Tag Archives: improvement

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:


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.

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Subject Matter Expertise Is Essential For Clear Writing

 Mastery of your subject matter is a basic requirement for clear writing.  Weak writing and resulting reader disinterest will usually result from lack of subject matter preparation.           

A two step process is involved here – acquiring knowledge of the subject, and expressing that knowledge clearly.  But how well you perform the second step depends to a large extent on how well you have accomplished the first.  You can’t write about a subject that you know little or nothing about, whether you are trying to educate the reader, advocate a position, or persuade the reader to your way of thinking.

Following the steps below will go a long way to satisfy your reader that you are knowledgeable about your subject.     

          Research Your Subject Thoroughly

In the first place, if you are writing about a subject you are not familiar with, research it thoroughly.  This is where doing your due diligence really pays off.  Take time to acquire enough background information to satisfy yourself that you can write clearly and with authority about your subject.  This will pay enormous dividends for you.  Otherwise, there is a serious likelihood the reader will simply conclude you don’t know what you’re talking about.

If possible, find someone to review your writing with you.  One of the biggest challenges I faced as an attorney was to read enough cases on the issue being briefed to be able to intelligently answer any later question.  After writing a preliminary draft, I would review it with someone else in the office and then make appropriate revisions.  The litmus test of course was answering questions raised by the judge in court and responding to arguments made by the opposition.  Thorough preparation before going to court was always the key.

As a writer you may not have the “luxury” of responding to questions raised by a judge and by the opposing attorney as a means of testing your preparation.  You must therefore try to anticipate questions the reader may have and then answer them in your writing.


           Use Effective Research Techniques

The creation of great content flows directly from effective research techniques.  These typically include at least the following goals:

          Understanding what you have read.         

          Looking for main ideas and  supporting details.

           Organizing your notes in logical  sequence.

           Avoiding the tiresome task of excessive note taking by summarizing as necessary.

Don’t get lost in the forest of too  many words by extensively rewriting what you have read.

Make optimum use of your time in doing   research.  If you’re under a writing deadline,  consider budgeting your research time to make  sure you do not spend too much time in any one area and run out of time in another.     Otherwise, some part of your writing may  suffer.

         Write With Authority on Your Subject

Once you have researched your subject and know it thoroughly, you must still write about it authoritatively.  But it is useless to try to say anything unless you have something worthwhile to say.  Robert W. Bly, a well respected and successful copywriter sums it up aptly:  “[You] must have something to write about.”   (See:  How To Write And Sell Simple Information For Fun and Profit, Robert W. Bly, p.29, Linden Publishing, 2010).  Bly’s talking about the content of your writing, i.e., to write well you need great content in your writing.

While Bly is absolutely right, there’s a fine line to be drawn between what he describes as the acquisition of information, knowledge, and wisdom – a three tiered hierarchy with wisdom at the top.  That’s one approach.  Another is to combine all three levels and just call it expertise.  But the point is, you really can’t write with conviction on any subject unless you’re an expert on it.  However you may describe the content of your writing, whether based on information, knowledge, wisdom, or expertise, your writing will suffer significantly if the reader doesn’t see it.  Following the guidelines and techniques in my book, The Art of Clear Writing, available at amazon.com/kindlebooks and in print at CreateSpace.com, should go a long way toward improving your ability to express yourself with authority.

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



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

Kudos For Clint.

By now many people have seen Clint Eastwood’s video ad about “halftime” for America.  His video hits the nail on the head.  It is indeed time for America to get moving in the “second half.”

And you can do your part.

You can help the comeback, particularly if you’re out of work, stymied in your present job, or just in a rut.  One way you can help is to improve your writing skills.  If you’re one of those who lament that “I can’t write,” learn to harness the power of the written word.  Even if writing is not your strong suit, you can still learn and significantly improve your writing ability.

Language is more important in today’s world than ever before.  If you can’t communicate well you face an uphill battle to get ahead.  You can prepare yourself to be part of America’s second half by learning to write clearly.  Be ready to take advantage of job opportunities or for job advancement.  The written word can help you – learn to use it.  Remember:  good writing sells itself, and you.

Finally, bear in mind the impact that good writing can have.  Even as far back as early 1776, Thomas Paine’s little pamphlet, Common Sense, which argued for independence of the American colonies from the British Crown because it made good sense to do so, had a wide ranging impact on the colonists.  It became a runaway best seller with over 100,000 copies in circulation, and played no small part in the emotional run-up to the American Revolution.

There is no time like the present to improve your writing skills.  Establish yourself as a good writer and be better prepared to take advantage of all  opportunities.

Copyright 2012 Arnold G. Regardie.  All rights reserved.

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