Wednesday, 28 December 2016

6 Quick Tips to Spruce Up Your Writing

Precision is Everything. Photo Copyright Gareth Cameron
The following tips will immediately improve your writing. You’re bound to slip up if you are writing or typing quickly, trying to get your ideas down. This is okay; it’s good not to stem your flow while you are feeling creative. You are the only one who needs to see your first draft. Carefully going through your work when you’ve finished your draft, then eliminating these errors, will make an enormous difference.
Some people find it’s better to do their editing after they’ve had a break, rather than immediately. This is because editing is an objective exercise. A little distance from the passion you feel when you’re being creative is required, for editing to work well.
1. Overused Words
Avoid overuse of empty words, such as: very, really, quite, fairly, suddenly. Because these words are generally overused, they have little impact on your writing. Use them sparingly. See how much more clout your writing has when it is free from these minor distractions.
2. Superfluous Phrases
At this moment in time, “At the end of the day,” “When all is said and done,” “It should be pointed out,” “It is my considered opinion.” “In actual fact. These phrases don’t impart authority, just long-windedness. Apart from that, they are clichés and all writers need to avoid well-worn phrases that add nothing to the quality of the writing. Remember though, they can work in dialogue for characterisation. Dialogue needs to sound natural and if your character would speak that way, then allow him/her to do so.
3. Avoid Repetition
Avoid repetition by not using the same word twice in one sentence. (This doesn’t, of course, include linking words, articles or pronouns, like and, the or he) “She wanted to dance, so she danced with her friend.” Again, this is easily done and easily missed, and it won’t spoil your entire work of fiction if one or two small repetitions escape your notice. Or - if you are using a word for special effect, as I did with the word "easily". But eliminate repetition as much as you can.
4. Tidy up your Adjectives
Don't use too many adjectives. It’s better to use one strong adjective than two weak ones. Adjectives describe a noun, for example, exquisite, delicate. If you want to use an adjective to describe something, stick to just one and make it a strong word. Sometimes new writers describe their character as being, scared and apprehensive. One word will be more precise and have more impact – these two words have almost the same meaning in any case, and only differ in the intensity of the feeling they express.
5. Use a Verb instead of Verb and Adverb
Use a strong verb, rather than a verb and adverb. For example: “His hand shook nervously” could be replaced by ‘’His hand trembled.” Or, “She was shouting loudly at him” becomes, “She was yelling at him.” If you can incorporate your weak verb and adjective into one strong verb that means the same, then one word is doing the work of two. This is good practice and makes for concise prose.
6. Replace Weak Verbs with Stronger Verbs
You could also go through your verbs, even if you have used only one, and see if you can find a more specific verb to replace it. But don’t overdo it or your prose may become heavy and sound contrived. As you get more practice, you will sense what sounds best.
These are small changes and these tips may seem like nitpicking, but you will be surprised how much difference it will make to your writing. This is, of course, different from how you learned to write in school and that is absolutely okay. When young people are learning, they are still working on their vocabulary, sentence structure and spelling and teachers encourage them to use as many new words as they can. Adults will find that the more they discriminate in the language they use and the tighter their prose becomes, the better the writing. In producing quality prose.
Less is more.

More to read: What I Love and Hate About Poets

1 comment:

John Jaksich said...

Much appreciated -- Thanks Janet!