When you read your story, does it sound off, maybe you can’t quite put your finger on it, but you know you’ve done something wrong? Sometimes–maybe even lots of times–there are simple fixes. These writer’s tips will come at you once a week, giving you plenty of time to go through your story and make the adjustments.
These are from Strunk and White’s classic, Elements of Style. In their little 105-page book–still considered the gold standard in writing rules–they include what they call ‘reminders’. These are tips essential to good writing, easy to follow, but sometimes forgotten in the flush of prose. Here they are:
- Place yourself in the background
- Write in a way that comes naturally
- Work from a suitable design
- Write with nouns and verbs
- Revise and rewrite
- Do not overwrite
- Do not overstate
- Avoid the use of qualifiers
- Do not affect a breezy manner
- Use orthodox spelling
- Do not explain too much
- Do not construct awkward adverbs
- Make sure the reader knows who is speaking
- Avoid fancy words
- Do not use dialect unless your ear is good
- Be clear
- Do not inject opinion
- Use figures of speech sparingly
- Do not take shortcuts at the cost of clarity
- Avoid foreign languages
- Prefer the standard to the offbeat
I confess, I use #17 and #18 too often, and have a large section in my first thriller that tramples all over #20. How about you?
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Jacqui Murray is the editor of a technology curriculum for K-fifth grade and creator of two technology training books for middle school. She is the author of Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy midshipman. She is webmaster for five blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, a columnist for Examiner.com, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, IMS tech expert, and a weekly contributor to Write Anything and Technology in Education. Currently, she’s working on a techno-thriller that should be ready this summer. Contact Jacqui at her writing office or her tech lab, Ask a Tech Teacher.