake of relying on the "grammar check" on your word processor: I am not saying that this tool is entirely without merit but, if you do not know the rules yourself, you can create hilarious results by going along with the recommendations of your word processing package. Another good thing about the rules of grammar is that they don't keep changing so, once you learn the rules, they will stand you in good stead for the whole of your writing career. Along with punctuation, it is grammar which determines whether or not your writing makes sense. If you don't know the rules, you will not know if your writing makes sense but other people will, believe me. (Back to pointing and laughing again.)

(This is part one of a two part article which you can read in its entirety at my website: http://www.huntingvenus.com/ecwart1.htm)

This is one of a series of articles published by the author, Elaine Currie, BA(Hons) at http://www.huntingvenus.com The author's monthly newsletter is available free from mailto:[email protected]

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