I’ll be the first to admit that my writing style is …. I’ll say “unrefined.” I may not be as good as Twain, but as long I’m better than Bodine, I think I’m doing OK. I’ve recently discovered a great checklist that should improve my writing and make it easier for all of you to comprehend just what it is I’m trying to say. I’ll putting this process to use from here out. Well, that’s the plan anyway.
In order for our thoughts to be effectively communicated through our writing, there are certain things we need to consider, questions we have to ask ourselves – before we start to type. Hopefully, by following the methods outlined below, we can all become better writers.
Think before you write
- Define the job by picturing an ideal reader at the moment they finish reading. What exactly do you want them to be thinking and doing?
- Identify the reader’s key questions. What are the questions you must answer to get the response you want?
- Design paragraphs/sections that will respond to the reader’s questions.
Complete a draft before you edit
- Find your voice. Can you hear the tone, rhythms, and word choices of the voice that will prompt the desired response?
- Write a fast draft by answering your reader’s questions, engaging in an implied dialogue. Temporarily banish your internal editor.
- Take a break and clear your head. You know what you meant to write, and often your mind will just “fill in the blanks” if errors are present.
Edit before you publish
- Give it a global edit, checking structure, voice, and scannability.
- Structure: Do paragraphs/sections answer your reader’s key questions, and are they arranged, like stepping stones, to get your reader to the desired response?
- Voice: Do you project the voice you want your reader to hear and do you keep it consistent?
- Scannability: Can your reader get the gist at a glance?
- Give it a line edit, checking flow, clarity, and concision.
- Flow: Do you guide your reader, moving old to new within paragraphs and sentences?
- Clarity: Do you convey the bulk of your meaning through concrete nouns and action verbs in your main clauses? Do you get to the verb quickly, usually within the first eight words of a sentence?
- Concision: Does every word add more than it costs?
- Take another break
- Proofread check the following as you read aloud.
- Accuracy: Is every claim true, fair, and provable?
- Word choice: Does the ordinary meaning of every word convey your intended meaning? Have you checked for “caution words” like ensure/insure, accept/except, affect/effect, advice/advise, etc ?
- Punctuation: Have you checked commas, hyphens, dashes, apostrophes, and other punctuation marks?
Now sit back and enjoy the compliments resulting from your new-found writing skills!
Do you have other tips or techniques you use when you sit down to write? What are they? Please share.