Wednesday, January 4, 2017

7 Ways to Improve Your Writing

As I work on my doctoral project, I am also working on my writing skills.  Here is a helpful article for writers . . .

Over the last 8 years, I’ve worked hard to improve my writing. I’ve worked as a consultant for a writing center, as a grader, researcher, and editor for many professors, I’ve written a lot and published some, but most of all I’ve absorbed everything I could learn to improve my writing. Here’s a few of my top ways to improve your writing.
7 Ways to Improve Your Writing
1) Read George Orwell’s essay “Politics and the English Language.” Right now. Like, stop reading this right now and go read Orwell.
2) What? You didn’t read Orwell yet? Stop and go read it. Ok, now, the second way to improve your writing is to say everything as succinctly as possible. Think of concision as a way to love your neighbor: why waste their time with unnecessary words? Stop saying “The fact that…” and just say “That…” Don’t say “With regard to,” say “Concerning…,” or just drop the topic line and start directly with your main statement. But don’t only lower your word count; also lower your syllable count. Don’t use large words when small words suffice. As Orwell says (didn’t you read his essay yet?), “Never use a long word where a short one will do.” One of the best resources for concision is Strunk and ’s little book Elements of Style.
3) Avoid the passive voice. In academic writing the passive voice is often difficult to avoid, but try to express a subject with an active verb as much as possible. Instead of “This problem is often viewed as significant,” try “Commentators view this problem as significant.” Instead of “This passage has been interpreted five different ways,” try “Scholars have interpreted this passage in five different ways,” or use an intransitive verb, “Five interpretations have emerged from this passage.” Using active verbs with subjects adds more color to your writing.
4) Whenever possible, use verbs instead of nouns to express events. Rather than saying “it took five months for the construction of the wall,” say “they constructed the wall in five months.” Like #3, we’ve expressed a subject and a verb which brings the agents into focus, and we have avoided the simple noun “construction” which packs less punch than “they constructed.”
5) Develop a one-sentence thesis. If I were to wake you up at 3 am at night (what in the world am I doing in your house at 3 am?) and ask you the thesis of your current research paper, you should be able to tell me in one sentence (and not a Pauline run-on, either).
6) Read good prose. This tip isn’t mine, but it’s the tip Carl Trueman repeats over and over. “Read Dickens.” Now if any of us had time to sit down with a Dickens novel…
7) Edit laboriously. Authors today are churning out book after book, much of it recycled material in slightly altered or updated form. The same primary evidence is hashed out, with the only additional material being commented on the slightly earlier comments of other scholars on that primary evidence. In such a publish-or-die academic culture, laborious editing is rare. Strunk and ’s book inspired me with the story about one of the authors’ father, who wrote for a living and edited every single week to strike every single unnecessary word from his writing. Every week he edited right to the deadline, and every week he was unsatisfied with the final product. He really cared about the words he was putting out there and wanted his audience to have the best experience possible reading his prose.

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