A few years ago, I was charged with the task of working as an editor assisting hard sciences researchers with their writing skills. Basically, I was locked in a cold, clinical lab-type office eight hours a day with a bunch of shamelessly nerdy geeks who didn’t know the difference between passive and active voice, who loved using extremely technical terms needlessly in order to convey the pretense of authority, and who thought that just because they had PhDs, they knew how to write. As anyone who has worked with geeks before knows, this is not the case. If you are self-styled, stereotypical geek, then here are a few tips to improve your writing skills.
1. Understand that not everyone can do it. Read other blogs and practice a lot.
There is a very big misconception that since we can all presumably read and string some words together, that automatically means that we can write well. Nothing could be further from the truth. If you want to improve your writing, you must absolutely read. A lot. And you also have to be serious about practicing. Conscientious practicing means setting aside the time to write as often as you can, every day or every other day. Even thirty minutes a day of just writing is a good start.
2. Read an introductory style book.
Style books are great because they can be used as references for technical grammar questions, but they also give you insight into how to most elegantly put together sentences and paragraphs. My favorite among style books is the classic “Elements of Style” by Strunk and White, which is available for free on the web here.
3. Show your work to a word nerd.
Especially if your writing could use some improvement, it’s extremely important to put away your shyness and show your work to a friend before posting it on the web or displaying it elsewhere, like in company correspondence, etc. Be open to criticism, ask for honest appraisal, and find the friend who is the best writer you know.
4. Learn to become your own worst critic.
While receiving outside criticism will get you pretty far, you won’t always have a writing counselor to help you out. As such, it is imperative that you read your writing several times, sentence by sentence, and always ask yourself, “How can I make this word/sentence/paragraph better?” or “What is unnecessary? What can I take out without compromising the meaning I am trying to convey?”
Although writing can be a tough art to learn, almost anyone can become at least decent. But the trick is that you have to put effort into it. You have to want to do it, so always write about whatever excites you, even if it’s something geeky.
This guest post is contributed by Lauren Bailey, who regularly writes for online colleges. She welcomes your comments at her email Id: blauren99 @gmail.com.
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