Composition and Style

A blank, white computer screen is often intimidating. And it’s easy to get stuck because you don’t know how to start. Try these tips for composing and styling your document:

  • Start with your audience  Remember, your readers may know nothing about what you’re telling them. What do they need to know first?
  • Create an outline  This is especially helpful if you’re writing a longer document such as a report, presentation, or speech. Outlines help you identify which steps to take in which order, and they help you break the task up into manageable pieces of information.
  • Use AIDA  If you’re writing something that must inspire action in the reader, follow the Attention-Interest-Desire-Action (AIDA) formula. These four steps can help guide you through the writing process.
  • Try some empathy  For instance, if you’re writing a sales letter for prospective clients, why should they care about your product or sales pitch? What’s the benefit for them? Remember your audience’s needs at all times.
  • Use the Rhetorical Triangle  If you’re trying to persuade someone to do something, make sure that you communicate why people should listen to you, pitch your message in a way that engages your audience, and present information rationally and coherently. Our article on the Rhetorical Triangle can help you make your case in the most effective way.
  • Identify your main theme  If you’re having trouble defining the main theme of your message, pretend that you have 15 seconds to explain your position. What do you say? This is likely to be your main theme.

Use simple language  Unless you’re writing a scholarly article, it’s usually best to use simple, direct language. Don’t use long words just to impress people.

Get Excited About Your Topic

No matter what you have to write about, you should try and get excited about it. The more interest and excitement you put forth, the better your paper will be. Even if your paper topic bores you, this is your opportunity to get creative and think of a way to make it exciting. That’s your challenge and you can do it.

Let Your Writing Be Reader-centric

For creating reader centric, influential writing always have the following rules uppermost in your mind:

  • When you write to technical journals and magazines, assume minimum technical knowledge on the part of the readers and accordingly use technical words and jargon;
  • When you write to teach through such publications, use technical words and jargon but always remember to add suitable foot-notes;
  • If you are writing general articles or doing some feature writing meant for a heterogeneous readership, avoid exhibitionist tendencies and make your writing as interesting as possible. While on this, assume only an average educational standard on the part of majority of the readers and be discreet in the choice of your words and expressions. Do appreciate that when it comes to reading, unlike an intellectual, an average reader lacks flexibility to alternate between a high and mediocre standard of writing;
  • Never indulge in Latin words or in outdated words and expressions or for that matter in uncommon idioms. More importantly, if you are not a native speaker of English, do not try to translate idioms or expressions in vogue into English. Remember that every language has its own style and so whatever the language you are writing in, first imbibe the true spirit of the particular language and
  • Finally, never forget that reading as distinguished from listening is more tedious and hence go all out to help the readers sustain their interest in your writing with attractive paragraph headings wherever you can.

Questions and Writing Ideas

By fostering curiosity, we can create a fountain of ideas. It doesn’t matter what form your writing takes or what genre you’re writing in. By coming up with intriguing questions, you’ll soon find yourself overwhelmed with inspiration. Below are some questions that you can use to generate writing ideas. Mix them up, change them around, and come up with your own list of questions too:

Who

  • Who is this story about?
  • Who does my main character trust?
  • Who in my life could inspire a poem?
  • Who does this character/person care about?

What

  • What are the characters goals?
  • What images do I want to create with a poem?
  • What related topics could be included in this project?
  • What motivates people to take drastic actions?

Where

  • Where did it all begin?
  • Where will the characters end up?
  • Where does this story take place?
  • Where do these people want to be?

When

  • When does a child become an adult?
  • When did things change for this character?
  • When did this story take place?
  • When should this story end?

Why

  • Why does this story matter?
  • Why did he/she do it?
  • Why would a person take a great risk?
  • Why are there stars in the sky?

How

  • How did the character land in this situation?
  • How will this story make people feel?
  • How do the characters know each other?
  • How far will the main character go to achieve the goal?

Catch Your Typos

Nobody likes typos. They look like misspellings, only it’s usually obvious they are mere oversights, the result of tapping the wrong key. It happens a lot when writers rush, and it happens a lot less when writers proofread their work before submitting or publishing. Most writers are going to miss a typo every now and then. Nobody’s perfect. However, when you read a writer’s work regularly and typos are just something you expect every time, that’s a sign of poor or nonexistent proofreading.

Tips for sharpening your creativity

Everyone can use a little more inspiration, whether at work, school, or home. Try these tips to boost your creativity.

