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Improve The Quality Of Your Writing In Less Than 60 Seconds

Mar 13, 2008
Writing is not really an art. It is a craft - and you can learn a craft. Follow these four techniques to improve the quality of your writing, no matter what type of writing you do.

Writing Tip #1: After you run your spell checking software, go back and re-read your writing. Few people are good spellers, which is why so many of us rely on spell checking software. Unfortunately, spell checkers have their own flaws and sometimes flag silly errors. For example, the words "form" and "from" are both good, legitimate words. But if you wrote a business letter that said, "We took $200 form your checking account to cover the payment," most spell checkers won't catch that oversight. Yet this simple typo changed the meaning of the sentence. Spell checkers are a convenience; they are neither authoritative nor foolproof, so don't rely on them. Always read through your writing at least once after you spell check -- and keep a dictionary handy.

Writing Tip #2: Use that famous "KISS" principle for your punctuation. You know the rule, don't you? "Keep It Simple, Stupid." Apply this rule to punctuation. If you don't know how or when to use a semicolon, then avoid semicolons; you'll only display ignorance if you get it wrong. In keeping with that KISS principle, limit your use of commas. Far too many people use far too many commas. Just because a sentence is long does not mean it needs a comma. Well-placed commas make reading easier. Commas thrown in simply to break up words are incorrect and distracting. Another important rule of punctuation is to avoid using exclamation marks, almost always. If your choice of words, sentence structure, and overall prose don't convey the sense of excitement you are seeking, then using an exclamation mark won't do it. If your writing conveys your sense of excitement, an exclamation point is, well, pointless.

Writing Tip #3: Make sure your writing is grammatically correct. You don't need the skills of an English teacher to use correct grammar. You simply need to learn the basics -- verbs and subjects agree in number, for example. That is, "he was" is correct; "they were" is correct. To say "they was" is incorrect. If you are not sure about using grammar, especially if English isn't your "first" language, go to some good reference sites for fundamental English grammar and usage. (If you are writing in another language, the same advice holds true for that language.) Invest in a good, basic grammar book or style manual. Check with any bookstore, online or offline, and you can find one.

4. When you finish some writing, put it aside for a couple of hours or days (if possible), then re-read it before you let go of it. Of course, if you're writing or dictating a business letter or other "time-sensitive" document, this may not be possible. If you set your article or story aside for a day, then re-read it, you may notice glaring errors or want to make significant changes. And you thought before you had finished. Many writers and teachers have commented that all true writing is done in the rewriting. Take that advice to heart and you will significantly improve your writing.

These four steps, rechecking your spelling, taking care with punctuation, watching for fundamental grammar errors, and rewriting, will improve your writing. They are proven tools used by every wordsmith.
About the Author
Jesse Dawson recommends using WhiteSmokeSoftware (http://www.WhiteSmokeSoftware.com), an English grammar checker, to improve your writing and fix embarrassing grammar mistakes. Dawson is the author of "Can YOU Read Me Now?," a free e-book on using readability formulas to write better, available at www.ReadabilityFormulas.com.
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