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

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Finding Your Style, #4

Tips #16-21 from Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White, with my own commentary:

  • "Be clear."
    • This point can not be made often enough. Clarity is your best weapon. If your writing is crisp and concise, the reader will be more than willing to follow you down the new yellow brick road. If your sentences are jumbled and your words are made up, however, they will become confused and quickly turn back. Keep your thoughts open and find the best words to express yourself as clearly as possible.
  • "Do not inject opinion."
    • Trust that the reader is smart enough to come to their own conclusions. This is your writing. Your opinions are already apparent in how you approach your subject, the tone you use, and the points you make. The reader does not want to be constantly reminded that you, the author, thinks that the world is flat. Instead, they want to lose themselves in your argument and be presented with reasons why they should think the world is flat.
  • Use figures of speech sparingly."
    • Figures of speech are an easy way to make yourself look unimaginative and unoriginal. Millions of people have used that phrase before you. It's old and lacks any descriptive qualities anymore. Instead, use your creativity and ingenuity to coin a new phrase or come up with your own unique metaphor. Make your descriptions fresh and pleasing to the ear.
  • "Do not take shortcuts at the cost of clarity."
    • Don't start your piece by using abbreviations and other shortened forms of words. If your company is called Unlimited Financing Options, don't start out by calling it UFO. The reader will not understand what in the world you are talking about and will most likely refuse to do the research to figure it out. If they do, they will become frustrated with searching and having to scan up and down the document. Spell it out until you know that the reader will be able to make the connection, then feel free to use the acronym for the rest of the piece.
  • "Avoid foreign languages."
    • Unless you have a very dedicated readership, they will not stop to take the time to look up what your foreign phrase means. Instead, they will skip over it and be irritated that you actually threw it in there. If the phrase has an important meaning, it can also mean that they will not understand your full message and may even get totally lost. Unless you are writing in a situation that calls for it, such as about French restaurants, stick to the native language.
  • "Prefer the standard to the offbeat."
    • While creativity is an important part of writing, that doesn't mean that you should go wild and crazy. It might sound cool to write your novel backwards, but in reality, it's not such a good idea. There are ways in which you can express your individuality, but make sure you know where the line is between unique and wacky.

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