Thursday, March 21, 2013

Learning From My Worst Writing Mistakes

From Cheryl's Writing Crate

As a writer, I am constantly learning from my experiences, my successes, and certainly my mistakes.  As much as I love the craft of writing, I am never 100% confident that my final piece is perfect--far from it actually.

I'm the type of person who visualizes nearly everything I do before I complete it.  If I'm redecorating a room in our home, before I take the first stroke with a paint brush I close my eyes and see the entire room finished--in all it's fabulous glory!   The same for a meal I am cooking for my family or even a 10-mile power walk I am about to take.  Same scenario--I close my eyes and picture the finished product with me feeling satisfied and fulfilled.

With writing, it's not always that easy. I usually have a pretty good idea of what I hope my finished column, article, essay or chapter will read like, but just because my ideas are flowing freely, it doesn't necessarily mean my grammar, tense, or the fluency of my article is going to be  as good as it can be.  In fact, these areas are the ones I struggle with most as a writer.

If you're lucky enough to have great editors (like I do!) who can shape your final works into polished masterpieces, you have much to be grateful for.  And although I do have such wonderful editors, I am constantly striving to deliver my pieces with as much perfection as possible.

The Craft of Writing is a Combination of Passion, Ideas, Commitment , and  Learning from  Your Mistakes.

In order to do this, I keep a file of my favorite articles that pertain to all components of writing.
This one written by Clare Dodd is one I refer to often.  

To go from good to great, you may need a professional writer (ahem!) but to avoid looking bad, watch out for these common mistakes:
  1. Incorrect spelling. With spell-check software and Google, it’s much easier to spot and correct spelling mistakes. This is good because they undermine your credibility.
  2. The wrong word. Software alone will not find every mistake: it will not tell you if you have written their instead of there, or mad instead of made. Read through your copy and watch out for typos and homophones (words that sound the same but are spelt differently). Or, better, get someone else to proofread it.
  3. Changing tense. Be consistent. Pick a tense and stick with it. (The past, the present and the future walked into a bar. It was tense.)
  4. Affect / effect. Don’t confuse the two. Affect is a verb, a doing word, meaning to influence or alter. Effect is a noun, the name of something, meaning the change that has happened as a result of an action or other cause.
  5. Apostrophes. Only use an apostrophe to show ownership: “Clare’s informative article” or missing letters: “I haven’t read it.”
  6. Its / It’s. While we’re on apostrophes, this case deserves its own point because it’s such a common mistake. Its denotes ownership, for example: “I don’t like its (the carpet’s) colour. Whereas, it’s is an abbreviation of it is, for example: “It’s a lovely carpet.”
  7. Txt spk. Never abbrevi8 wrds the way u might on a txt msg. It’s hard to read. Apart from common abbreviations like CD or PC, avoid acronyms too if possible. You may think it’s professional to use the jargon of your industry but the odds are you’ll just make it harder for your readers to understand what you’re trying to say.
  8. Passive voice. If you can add ‘by zombies’ to your sentence and it still makes sense, then you have the passive voice. Mistakes were made (by zombies). The passive should be avoided (by zombies).
  9. Long words. Try to write the way you speak and don’t overuse the thesaurus. Long words make your writing harder to understand and, as a recent study demonstrated, they make you look less clever not more so. Short words are best.
  10. Formality. Too many people think that writing like a professional means writing in an extremely formal way, like a contract. Wrong! It’s okay to talk to your reader directly. It’s fine to abbreviate phrases like it is (it’s) and cannot (can’t). Feel free to use the first person: I and we. For example, it may sound more professional to say “the company recommends that users upgrade their software” but it’s actually more effective to say “we recommend that you upgrade.”
How do you keep your writing in check?  Please share with us in the comment section or visit The Writer's Crate on facebook and post there.

1 comment:

  1. Another thing that I do to proofread for grammar/spelling errors is to read it backwards. When you read it forwards, your brain knows which word is coming next and so doesn't really "notice" it.