Tag Archives: creativity

Poor Spelling Is Anathema To Clear Writing

Having all of the previous clear writing tips posted on this blog in mind, one clear writing technique not to be ignored is spelling.  No matter how hard you persevere  to develop your writing and no matter  good a writer you think you are or have become, if you don’t spell correctly readers will view you as an amateur, or worse.  Therefore this point must be made abolutely clear:

ELIMINATE ALL SPELLING ERRORS!

Misspelled words will cause all of your hard work to sink – fast.  So, be forewarned!  It is absolutely imperative to make sure your spelling is correct.  Misspelled words in particular are the bane of good writing; nothing will undermine your hard work and turn a reader off faster than a misspelled word, particularly if it’s a common one.  You must take the time to check the spelling of any word that looks suspicious to you.  Resorting to a dictionary for new or difficult words should be the first and ongoing choice.

Poor spelling, like other aspects of poor writing, can be overcome.  Don’t give up on correcting your spelling because you don’t believe it matters or because you believe the problem is too big to fix.  Make it a habit to check your spelling in everything you write.  Your goal shold be to establish yourself as a good speller.

You may not become a good speller overnight but if you persist every day in fixing spelling errors you will find that, in time, a habit of correct spelling can be established.    Start by putting a question mark over every word you are unsure about, and verify the spelling before considering your writing as complete.

Many writers shortcut the correct spelling of words either because they don’t know the correct spelling or are too lazy to find out. Spelling “nite” instead of “night,” and “thru” instead of “through” is the result of careless, sloppy, or lazy writing and is disfavored in good writing.  Don’t take any shortcuts with your spelling; they will stamp you as an amateur.

Another solution is to record all misspelled words on a separate sheet of paper; the act of writing down the correct spelling should in itself help you remember it.  Keep this paper handy for continued reference and add to it on a regular basis. But don’t just write the misspelled word down mechanically –  try to understand why the word was misspelled.  Try to link the word to something that you know, something that will help you to remember it.  Understand its meaning.  Refer to the list periodically to refresh yourself on the word.  This process will help to increase your vocabulary as well as correct your spelling.  Emphasize the letters that cause the misspelling by writing them in capitals or underlining them.

You can also master the intricacies of good spelling through visualization, a widely accepted practice.  Good golfers are said to visualize each shot before hitting it.  If it works in golf, it can work in spelling.  Teach yourself to picture the correct spelling of all misspelled words in your mind.  Concentrate on the correct spelling of these words to be sure you see every letter.  Then look away, spell the word, and look back for verification.  Repeat this procedure on a regular basis until you can instantly recognize the correct spelling of each previously misspelled word.  Be careful that you are not victimized  by having your eyes play tricks on you.  It is easy to visualize an arrangement of letters that is not there.

Another recommended method to correct poor spelling is to divide words  into syllables.  This will help in the visualization process.

Also, as I have suggested in regard to developing your vocabulary and a clear writing style, read extensively.  Make a note of all new words and practice spelling them.  Use them in your writing projects when the opportunity presents itself.

Watch for misleading resemblances between words.  Be on your guard and don’t misspell a word because it resembles another word in sound or appearance.  If you misspell one of two similar appearing words, focus your attention on one of the words and learn its spelling and its use thoroughly.  “Accept” (to take) and “except” (to exclude) are similar in sound but have vastly different meanings.  “Its” is a possessive pronoun while “it’s” is a contraction of it is.    “Affect” (to influence) and “effect” (to accomplish) are also easily confused.

Finally, there are many spelling rules, too many to repeat here.  But one of the most commonly used is to write “i” before “e” except after “c.”  So,  “believe” and “field”  are typical examples of the standard spelling while  “receive” and “ceiling” show the exception.  However, there are words such as “neighbor” and “weigh” where the rule doesn’t apply at all.

For those of you interested in the Civil War, check out my two articles on amazon.com, “Antietam and Gettysburg – Two Pivotal Civil War Battles That Saved The Union,” and “Bloody Shiloh and the Rise of U.S. Grant.”

Copyright © 2013.  Arnold G. Regardie.  All rights reserved.

Leave a comment

Filed under active voice, clear writing, good diction, punctuation, sound sentence structure, tips for good diction, Writing Improvement

Clear Writing Requires Polishing of Every Writing Project

Happy new year to all of my readers and best wishes for a happy, healthy, and prosperous new year.