  1. Remember, being creative isn’t only for artsy people: Many people think creativity is about having artistic skills. They say, I can’t write, I can’t paint, and every time I take a photo I put my finger over the lens. I’m just not creative. I say, You can be a creative person. You are a creative person already, you just don’t know it.Creativity is about using your imagination in every endeavor. It’s not just for artists.
  2. Learn something every day: Creativity often involves adapting an idea to make it your own. Continually expose yourself to new ideas and the creative well will never run dry. Always have a book on your nightstand, if you can. Download audio books or check them out from the library to play while driving or exercising. Above all, learn something from every experience.
  3. Get outside: Whether it’s outside your house or just outside your mind, changing your perspective will help the ideas flow. Many people find connecting with nature to be a good way to slow their frantic lives. Sometimes all you need is a little peace and quiet to hear what your mind has to say.
  4. Think big: If you’re stuck working out the details of a project, step back. Go over your goals for the project, and remind yourself what you expect from the result. Remember: the world will not end if every detail is not perfect. Being able to relax and see things from the long view helps keep the creativity flowing.
  5. Think small: At the same time, don’t get lost in the big picture and forget to think about the details. Having a creative vision is important, often essential. But the details make the whole thing come together. Take time to plan out the small steps you’ll need to climb to your final result. Having a well-designed plan will give you a solid base from which to let your creativity run wild.
  6. Daydream: Productivity is important, but it’s not an end in itself. Being organized, motivated, and getting things done only improves your life when it leaves you time to dream. Have you ever noticed that a lot of your best thinking is in the shower? Having time to yourself when you don’t have to be tightly focused on your next deadline is essential to creativity.

Try these tips and you’ll find that your creativity blossoms naturally. All it needs is fertile soil in which to grow.

What are idioms?

Idioms & meaning

Idioms are expressions which have the meaning that is not obvious from the individual words. For example, the idiom drive somebody round the bend means make somebody angry or frustrated, but we cannot know this by looking at the words.

The best way to understand an idiom is to see it in context. If someone says:

  • This tin opener driving me round the bend! I think I’ll throw it away and get a new one next time I’m in town.

Then the context and the comma sense tells us that drive round the bend means something different from driving a car round a curve in the road. The context tells us the tin opener is not working properly and that it is having an effect on the person using it.

Adjectival Opposites

The opposite or the negative aspect of an adjective can be formed in a number of ways. One way, of course, is to find an adjective to mean the opposite  an antonym. The opposite of beautiful is ugly, the opposite of tall is short. A thesaurus can help you find an appropriate opposite. Another way to form the opposite of an adjective is with a number of prefixes. The opposite of fortunate is unfortunate, the opposite of prudent is imprudent, the opposite of considerate is inconsiderate, the opposite of honorable is dishonorable, the opposite of alcoholic is nonalcoholic, the opposite of being properly filed is misfiled. If you are not sure of the spelling of adjectives modified in this way by prefixes (or which is the appropriate prefix), you will have to consult a dictionary, as the rules for the selection of a prefix are complex and too shifty to be trusted. The meaning itself can be tricky; for instance, flammable and inflammable mean the same thing.

A third means for creating the opposite of an adjective is to combine it with less or least to create a comparison which points in the opposite direction. Interesting shades of meaning and tone become available with this usage. It is kinder to say that “This is the least beautiful city in the state.” than it is to say that “This is the ugliest city in the state.” (It also has a slightly different meaning.) A candidate for a job can still be worthy and yet be “less worthy of consideration” than another candidate. It’s probably not a good idea to use this construction with an adjective that is already a negative: “He is less unlucky than his brother,” although that is not the same thing as saying he is luckier than his brother. Use the comparative less when the comparison is between two things or people; use the superlative least when the comparison is among many things or people.

  • My mother is less patient than my father.
  • Of all the new sitcoms, this is my least favorite show.

THE QUESTION MARK

A tag question is a device used to turn a statement into a question. It nearly always consists of a pronoun, a helping verb, and sometimes the word not. Although it begins as a statement, the tag question prevails when it comes to the end-mark: use a question mark. Notice that when the statement is positive, the tag question is expressed in the negative; when the statement is negative, the tag question is positive. (There are a few exceptions to this, frequently expressing an element of surprise or sarcasm: “So you’ve made your first million, have you?” “Oh, that’s your plan, is it?”) The following are more typical tag questions:

  • He should quit smoking, shouldn’t he?
  • He shouldn’t have quit his diet, should he?
  • They’re not doing very well, are they?
  • He finished on time, didn’t he?
  • She does a beautiful job, doesn’t she?
  • Harold may come along, mightn’t he?
  • There were too many people on the dock, weren’t there?

(Be careful of this last one; it’s not “weren’t they?”)

Principles of good writing

Experiences in school leave some people with the impression that good writing simply means writing that contains no bad mistakes – that is, no errors of grammar, punctuation, or spelling. In fact, good writing is much more than just correct writing. It’s writing that responds to the interests and needs of our readers.

Briefly, here are the basic characteristics of good, effective writing:

  • Good writing has a clearly defined purpose.
  • It makes a clear point.
  • It supports that point with specific information.
  • The information is clearly connected and arranged.
  • The words are appropriate, and the sentences are clear, concise, emphatic, and correct.

Good writing is the result of much practice and hard work. This fact should encourage you: it means that the ability to write well is not a gift that some people are born with, not a privilege extended to only a few. If you’re willing to work, you can improve your writing.