What strengths shoud a writer have?  

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Nita at A wide angle view of India tagged me with a writing meme "What strengths should a writer have?" I've borrowed most of my points from the two sources listed below because they were important lessons I learned and am still learning (organization!).

Write clearly to avoid confusing your audience. Provide specific detail. Answer the questions who, what, when, where, why, and how. Use easily understood words. Be specific instead of general in your use of words.

Nearly every writing problem you have can be solved by making things simpler.2 Don't waste your reader's time by writing large amounts of text that can be written in smaller words and shorter sentences.

Avoid grammatical errors, spelling mistakes, and incorrect punctuation. All of these things make you look stupid or lazy. Some tips for finding these errors in your own writing are to let someone else read your draft, let it sit for a while before re-reading to check for errors, and read the text out loud. Don't use words that you don't know.2

Organize your thoughts so that readers can better understand your writing. Before writing think through what you want to convey and how you're going to make your point. When editing, make sure that your central ideas are clear and won't be missed by the text.2

1 Technical Writing: Process and Product. Sharon J. Gerson, Steven M. Gerson, pp. 47-66.
2 Writing Tips for Non-Writers Who Don't Want to Work at Writing

And I definitely encourage you to visit Jon Scalzi's blog, Whatever.

Now for the tagging, which is always tricky for me. Most people I know read this blog don't like to be tagged.

Just Married Chilean Style
Evolutionary Middleman
No More Hornets
This Week in Evolution
Female Science Professor
the next chapter

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6 comments: to “ What strengths shoud a writer have?

  • The Exterminator
    Tuesday, October 9, 2007 at 12:59:00 PM CDT  

    Hi, Ordinary:

    Thanks for tagging me.

    I don't think my response is worth a whole post, though, because you've got the ground pretty well covered here. Clarity and Accuracy are absolute essentials in nonfiction. Organization is a must in any kind of writing.

    I don't worship Conciseness per se -- which should be obvious if you read my blog -- unless I'm writing functional text (technical materials, directions, instructions, how-to articles, brochures, ads, business letters). In fact, I would much rather read a writer who stirs my thoughts and emotions, no matter how long-winded he/she is, than one who aims for brevity. (e.g. I love Dickens, and hate Hemingway.)

    For me, the first strength any writer in any genre should have is: The ability to grab and hold a reader's interest.

  • mamacita chilena
    Wednesday, October 10, 2007 at 12:45:00 AM CDT  

    ok, I'll try to remember to do this. My problem with being tagged isn't that I have a problem with it, I just forget when it comes to sitting down and writing a blog entry.

    I only disagree with one of your points....concise. I like details :) Why say it in one sentence when you can say it in five and make the reader feel like he's there with you?

    But, I'm sure many people would beg to differ. Oh well, no skin off my back, they dont' have to read my blog if they don't want to!

  • Nita
    Wednesday, October 10, 2007 at 3:00:00 AM CDT  

    HI. Agree with your clarity point wholeheartedly! Without this writing is meaningless.
    Thanks for bringing it into focus.
    btw, the reason I haven't done your tag yet is because my thoughts on this are still not clear. :) I just haven't been able to get the right handle on it....give me a little time.

  • ordinarygirl
    Wednesday, October 10, 2007 at 6:19:00 AM CDT  

    Being concise isn't about leaving out details. It's about getting to your point without excess fluff. I don't think either one of you use a lot of fluff. But I have read some people who ramble on and on and on to the point where I'm trying to figure out what they're trying to say.

  • John Evo-Mid
    Thursday, October 11, 2007 at 11:53:00 AM CDT  

    Thanks for the tag, OG...

    No, really. THANK YOU. :)

    I don't know... I think you are asking the wrong person. I read yours and agree that they make a good deal of sense. However, I think with the whole world suddenly becoming billions of individual publishing companies, it's probably hopeless to think they'd all follow your suggestions.

    With that in mind, I'd just say - the strength you need in writing is to have a passion for what you are writing about and try not to stray too much into areas that don't interest you deeply. If you hold fast to this principle, you will achieve what Exterminator mentioned - the ability to grab attention.

  • Christine
    Saturday, October 13, 2007 at 4:27:00 PM CDT  

    Hi, Ordinary Girl,

    I found your site through Nita Writer.

    What's not to agree with from your list? Style mavens these days dictate spare writing, but with personality. Nineteenth century verbosity is out. So is trying to sound important.

    I'm looking forward to reading more here. I can tell I will learn a lot about what's going on in the world.


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