Friday, November 22, 2013

Part II: Writing Tips You Probably Already Know...Which Makes This Post Redundant

Here is my second attempt this morning to get myself writing.  As is obvious, I have begun.

I once heard you should not write that something is obvious, because if it's obvious, why write it at all?  I've also heard you should not write things like "as is obvious."  Instead, just use "obviously," but obviously, if you aren't going to state the obvious, you should nix the whole thing.  Obviously, I am refusing to do so, rebel that I am.

There are other things you are not supposed to do in writing, such as using the word "things."  Be specific.  Rearrange things.  For example, say, "There are other writing rules to follow," and, "Rearrange your sentences."  These sentences are said to be "tightened."

Very.  There's another very common word that is very much overused.  Words like "often" and "frequently" are probably more descriptive and make you sound a little more sophisticated.  You could say something like, "More often than not, the word 'very' is overused."  Or you could say, "Too often..."

Speaking of you, you are better off writing in the first person, especially when you start off a piece using the personal pronoun "I."  And avoid juxtaposing two words like I just did with "you, you."  Another example of that that is annoying is the double use of "that."  Try, rather, "Another example of annoying juxtaposition is..."  "That, that" looks and sounds weird.

"Got" and "gotten" are probably two of the ugliest words in the English language.  They are also often used sloppily.  For example, some people say, "I got a cold," when what they really mean is, "I caught a cold," or "I've got a cold," (which can be better said as, "I have a cold.").

Here's something that bugs me but isn't wrong: two periods at the end of the sentence because a full sentence is used in parenthesis and then placed at the end of the sentence.  I did that above.  Personally, I think it looks weird.

There's another one.  If it's "personal," obviously, I am speaking and it's my opinion.  Avoid using "personally," unless you want to soften your opinion, which is often recommended in blog discussions where people are easily offended.  Isn't this obvious?

Speaking of "people," be more specific and don't generalize.  I could have said, "where readers tend to be more easily offended and often argumentative."  Whenever you lump all people into a group, you tend to generalize, which is, in fact, a logical error.

"In fact."  I have stated something to be a logical error, which implies I believe it to be fact.  Therefore, I need not use "in fact," but I am responsible for backing up my assertions.  You can state your opinion all you want, but as they say, "Opinions are like..."  You know that saying, which is another problem--the overused expression.  Another issue: "they."  Who exactly is "they"?  People?  No, that's wrong.  Many people?  A common saying is...?  How about avoiding the expression all together and creating your own??

Fragments.  Can you use them for effect?  Sure, so long as you are writing informally.  Avoid fragments in academic writing.

Speaking of which, what exactly is "academic writing," and when should you use "exactly"?  I didn't have to use "exactly" above because I am obviously trying to define "academic writing" (which is obvious so why should I state it?  Or should I just remove the word "obviously"?).  And should I have split up my verb: "am obviously trying to define"?  Traditionalists and academics probably would say no.  Which bring us back to the problem of defining academic writing.  Which I don't feel like doing, so I will leave it as, "anything written for academics."  There's a mistake, too--defining a word by using the word.

This is why writing can be so difficult.  You can spend most of your time editing, trying to be exact and descriptive.  The effort often thwarts creativity and discourages writers from ever beginning.  I am a proponent of free-writing, of barfing out a first draft.  Ignore the inner editor until it's necessary.  Don't get in your own way.  Don't pre-judge yourself.  Just write.

I think I will take my own advice.
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