September 03, 2004

Writing Practice

One of the reasons I decided to start this blog was to get some more practice at producing writing that I don't mind other people reading. Being from a science and computing background, mandatory opportunities to produce written work weren't frequent, and when it came to writing a thesis and research papers, having to produce high quality writing came as rather a shock. Even several years later, it seems that I'm slower at writing than perhaps I could be. The ideas in my head are clear enough, but when it comes to putting them on paper, they swirl around, refusing to crystallise into words, and my first attempts at choosing words to use inevitably result in garbled sentences. There are some people who, having done the research for a paper, can just sit down and write the paper from start to finish, to produce a first draft, but I am not one of those people. Thank Google I'm living in the age of the computer, not the typewriter! Over the years, I've picked up a few pieces of advice concerning good writing, and two in particular have been very useful:
  1. Try to make your writing as compact as possible. That is, rather than omitting certain points, try and say what you have to say in as few words as possible. This seems very useful, as when I manage to follow this advice from paragraph to paragraph, the quality of the writing does seem to improve; straight to the point with less waffle, I suppose.
  2. Read your writing out loud. No, muttering under your breath doesn't count; it has to be actual reading. Somehow the very act of hearing your words allows you to spot errors or poor phrasings that simply aren't visible when reading. If you can find another person (of infinite patience) to read to, that is even better, or failing that, a pet. Dogs are good; they pay attention and won't criticise or argue with you.
(And yes, I did read this entry out loud. The wood pigeon outside my window was less than impressed. Ah well.)


At 11:59 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

For point 2: I find having the computer read text to me is very helpful. The most important point is that it reads it quite slowly, which forces you to actually spend time on each sentence.


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