What are your best writing tips?
Do you recall your first attempts at professional writing? I’ll bet you cringe a bit, right? I know I do.
I recently found a rough draft of a story I wrote when I first started my job as a reporter. My editor had returned the draft back to me with so much red, you’d think he was creating art. Fact was that my prose was riddled with errors. While I am a perfectionist who loathes making errors, I realize that learning from our mistakes helps us grow. Fortunately, I had a good editor and group of reporters who helped me along.
The point is, any of us who write regularly, probably stumbled a lot in the beginning. To get better, you need to either get educated in the rules of writing or have someone edit your work. If you’re really lucky, you’ll have a combination of both education (in forms of either schooling or books) and an editor who can help you see your weaknesses.
While there are many great resources to improve your writing, such as Elements of Style and the Associated Press Style Guide, the newsroom bible, I’d like to tap into another asset – our knowledgeable readers. Please share your best writing tips in the comments below or by emailing us and we will post them later this month.
I will kick things off with a few tips concerning rules which I see violated most often on the web.
- Spell out numbers which start sentences. If you must write the number as a figure, then restructure the sentence so the number is not first.
- Spell out abbreviations and acronyms on first reference. You’ll note that I wrote Associated Press Style Guide above, but all other references call it the AP Style Guide. There are some instances when the acronym is so widely known that it is allowable to use it, such as YMCA.
- Over or more than? Over and under should refer only to spatial descriptions. Rather than writing, It is over $500 write, it is more than $500. There is some debate on this, with some people insisting that the terms are interchangeable and there is no concrete grammatical rule, but I side with the traditionalists.
- Capitalization. Writers oftentimes capitalize words which don’t need it. I can’t tell you how many press releases I’ve seen which abused the rules governing capitalization. In short, you should capitalize proper nouns and proper names. However, there are several other guidelines (too many to detail here) detailed in the AP Style Guide that all professional writers should make themselves familiar with.
- You’re versus Your. You’re is a contraction of you and are, as in you’re a great writer, while your is a possessive pronoun such as this is your book.
Please leave your favorite tip(s) below.
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