One of your new year’s resolutions should be to write every day.  That’s the quickest way to improve your writing.  It will help you write faster, better,  and with more confidence.

Recent blogs have focused on the need to achieve mastery of your subject matter as part of the road to clear writing.  I have previously pointed out that  poor subject matter preparation will result in weak writing.  But even assuming you have written about a well-researched subject and know it like the back of your hand, your finished writing project must still be polished before it can be truly considered as “done.”

There are important polishing considerations to be kept in mind before you can consider any writing project as truly finished.  It is vital to polish your writing carefully and thoroughly so it flows as smoothly as possible.  No writing should be considered polished unless you have at least given consideration to the areas which follow below.

Highlight important information to0 help maintain readability.  Use extra white space, bullet points, capital letters, underlining, or italics to allow your reader to skim your writing.  But don’t overuse any of these items.  If you are truly knowledgeable about your subject, highlighting important information accurately will help to demonstrate your knowledge.

Be consistent throughout in whatever method you choose so your reader can recognize how you flag important information.

Make sure each paragraph covers what the heading indicates.  Otherwise, your writing will be jumpy and lack smoothness.

Explain all abbreviations and similar short-hand writing.  A sports fan will understand that the initials, “NCAA” stand for the National Collegiate Athletic Association.  A reader who is not a sports fan will be in the dark.

Question the need for everything in the writing.  If you don’t know what you’re trying to say, you can’t write it clearly.

Carefully review your document to determine if any important information is missing.

Maintain consistency in the document’s organization.  This will help the reader understand the different levels of information you have presented.  Typical organizational format includes document title, section headings, subsection headings, paragraph headings, and general text.

Before any writing is submitted to your reader, make sure you edit it thoroughly.   Careful spelling and punctuation review is an absolute, absolute must.  There is probably no other area which will stamp your writing as amateurish, or worse,  as poor spelling and poor punctuation.  These areas are important enough to warrant special consideration.

It is also important to make sure your draft is tight, i.e., uses the least number of words to get your thoughts across.  Make the tone of your writing easy to understand, conversational, and natural.  Don’t leave any gaps in your writing so that the reader must stop and wonder what you’re saying.

Once you know who you’re writing for and what you’re writing about, both of which have been recently covered in my blogs, you’re ready to take the next step: writing your first draft.

This should be your new year’s resolution, to write every day.  It will do wonders for your writing skills and enable you to do your part to help improve the economy in the process. It will help to increase your earnings potential, your chances of finding a job, or for job advancement if you’re already employed.  If you run a business, pass the word to your employees – improvement in their writing skills will help increase your sales. Pick a topic you’re familiar with or enjoy talking about and write about it!  Make it a daily habit.  You will find that the more you write, the easier it will become to write clearly.

.Copyright © 2013.  Arnold G. Regardie.  All rights reserved.

                     

 

 

                   

 

 

                     

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under active voice, clear writing, good diction, punctuation, sound sentence structure, tips for good diction, Writing Improvement

Prepare A Comprehensive Outline For Best Writing Results

Last week’s post focused on organizing your thoughts to write better.  It dealt primarily with the preparation of a preliminary plan as the first step in organizing your thoughts before writing. Also discussed was the task of information gathering as being secondary to plan preparation.

 After gathering the information needed for your writing project, the next step is to prepare an outline.

Creation of a workable outline should begin with the big picture.  First, organize your thoughts and mentally plan your approach.  Make a note of all the ideas you generate about what you want to write.  Next, organize your ideas into a logical order.  Finally, add appropriate detail.  Much as in working a jigsaw puzzle, your reader will more easily absorb the details after seeing the big picture.  Draft an outline that is logical, cohesive, and flows smoothly.  You don’t want anyone reading a lot of pages before finally figuring out what you’re trying to say. 

In the process of preparing the outline, try to anticipate questions your reader may ask.  Organize your outline to respond to these questions.  Readers are often looking for answers, either by reading documents or visiting websites.  They want to know how to do something or to get the answer to a problem, and they want the answer as quickly and easily as possible under the circumstances.  So, keep these concerns in mind when preparing your outline.

