I don’t like to write “how to” posts because I feel everyone is different, instead this article will share how I write and some of the rules I use when writing a blog post or book review. Although I never finished college, I have taken a few writing courses. From attending these classes I have gleaned a few writing “rules” from them that have been most helpful when I take the time to write. Of course these rules may not be for everyone, but I have noticed an improvement in my writing style when I incorporate them.
Redundancy – This is a big mistake a lot of bloggers make. When writing an article they constantly use the same word to describe a thought or an idea. Something like, “I felt this was a good book. It was so good I couldn’t put it down. The writer did a good job with the characters in the story.” Three sentences with the same word used throughout; can you find it? There is nothing wrong with the sentence structure used in my example; however, when you put these three sentences together, one after the other, the reader becomes disengaged. When writing, you should take a few minutes to contemplate what you want to say in your post. What is the message you are sharing with the reader and what words would best express that thought?
One of my instructors in college shared with me this rule, “Do not use the same descriptive word twice in a paragraph”. Okay sounds simple enough, but I bet if you read something you have written before knowing this, you’ll find you have broken this rule numerous times. It’s easy to fall into a routine when you write; to use the words you are comfortable with. I’ve done it and I still do it…the key is to be aware of it. There have been multiple times I had to think about what I wanted to express before I wrote it down in order to avoid using a word twice. Your thesaurus is a tool you should refer to often. Learning new words is a good thing! It will help you write a better story or article.
Outline – I know this one isn’t very popular. Outlines have a bad rap. There have been many of us who have groaned when our teachers assigned us a writing project that required an outline. I’m here to say forget about the tradition outline you created in school. I never liked doing them and I’m not talking about a physically written outline anyway. It’s more about knowing what you want to express when you begin writing your book review or instructional post. My outlines are mental. I don’t put pen to paper but I do know what I want to accomplish.
I know when I write a book review I want to share with the reader three or four things: why I bought the book, a synopsis of the book, what I liked or disliked about the book, and who I would refer this book to. This is my mental outline. There are no Roman numerals or letter formatting; the key is to know where you are going so that you do not stray from the path. Readers don’t want to begin a journey on one topic and then end up on another. That’ll just confuse them and you’ll lose them along the way. If you can’t do a mental outline at first, that’s okay, you’ve learned how to do the traditional outline in school. Use that for now. 😉
Using “and”, “but”, and “-ly” – I try my best to limit the use of the word “and” when it’s used to connect two sentences. Is using “and” the best way to unite these two thoughts? Can I find a better way to express my idea? “And” is not a bad word in itself, just make sure it is not excessively used. Same with the word “but”, make sure it’s used to enhance your sentence structure. If it distracts from the point you are trying to make, then it’s not the right word to use.
Now for the dreaded use of adverbs ending in –ly. I’m a big user of –ly words. When I write they seem to come naturally (see, I just used it). However, it’s not always the best option when you are trying to describe your thoughts. I’ve been told multiple times not to use –ly words because it’s a lazy way to write, so I try my best to limit the use of them. Since I tend to lean towards –ly words, my rule of thumb is to use them as rarely (aw, I did it again) as I can when writing. Again, I don’t think it’s a bad way to use an adverb – it just might not be the best way. Sometimes the only word that works is the one that ends in these two letters. Since it’s your writing, it’s your call.
I know there are more “rules” I abide to when I write, I just can’t think of them all at this moment. Plus, another of my “rules” is to keep my blog posts short and sweet. Sometimes too much information is just too much! If I remember any more valuable writing gems, I will be sure to share them with you in another post. For now, take these three simple ideas and see if they help you write better.
I would also like to hear the “dos and don’ts” you use when you write. They might help me improve my writing style which is something every writer should strive for, becoming a better writer!