My thoughts on writing tips found online and in published works (with some random thoughts thrown into the mix).

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Elementary Principles of Composition, #1

Selected tips from Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White, with my own commentary:
  • "Choose a suitable design and hold to it."
    • When you have a topic in mind, think of how you want to present it. What points are you going to make? In what order would they be most effective? Have a general idea in your head of what would work best, then stick to it. You don't have to have a sentence-by-sentence outline, but you have to have a basic plan so that you don't start to ramble or go off-topic.
  • "Make the paragraph the unit of composition."
    • While the paragraphs have to fit together to make an essay, each individual paragraph also has to function as a unit. It has to have a beginning, a middle, and an end. Even if a broad thought covers several paragraphs, each one has to have a definite point.
  • "Use the active voice."
    • Not only does an active voice keep your piece from being unnecessarily wordy, it also is more precise. It allows the reader to be involved in your work and keeps them from feeling like they have been taken on the long road. Instead, show them the shortcut.
  • "Put statements in positive form."
    • People respond better to positive statements than to negative ones. Also, it is better to point out what something is instead of what something is not. It is clear, concise, and to-the-point. It makes your descriptions exact.
  • "Use definite, specific, concrete language."
    • In order for your reader to become involved in your story, you have to be exact with your wording. Be confident in your ability and let it shine through in your writing. Give descriptions that allow the reader to see what you are seeing, smell what you are smelling, and hear what you are hearing. Instead of using "pretty," say "blonde teenage girl with a scattering of freckles on each cheek." These precise adjectives convey much more than generic wording. Be creative.

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