There are three workable approaches to use in preparing an outline: traditional, the so-called “spinning wheel” method, and what may be called the “stream of consciousness” approach.  The first one envisions use of Roman numerals, capital letters, Arabic numbers, followed by small letters.  This traditional approach is best for presentation of material in an organized, logical fashion.  In adopting the traditional approach, the topic outline and the sentence outline are commonly used. The sentence outline requires use of complete sentences and appropriate punctuation.  Examples of both types, which I used to outline the subject “John Adams, An Unrecognized President”, appear in my book, “The Art of Clear Writing,” pp 23-28, which is available at amazon.com/kindle books as well as in print on Amazon.com and CreateSpace.com.

Another approach to outlining, the “spinning wheel” concept, may be better suited for the development of ideas.  This approach starts with the “hub” of the wheel as the central idea of the writing, with subsidiary ideas flowing out from the hub as the wheel’s “spokes.”

There is a third approach, what I call “stream of consciousness” for lack of a better description, which I’ve used from time to time.   Sometimes, for whatever reason, it just seems easier to start writing.  Start with the main idea for the writing.  Then, as more ideas come along, begin to create an outline and rearrange your material.  Continue to write to fill in gaps in the material.  Feel free to use this approach as long as the end result is well organized and clearly written.

Use the outline to prepare appropriate paragraph headings and subheadings.  As you are developing your outline, create as many topic headings as appears necessary for the material.  Don’t skimp in this area.  The creation of topic headings goes hand-in-glove with the preparation of your outline.

Create crisp, sharp paragraph headings and subheadings to help your reader focus on the content of each paragraph.  Arrange the paragraphs as necessary to provide a logical flow of information.  Keep in mind that short sections are better.  A long, dense paragraph is a daunting and discouraging sight.  But if your writing is presented in short, manageable, bite-sized pieces of approximately fifty to seventy five words, it will be easier to digest because the entire content of each section can be more easily captured in the heading.

Also, short sections make the document more visually appealing so it appears easier to understand.  A long section will increase the difficulty of preparing a meaningful summary of its heading.  Short sections will provide the opportunity to write more headings to go with them and should also help you to organize your writing more effectively.  In this scenario, brevity is a prince, verbosity a pauper.

Boldface the section headings to create a roadmap for quick and easy reference to your document. 

Use common sense in preparing paragraph headings.  They should not be so long as to overwhelm the reader.  On the other hand, overly broad headings such as “General” and “Scope” are not useful and are not recommended.

Once your outline is complete, you will find that the preparation of your first draft will be a much easier task.

Copyright © 2012.  Arnold G. Regardie.  All rights reserved.

Leave a comment

Filed under active voice, clear writing, good diction, punctuation, sound sentence structure, tips for good diction, Writing Improvement

The American Dream – You Can Still Build It

One of the best copywriters on the scene today is Bob Bly.  He’s been a  full-time freelance writer since 1982 and has written over 75 books.  I learned about him through my membership in American Writers and Artists, Inc., which I joined several years ago.  I receive emails from him daily.

The latest email, received  on August 27, deals with  eliminating failure from your life.  It’s very well done and deserves to be repeated in essence here.

Bob’s email tells the story of one of his followers who bought books and created a huge how-to file for five long years.    But fear of failure kept him from implementing any of the ideas he read about.  He was never able to get started in any kind of business.  He was in a rut. The bottom line of Bob’s email is that you can only do so much preparatory reading, studying, and listening.   Then it’s time for action.   It’s like reading about hitting a gold ball or tennis ball.  You can only read about it for so long.   Then, you just have to go out and do it.  I agree with Bob’s call to action, but you have to be able to communicate clearly to succeed.

The point I have emphasized in these blogs is that everybody has something to sell.  Whether it’s a product,  service, or information, you stand behind it.  It’s the confidence you have in whatever you’re selling that will shine through to the buyer.  But, no matter what it is, if you can’t communicate the benefits clearly, chances are you won’t sell it. Now is as good a time as any to start making your own destiny.  Work on your writing.  Begin by developing confidence in it by writing everyday.  This is a very timely topic, one I’ve urged on this blogsite many times for the last several months, as well as in my new eBook, “The Art of Clear Writing.”   My last blog urged readers to prepare for opportunity by learning to write more clearly, because clear writing is a basic requirement for success.

