Improve your English writing

develop our writing abilitiesTo develop our writing abilities, we must first ascertain the purpose of the writing and its target audience. We must ensure that it is our inner passion and enthusiasm that has made us explore into the world of writing.

The present blog article provides some basic points that we all can follow to improve our writing abilities and achieve excellence.

Steps to improve English writing

Participate in group discussions

Align yourself with people who share your interest in writing. They might not be experts, but they must be open to acquiring new writing skills. Interact with like-minded people who can engage with you in debates and discussions. Such discussions can help the group pick up new facets of writing or polish existing skills.

Practice makes perfect

Writing is a process that keeps on improving with practice. You need to be patient to see the results because writing demands both concentration and time. It is important to be resolute and not lose heart if success is not achieved within the expected time frame. Conversely, it is important to believe in your caliber and understand that with regular practice and the right attitude, you can reach a certain level of excellence.

Understand the grammar

Grammar rules should be strictly followed to produce a flawless writing piece. Thus, one should imbibe sufficient knowledge about these rules and understand the nuances of the language. These skills can be picked up by referring to some established grammar books and solving exercises. A stranglehold on grammar goes a long way toward developing writing skills.

Learn new words

Apart from grammar, vocabulary is perhaps the most important component of writing because carefully selected words give expression to your thoughts in the best possible manner and amplify the impact of your writing. Improve your vocabulary by learning and using new words that can make your sentences more graceful and expressive. You can do this by reading books by different authors. Reading not only helps improve your vocabulary, but it also acquaints you with new and varied writing styles.

The Editor: A vital role barely talked about

One of the most crucial roles in the domain of manuscript publishing is that of the editor. While a manuscript undergoes a series of steps that finally leads to its publication in a journal of the author’s choice, editing is the first stage that breathes life into a raw document. An editor polishes the knowledge and skills of a writer and even supplements the manuscript with new material that a writer might not have, might not know how to use, or fail to see its relevance in the work. In short, an editor assembles the pieces of a manuscript to create a fascinating and appealing picture that the readers will want to explore in depth.

  • A writer can employ specific services and specialist editors; the choice depends on the stage in which the manuscript is in the publishing cycle:
  • A structural or stylist editor gives shape and expression to the work.
  • A proofreading editor examines and corrects the spelling, punctuation, and grammatical elements of the work.
  • A copyeditor typically reads the text and checks it for sense, clarity, and grammatical accuracy, and conformity with the guidelines provided by the writer.
  • A manuscript editor focuses on the structure and flow of the work as a whole.

An editor serves the project, the author, and the reader. Therefore an editor should preferably be a native English speaker or someone who is very well-versed with the nuances of the language. One of the primary functions of an editor is to correct grammar, spelling, and punctuation and simultaneously be aware of the target journal guidelines. It is essential for an editor to maintain consistency and logic (ensuring the need of the target audience), and verify headings, statistics, graphs, and footnote entries. An editor captures the writer’s voice and sensibilities and presents the work in the best possible manner to meet the expectations of the audience. All in all, an editor balances the writer’s intent with the publisher’s standards and the reader’s expectations and finds a way to satisfy all three requisites.

Editors are sticklers for perfection. They have a great eye for detail, a strong vocabulary, and in-depth knowledge of grammar rules and conventions. Language is their forte and they are aware of its impact and significance. Hence, it becomes imperative to know the background and credentials of the editor you are entrusting your work to. Requesting testimonies and work samples is a good approach to know more about the editor and make an informed choice. By researching and being clear on the expectations and outcomes, one can be in control and convey the right message to the editor to ensure that the manuscript reaches its apt destination. A great editor is ideally supposed to make the journey toward publication a pleasurable one. Conversely, a poor editor will have an adverse effect both on the quality and the time taken to see the project reach a logical conclusion.

As Stephen King rightly put it, “To write is human, to edit is divine.”

Technical Translation

Technical translation is the type of translation, which requires a considerable amount of understanding and skill. A technical translator is not only a translator, but also a specialist and an expert in the related field. Technical translation is required to translate machine installation manual, patent papers, user manual, research papers, project reports and thesis, etc. Technical translation consists of content related to scientific and technological data. A technical translator performs the duty of transferring the text from one language to another in an understandable and a logical way without changing the intended meaning. Somehow, a technical translator works as a technical writer. A technical translator should have high level of knowledge of the topic. Aside from the knowledge of the topic and the language, a technical translator should also have knowledge of psychology, technical communication and usability engineering.

