Writing Rules: Advice From The New York Times

Sep 29 • Education • 326 Views • Comments Off on Writing Rules: Advice From The New York Times

It seems that many people aim to be writers in modern society, but not many enter the field with the right writing knowledge. By keeping some of these tips to heart, new and veteran writers alike can gain a better edge on clear, concise writing that snaps readers’ attention and holds it.

Rule 1: Listen to Yourself

Everybody has a voice inside their head, though it’s currently “untrained.” It speaks on and on throughout the day, noting things in the environment or constructing a conversation that could occur. In fact, it almost sounds like it’s bored; why not give it a task? Have it do something simple like memorizing some prose with rhythm to it. Keep having your inner voice repeat it from memory. Eventually, you’ll be on your way to training your inner voice to help it figure out the best way to phrase your words.

Rule 2: Look at the Best

Depending on the kind of writing you do, there are different masters of the craft. For example, gardening journalists might look to the reasons author Jamaica Kincaid while up and coming horror novelists might be more interested in Stephen King’s advice. Copy the advice you find and place them somewhere visible to continuously gain inspiration.

Rule 3: Read Like a Writer

Great literature is the best source of figuring out what can help you write something just as great. What your definition of “great” is can vary, whether it’s something as seemingly simple as “Harold and the Purple Crayon,” which teaches the PG-rated lessons of the “Odyssey,” or it can be something as complex as “The Great Gatsby.”

Read these books thoroughly and think like a writer. Figure out what words work well and what phrases spoke out to you the most.

Rule 4: Remember the Rules

Brainstorm about what you learned in school about writing, what successful authors have taught you and what you have learned from any other source. Once you’ve written it all down, figure out how different each piece of advice was. Is there any real difference between what you learned from school and what you found out works yourself? Which set of rules makes the most sense to you? Are the rules even necessary?

Rule 5: Read and Reread Sentences

Much in the same vain as the third rule, reading sentences rather than whole books as a writer goes a long way as well. Really read and get to know the book, and underline sentences that make you pause and think about them some more.

Consider that this is the same language you are used to using in every day, informal situations; only true skill can arrange certain words in such a way that would provoke thought, conjuring an entire situation to playback before your mind. Sentences do matter, and they can even serve as very short narratives in the right setting.

Rule 6: Write with Life

Nouns that have been created from other parts of speech are known as nominalizations, and while they work for academic situations, they kill adjectives and active verbs in journalism and fiction writing. Use lively verbs to counteract the effects.

Rule 7: Punctuate

Those who communicate heavily through the Internet have rather specific nuances when it comes to punctuation. For example, one such user claimed that either one or three exclamation points work at the end of a word, but two is unacceptable, which is simply “something you learn.”

Check back through your previous emails and see if you can find a pattern of specific nuances you have subconsciously maintained in each one. What “rules” have governed the way you type on the Internet or text to your friends? Consider what these rules really mean.

For example, what do exclamation points really mean? When are they needed and when should they be used? What do sudden periods in a phrase really mean to the reader, such as Obama’s “Forward.” slogan or the band name Fun.?

Commas are another

Commas are another very important form of punctuation to truly grasp. In fact, Grandma would be the best one to tell you how much commas matter:

Let’s eat, Grandma!

Let’s eat Grandma!

Rule 8: No Perfection

Everybody makes mistakes. Even your most favored author has made errors before that may have made it past print, and you can probably even pick up a book that displays it for everyone to see. Just use this guide to help out with the little nuances that can better your writing, but don’t be too hard on yourself if you notice a mistake in your work.

Rule 9: Fail, and then Fail Better

Everybody makes mistakes, and everybody has failed at writing somehow. Failing at something is the first step to “failing better,” which is just a hop, skip and a jump to being good at something. Practice makes as close to perfection as humanly possible, so always remember this and keep trying.

Image Credit: churl

Derek is an active blogger. The folowing article is for business writing training.

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