This is consistent with Bob’s main point that you have to take action and get out of the comfort zone of reading and studying.  His email advocates entrepreneurship, i.e., starting your own business.  Don’t avoid taking action because of fear of failure.  This was a legitimate concern in pre-internet days because of the large financial investment often required.  He points out that the arrival of the internet makes starting a business financially so much easier than before.  While it used to cost several  thousand dollars to begin a business, it can now be accomplished  on the internet for much, much less.  Bob urges you to begin by starting your own website.  He even specifies a website you can visit for this purpose by buying a domain name to get you started.(www.bobsbestdomains.com).  All of that is well and good.  But if you can’t communicate clearly, you’re going to be swimming upstream.  Bear in mind what I have written previously, i.e., that writing is an art form, meaning it can be learned.   And it’s never too late to start.

My interest in writing led me recently to create my own website, http://www.agregardie.com.  It features my new eBook, “The Art of Clear Writing,” as well as my Civil War article, “Antietam and Gettysburg – Two Pivotal Civil War Battles That Saved The Union.”  It also references this blogsite.  The eBook is replete with basic, reliable writing insights that will help you write more clearly.  It is only available at this time on amazon.com/kindle books.  It sells for $9.99, but can be previewed free of charge.

Among other things, my eBook urges the development of confidence in your writing by reading extensively, studying other experienced writers, then practicing what you have learned by writing on a daily basis.  This is all part of creating self-initiative, vital in today’s economy.    Learning to write clearly can be the pathway out of your rut.  You can learn to write well but you need the desire and dedication to do it.  That little business on the corner is still within reach, but you still have to take action to get there.  Remember: you can still build it – the American dream!    Start by learning to write clearly.

Copyright © 2012.  Arnold G. Regardie.  All rightrs reserved.

Leave a comment

Filed under clear writing, Writing Improvement

Now Is The Time To Learn To Write Clearly; The Economy Needs It

Last week’s blog addressed the perceived epidemic in grammar deficiencies that is plaguing American business today.  It pointed out that the foundation of the American economy is capitalism, i.e., free enterprise and entrepreneurship.  The blog further emphasized that individual initiative has been the driving force behind the economic growth in America.

The blog was intended as a call to action.  You can do your part to move the economy along by becoming a better writer.  The written word is more important now than ever before. In today’s world of global communications, you cannot hope to secure a place unless you can write clearly.  Prepare yourself to meet opportunity.  Begin by learning to write clearly.  It will pay huge dividends for you.

I practiced law in California for over 40 years before retiring.  I saw the writing failures of innumerable attorneys who, despite all their education, still made mistakes in writing.  I attended several writing lectures presented by Bryan Garner, an attorney and a very well respected name in the legal writing community.  His lectures are given nationally.  Each lecture was attended by both lawyers and judges, and each was a sell-out!  In a profession which devotes as much time to the written word as the legal profession does, it was surprising for me to see so many lawyers and judges that still strive to improve their writing skills.

In case the message was lost, let me repeat it now:  it’s never too late to learn!  If you have any doubts about your ability to write clearly, now is the time to get started to erase those doubts.

Begin by developing confidence in your writing.  Clear writing depends to a large extent on the power of belief, belief that comes from having confidence in your writing.  When you have that confidence, it will show – the reader can see it. To develop that confidence you must master what I would call the “inner game” of writing, the mental game.  Overcome the mental blocks to clear writing and you will have travelled a measureable distance down the road to becoming an accomplished writer.

The best way to gain confidence in your writing is to work at it.  Dedicate yourself to it.  Dedicated writing – writing with a purpose – not just writing by rote, will work wonders for your writing confidence.  A good golfer may spend hundreds, even thousands of hours working on his swing, his short game, his putting, all of which are integral parts of the game.  Practice your writing continuously.  Refine it as you go.  Study the style and technique of other writers.  The more you read and write, the more your writing will improve, and the more your confidence will grow.

As an integral part of the confidence-building process, you must also learn how to use words effectively.  This rule applies to speaking as well as writing.  It is the orderly and logical presentation of information that listeners can easily understand that makes a speaker interesting.  A good speaker always uses words effectively.  If you can train yourself to speak clearly, you can also learn to write clearly.  The discipline involved in clear thinking and the organization of materials for the presentation of a speech or talk will also apply to any writing project – mastering this discipline will make your writing stand out.  It will mark you as an accomplished writer.  The March Hare’s admonition to Alice, “…you should say what you mean,” applies perforce to writing.

