10 Quick & Simple Tips for Inexperienced Writers
By V. Berba Velasco
Inexperienced writers often find it difficult to sense the shortcomings in their writing. When is an article well-written? How does one avoid awkward phrasings? How can one give each sentence more punch?
If you’ve unsure of your writing skills, here are some quick and simpl etips 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. Bear in mind that thesauruses merely provide synonyms, though; they do not typically discuss shades of meaning or nuances of usage, so use them carefully.
2. Avoid using the same word too frequently. Doing so can make one’s work sound repetitive. Again, a good thesaurus can be helpful in this regard.
3. Longer sentences tend to sound unwieldy, so whenever possible, keep your sentences short. I’ve found that 17 words or fewer is a good guideline. Don’t feel obligated to follow this rule slavishly, 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, without considering whether they 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 tiny little book, but an invaluable tool. There is no better reference for novice writers.
6. Don’t every rely on your word processor’s grammar checking features. They can be quite impressive, but their capabilities are still quite limited. Spellcheckers are also limited in their capabilities, since they cannot recognize a lot of proper names and technical terms. In addition, spellcheckers 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. And when you’re done, have a friend proofread your work again, then go over it yourself one more time–just for good measure.
8. Always remember your target audience. Ask yourself, “What information will my audience require in order to understand what I’m saying?”
9. Avoid clever wordplay! In most cases, it is best to gain more writing experience before trying something witty.
10. Remember the artists adage, “Practice, practice, practice”? If you want to become good at writing, then write, write and write! Ultimately, there is no better teacher.
About the Author: V. B. Velasco Jr., Ph.D. is a senior electrical and software engineer at a small biotech firm (http://www.immunospot.com, http://www.elispot-analyzers.de, http://www.elispot.co.jp) that provides ELISPOT equipment, human PBMCs and serum-free cell culture media.
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