November 28, 2005

Notes: Ten Quick Tips for Inexperienced Writers, by V. Berba Velasco Jr.

Ten Quick Tips for Inexperienced Writers
By V. Berba Velasco Jr., Ph.D.

One of the biggest problems that inexperienced writers have is simply knowing how to get started. If you’re unsure of your writing skills, then here are some quick tips to help you get started.

1. Get yourself a thesaurus—or better yet, two of them. These can be tremendously helpful tools when you’re struggling to find the right word. A thesaurus is no substitute for a solid vocabulary, but it is still helpful in a pinch.

2. Avoid using the same word too frequently. This can make one’s work sound repetitive. Again, a good thesaurus can be helpful in this regard.

3. Keep your sentences fairly short, since longer sentences can sound unwieldy. I’ve found that 17 words or fewer is a good guideline. Do remember that this is just a guideline, though.

4. Even as you keep the sentences short, make sure that they flow together well. Sometimes, unskilled writers will simply chop longer sentences up into shorter segments that don’t blend together smoothly. If in doubt, try rephrasing the sentences or adding the proper connective phrases (e.g. “then,” “so,” “as a result”).

5. Get a copy of “The Elements of Style” by Strunk and White. It’s a short book, but incredibly helpful. There is no better reference for aspiring writers.

6. Don’t rely too much on your word processor’s grammar checking features. They can be quite impressive, but their capabilities are still quite limited. Spelling checkers are also limited in their capabilities, since they cannot recognize a lot of proper names and technical terms. In addition, spell checkers cannot detect situations wherein the user has entered the wrong word in place of the proper one.

7. Proofread, proofread and proofread… over and over. When you’re done, have a friend proofread your work as well.

8. Remember your target audience. Ask yourself, “What information will my audience require in order to understand what I’m saying?”

9. Avoid clever wordplay unless you’re sure that it will work. In most cases, it is best to gain more writing experience before trying something witty.

10. Remember the artist’s adage, “Practice, practice, practice”? If you want to become good at writing, then write, write and write!

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