Even more importantly, clear thinking not only fosters clear writing, it fosters creativity, and creativity in turn fosters job creation.  By organizing your mind so you think logically and in an orderly fashion you will also learn to think freely, to look “outside the box” for solutions to problems.  This kind of initiative, this kind of ability, is what the economy sorely needs.

Check out my new website at www.agregardie.com.   It features my new ebook, “The Art of Clear Writing,” now available at Amazon.com/Kindle books, and my article, “Antietam and Gettysburg – Two Pivotal Civil War Battles That Saved the Union,” also available on Kindle.

Copyright © 2012.  Arnold G. Regardie.  All rights reserved.

3 Comments

Filed under clear writing, Writing Improvement

Improve Your Grammar To Make A Living; Help Better The Economy In The Process.

There have been recent reports that the grammar skills of people hired by American businesses are deficient.  There appear to be widespread errors in preparation of company memos, emails, brochures, and letters, as well as  in use of social media such as Facebook, Twitter, and Linkedin for business purposes.  This is an unfortunate situation which may be reaching the epidemic stage, and is a sad reflection on the writing skills of people who have jobs and are in a position to influence others through their writing.  It is particularly disturbing  in situations involving the distribution of marketing and promotional materials where grammar mistakes may well spell loss of business for  a company or loss of important sales to a salesman trying to meet a quota.  Poor grammar will give you away every time.   You must write with clear and effective English to sell your “product” –  which is you!

Is there an easy fix?  Probably not, but there’s a start.  Many people bemoan the fact that they can’t write.   But I strongly believe that if you write well you can do well, and you can write well if you believe that you can.  That’s the bottom line.  Even if  you think that you have no “gift” for writing, deliberate effort will overcome that belief – practice can turn your inability to write well  into a writing skill.

Much of the poor writing extant in today’s world stems from a lack of confidence in a person’s ability to write well.  But confidence can be obtained through dedicated study and practice.  And that effort is definitely worthwhile!   Clear writing will help you make a living, whether you are employed, self-employed, looking for a job, or looking for your niche.

Some say that  the slow economy has tarnished capitalism’s image.  But, I don’t believe this is true at all.   I believe that free enterprise still flourishes and individual initiative  still beckons.  Capitalism was built on entreprenurism and entrepreneurism is fostered by creativity.  Creativity requires clear thinking, and if you can think clearly you will also be able to write clearly.  You can do your part to invigorate the economy by learning to write more clearly.  Learn to think clearly and you will be on your way to the development of clear writing skills, which will bring you a step closer to the ability to solve problems and master concepts, skills you will need to master no matter what field you are in.  Dedicate yourself to the goal of clear writing, which depends on clear thinking.  There is a clear and ongoing need for creative thinking in the global marketplace, and if you can’t write clearly you will not be able to compete.  Creative thinking will serve you well  whether you are in business for yourself or working for another; that skill will give you an edge over others.

You can begin by developing confidence in your writing.  Clear writing is an art form.  It can be attained like any other art form through dedicated and persistent study and practice.  Take your writing seriously.  Avoid a now and then approach.  Read and write regularly.  Read books, magazines, periodicals,  and articles.  Read authors you like to learn new words, style, and  usage.  Write to practice using what you have learned from reading.  The two go hand in glove.  Remember, if you write well you can do well.  That’s the bottom l.ine.

Put yourself in a position where opportunity can see you and you can see opportunity.  Be prepared to take advantage of situations that will develop if you are ready.  The lack of ability to write clearly will hold you back and impact your ability to get hired or, if working, to advance in your job.   You can make a difference in this economy but you have to be ready.

To write clearly, I have learned that two cardinal writing lessons are paramount:  preparation and organization.  Many people who don’t write well ignore these basic precepts.  Well organized writing begins with well thought out preparation.   This means that to reach the ultimate goal of clear writing you must begin with a thoroughly prepared preliminary plan followed by a detailed outline.  To be sure, you must employ sound writing techniques as well, but if the fundamentals are flawed your writng will suffer.

These fundamental writing lessons are covered in detail in my new eBook, “The Art of Clear Writing,” now available on Kindle.  Its goal is to help those who want to write better to do so.

Also available on Kindle is my article, “Antietam and Gettysburg – Two Pivotal Civil War Battles That Saved The Union.”

The next blog will be posted on Friday, August 10, 2012.

Copyright © 2012.  Arnold G. Regardie.  All rights reserved.

Leave a comment

Filed under clear writing, Writing Improvement