When I first started writing, I followed a lot of other people's rules like in order to be worthwhile, a piece must be at least one page (i.e. 350 words long). That's hogwash. After years of writing, I have learned that a good writer cuts and cuts and cuts again, until they can succinctly get their point across. What is important is to be articulate in writing. If Twitter teaches us one thing it is that you can often get your point across in 144 characters or less!
Another rule I followed was to "write what you know about". However, when I first started writing, I didn't know about much. So, I found that if I wanted to write about something, I had to learn enough about it at least to express an articulate opinion. So reading about your subject is often as important as writing about it.
The other day, someone asked me in a very articulate question how they could improve their writing. They were worried that they weren't as articulate in the written word as they were in conversation. What follows is my short answer to their question.
A long time ago I read a book by Joel Saltzman, called “If You Can Talk, You Can Write” that really got me thinking about my writing. Although Saltzman is basically right, one thing I have learned is that when we talk, we often rely on gestures, tone, and facial expression to get our point across. Although in writing we have a few tricks, such as CAPS, bold, and italics, we don’t have the gestures, expressions, and facial expressions we use in speech. So, in writing try to keep in mind that your writing is similar to speaking to someone over a telephone. When you RAISE YOUR VOICE they can’t tell if you are excited or angry. You only have your words and a few tricks like CAPS, bold, and italics to clearly express your views.
Another valuable tool that many writers regard as a chore instead of a blessing is punctuation. Study it at sites like the OWL (online writing lab) at Purdue. You’ll find that when used correctly, it makes your writing much easier to read and understand. Are you in control of your homonyms and your common spelling mistakes? Keep a style guide at your fingertips.
A blogging mistake that is easy to make is to be more concerned with how a page looks than with how the piece reads. Instead of spending time looking for the right graphic, make sure that your mechanics are correct and you will find that crafting your words will paint the picture you want your readers to see.
Finally, remember the last time you told a joke and just before you got to the punchline, you realized that you had forgotten something at the beginning? Way to ruin a good joke, huh? That is one real advantage you have in writing. Always read before you publish and make sure your thoughts flow on paper as well as they would if you told the joke the right way. You will find that sometimes rearranging paragraphs, sentences, or even clauses within a sentence clarify thoughts that might otherwise appear to be cloudy.