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Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Writing Craft

We all assume that we can write. We believe that our thoughts transfer to the reader perfectly. We learned writing in school. It is second nature for us.

In truth, writing is an acquired skill. How did we acquire it? Through rigidly specific drills and writing exercises, with an overlay of confusing grammatical exegesis. Schools prepare us to write for school situations, not real world ones.

To write well in the real world requires active study and practice. Business letters, application documentation, ad copy: whatever sort of writing you need to do, you must practice. This practice entails identifying strong examples of this writing and studying the mechanics.

Application documentation, for instance, demands clear direction and logical, simple steps. Ad copy needs to develop reader interest and a call to action. In all writing, understanding one’s aims and one’s audience are both paramount.

Do not assume that your writing conveys what you think. Intention ≠ accomplishment. This leads to Part 2 of writing well: reading well.

Words are the tools of writing. read your own work doubtfully. You invest in it, and that investment can skew your perception. Ponder these questions:

  • Are your words accurate?
  • Is your intention met?
  • Have you written enough or too much?
  • Is the tone appropriate?
  • Are you mimicking received forms?

Be honest in answering these questions. The more that you can remove claptrap, and emphasize your intentions, the better your writing will  be.

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