The present article on “Technical Translation” provides some basic tips that every translator should follow in order to improve their work.

Tips for Proper Technical Translation

Reading and understanding the text:

In order to offer outstanding technical translation services a technical translator should read the text carefully before translating it. This helps the translator to understand the subject-matter more clearly. In case there is any confusion, the translator must refer to the reference books and subject-specific dictionaries for guidance.

Using the correct language:

Avoid using inappropriate single word, which can make the whole text meaningless. For instance, mechanical parts and instruments should be translated carefully. A technical translator must have adequate knowledge about the location-wise meaning of that specific word as one word has different meanings of different regions.

Vocabulary and uniformity of words:

There could be a contrast in the words used generally and that which is used while doing technical translation. There are certain subject-specific words that must be used by the technical translator for the precise and valid technical translation. Besides, there should be uniformity in the terms used for a particular thing. If a specific term has been used for a specific matter the same term should be used throughout the content.

Using industry-specific words and terms:

A technical translator must use the industry-specific terms while performing technical translation. A single technical translator cannot be a professional in all fields. Thus, technical translation service providing companies appoint industry-specific technical translators for different sorts of technical translations.

Reviewing and proof-reading:

After completing translation of the text, it is important to review and proof-read the final work. This helps in preparing an error-free technical translation. Proof-reading must be carried out considering three parameters: (i) grammar, (ii) spelling, and (iii) technical vocabulary.

By following the above given tips, one can gradually learn to effectively translate any text from one language to another in a clear and coherent way without changing the intended meaning. Eventually, this can be mastered with regular practice.

Abbreviations, Acronyms, and Initialisms

Abbreviations

An abbreviation is a short form of a word or phrase that is used to represent the whole term. For example, etc. for etcetera, Sat for Saturday, Dec for December, Sonar for Sound Navigation and Ranging, UK for United Kingdom, etc. Abbreviations can be of many types; the most common ones are Acronyms and Initialisms.

Acronyms

An acronym is formed from beginning letters, syllables or parts of a word or phrase. It forms a new word and is usually, but not always, in all capital letters. An important point to remember is that acronyms are pronounced as words. It is a subset of abbreviation, i.e., all acronyms are abbreviations, but the reverse is not true.

Examples:

NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization)abbreviation

Scuba (Self-contained underwater breathing apparatus)

Radar (Radio Detection and Ranging)

OPEC (Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries)

AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome)

ELISA (Enzyme Linked Immuno-Sorbent Assay)

RAM (Random Access Memory)

LASER (Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation)

NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration)

Interpol (International Criminal Police Organization)

 

Initialisms

An initialism is another type of abbreviation that is made up of the initial letters of the name or phrase. It is different from an acronym as the former is pronounced one letter at a time, i.e., each letter is read separately, and not as a word.

Examples:

BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation)

FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation),

CIA (Central Intelligence Agency)

HTML (Hyper-Text Markup Language)

IBM (International Business Machines)

DVD (Digital video disc)

BTW (By the way)

UN (United Nations)

USA (United States of America)

CD (Compact Disc)

Misplaced, Dangling and Squinting Modifiers

A modifier is a word or phrase that describes or adds details to a sentence. In the below examples, the modifiers are italicized.

  • I went through all the stores yesterday, looking for the perfect gift.
  • While walking on the sand, she removed her slippers.

One should place modifiers carefully so that the reader understands what is being modified. Writers, generally, make three types of modifier mistakes: misplaced, dangling and squinting modifiers.

 

Misplaced modifier: 

A misplaced modifier is a wrongly placed modifier that makes the subject of the modifier unclear. The reader may not be sure of the word the modifier is describing or may think of a different word being described instead of the intended one. Consider the below examples:

INCORRECT: The man walked towards the building carrying a box.

In this sentence, the building is carrying a box, which is illogical.

REVISED: The man carrying a box walked towards the building.

INCORRECT: We returned the packets to the store that was new.

REVISED: We returned the new packets to the store.

INCORRECT: She served biscuits to the children on paper plates.

REVISED: She served biscuits on paper plates to the children.

Dangling modifier:

When a modifier improperly modifies something in a sentence, it is called a dangling modifier. It is often located in the beginning or at the end of a sentence. The error may occur because the modifier has nothing to refer or is placed next to the wrong noun that it does not modify. Consider the following examples:

INCORRECT: To improve his outcomes, the analysis was done again.

Who wanted to improve outcomes? This sentence indicates that the analysis wants to improve its own outcomes.

