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

Friday, February 3, 2012

Finding Your Style, #2

Tips #6-10 from Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White, with my own commentary:

  • "Do not overwrite."
    • As tempting as it is to just let your thoughts keep flowing and allow your fingers to keep moving, there have to be boundaries. If you find yourself making the same points over and over again or simply circling a subject, it is time to move on. While stream-of-consciousness has become a popular way to brainstorm, very few writers can pull it off as a writing style. Also, you have to consider your audience. If a piece is too long, they will turn away or only skim to find what they are looking for. Long, exaggerated sentences will quickly lose their interest, resulting in a lost readership.
  • "Do not overstate."
    • There is such a thing as too much detail. Yes, you must aid your reader in setting the scene, but you have to allow their own imagination to have partial control. Another object to a good writing style is using "big" words to try to make your subject more impressive. Don't tell the reader that the man was gigantic; let them discover that for themselves by comparing him to the trees nearby or the length of his shadow.
  • "Avoid the use of qualifiers."
    • This goes along with the previous point. Telling the reader that the show was very interesting does not tell them what was interesting about it. Saying that the girl was pretty doesn't tell the reader if she was blonde, tall, skinny, or had a button nose. Instead of using a blanket word to express what you mean, give the audience some details so they can draw that conclusion.
  • "Do not affect a breezy manner."
    • If you have nothing to say, then why are you writing at all? Keep your message the focus of the piece, not your personal experiences or opinions. Don't brag to the reader about how great you are or how awesome your latest vacation was. They are not doing  you a favor by reading the piece and they, unlike your family, are not required to sit through your slideshow of photos. Don't act superior to your reader; remember, you need them! Also, don't use slang haphazardly. If it fits and is a consistent theme, then use it. If not, don't throw it in at random.
  • "Use orthodox spelling."
    • There are many ways in which technology is improving our lives. Spelling is not one of them. Unless your book is about teenagers or about texting shortcuts, it is not a good idea to use "tho" or "whatev" in your novel. When it comes to differences between American and British spellings, pick what is appropriate in your situation. If the setting is the slums of New York, the spelling of "theater" as "theatre" would be out of place. If you are unsure, check a dictionary and do some research. You will never lose readers by using proper English.

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