REVISED: He improved his outcomes by doing the analysis again or

To improve his outcomes, he performed the analysis again.

INCORRECT: After reviewing the research article, it remains unconvincing.

REVISED: After reviewing the research article, I find the article unconvincing.

INCORRECT: When ten years old, my mother tried to teach me cooking.

REVISED: When I was ten years old, my mother tried to teach me cooking.

Squinting modifier:

squinting modifier may describe two situations, i.e., either the word before it or the word after it. In other words, it is an ambiguously placed modifier. Consider the below example:

INCORRECT: I told my daughter after she completed her homework we would play together.

The above sentence is not clear.

Does it mean that I told my daughter after she completed her homework? Does it mean that we would play together after she completed her homework?

REVISED: After she had completed her homework, I told my daughter we would play together. Or, I told my daughter we would play together after she completed her homework.

The Revising Process

The process of revising involves a series of steps, basically following the ARRR (adding, rearranging, removing, and replacing) method. In each step, the writer considers a set of questions from general to specific concerns:

  • Is the document complete?
  • Is all necessary information included?
  • Is the question answered adequately that you had set out to answer?
  • Is the hypothesis tested?
  • Have readers understood your main points and their pertinence?
  • Is the overall look of the document attractive and compelling?

After checking of the organisation of the document, ordering the given information and reorganising paragraphs is important. In addition to the logical sequencing of information, a conventional sequencing, depending on the type of document that you are writing is also important. A thorough grammar check is also important at this step. Check all paragraphs for unity and cohesion. Also, check if you have included all relevant information.

Finally, proofread the entire document for word choice, punctuation, spelling grammar and logical flow. Avoid any unnecessary repetition or wordiness for a clear, correct and concise document.

Writing Actions: Freewriting

Freewriting offers one method of clearing and opening your mind. You can freewrite by writing non-stop, on any topic, for a specific length of time. Do not stop to edit or evaluate what you are writing, and, if you cannot think of anything, keep repeating your last word or phrase until you get going again. The point of freewriting is to unblock your thought processes, and put you in the mood to express ideas in writing. The topic or relevance of what you are writing is, at this stage, put aside. Many writers find that freewriting allows them to approach their task in an uninhibited way.

Tips to proofread your own work

  1. Don’t proofread until you’re completely finished with the actual writing and editing. If you make major changes while proofreading, even if it’s just within sentences, you’re still in an artistic, creative mode, not a science mode.
  2. Make sure you have no distractions or potential interruptions. Shut down all email and social media, hide the cell phone, shut off the TV, radio, or music, and close the door. Print your document if you need to get away from the computer altogether.
  3. Forget the content or story. Analyze sentence by sentence; don’t read in your usual way. Focus on spelling, grammar, and punctuation. Work backwards, if that helps, or say the words and sentences out loud. Concentrate.
  4. Make several passes for different types of errors. Try checking spelling and end punctuation on one pass, grammar and internal punctuation on another, and links or format on yet another pass. Develop a system.
  5. Take notes. If you notice format issues while checking spelling or if you need to look something up, make a quick note and come back to it so you don’t lose your focus.
  6. If you do make a last-minute change to a few words, be sure to check the entire sentence or even paragraph over again. Many errors are the result of changes made without adjusting other, related words.
  7. Check facts, dates, quotes, tables, references, text boxes, and anything repetitive or outside of the main text separately. Focus on one element or several related aspects of your writing at a time.
  8. Monitor yourself. If you find yourself drifting off and thinking about something else, go back over that section again. Try slapping your hand or tapping a foot in a rhythm as you examine each word and sentence out loud.
  9. Get familiar with your frequent mistakes. Even the most experienced writer mixes up their, they’re, and there or too, two, and to.

Check format last. Every document has format, even an email, whether it’s paragraph spacing, text wrap, indentations, spaces above and below a bullet list or between subheadings and text, and so on. Leave this for the end because contents may shift during handling.

Refining and proofreading your draft

When you’re done with the rough draft, take a break so that you can come back to your writing with fresh eyes. When you pick up your draft again, ask yourself:

  • Is my writing clear?
  • Do my ideas make sense?
  • Are my points and conclusions supported by evidence?
  • Do I avoid repetition?
  • Do I use proper grammar and spelling?
  • How does it sound read out loud?

Make sure you have enough time before your deadline to show your draft to others. Another point of view can help you polish your paper and catch inconsistencies and mistakes.

After you make any necessary corrections and improvements, proofread your draft again. Continue refining until you’re happy with your work.

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.