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Author Topic: Improving Your Writing  (Read 2183 times)

Offline Tamashii

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Improving Your Writing
« on: September 29, 2005, 02:04:44 PM »
This is a general guide for the reviewers. It's open to critique, of course, so feel free to bash it and stuff!

(Most of these ideas are based on George Orwell's essay Politics and the English Language; if you manage to find it in a library or on the internet, READ IT!)

Excessive words
Have you ever read a sentence or paragraph and just said, "What?" Maybe because it was confusing, maybe because it was stupid, or maybe, it's just terribly worded. Reviewers, as with all writers, tend to write very jargon sentences that could be refined to just several words. For example, "He was, if you think about it quite rationally and if you can take it into consideration, a good, in a sense, person, that is, a man of strong will and courage." Why don't you just say: "He was a good person." Nice and clean. Brief, simple (but not overly simple), to the point. "But the voice-acting, in a word, sucked." No. "The voice acting sucked." Good.

How can I notice if something is too wordy?
It's very easy: proof-read. I guarantee you that a large percentage of writers who do not write creatively, write without proof-reading. You must go through your writing at least twice if you want to have constructive editting. Another strategy is to get someone to read it for you. That doesn't mean though that you can just submit crap and force me to fix it up for you. This is somewhat of a learning process: if you're reviewing blindly and have no will to improve, then you shouldn't review at all.

It's easy to realize whether or not your sentence is too wordy: too many commas and forced pauses, clumsy words such as adverbs, and "jargon" words a.k.a. words that make no real sense in your sentence's context. Jargon words can be created through the use of a thesaurus. When you feel that "good" is not a good enough word, you'll find yourself reaching for a thesaurus and dropping crap like "Recherche" and "Sterling", words that stray away from what you really mean in your sentence. Look at this: "Good food!" Now how about this: "Recherche pabulum!" You get it? Don't use a thesaurus. Ever.

Dead Metaphors
This one is a pet peeve of mine. Ring the changes on, toe the line, stand shoulder to shoulder with, play into the hands of, fishing in troubled waters...Just stop it! When you make a metaphor, you have to think of two things: 1. Have I heard this metaphor somewhere before? Never try to replicate a metaphor that you have read or heard before. 2. Does this metaphor depict a strong sensory image? These dead metaphors show that the writer is not interested in what he/she's saying and opts to, out of nowhere, generate a generic metaphor that most people would just skip their eyes over. Honestly ask yourself: Does a phrase like "Stand shoulder to shoulder" depict any real sensory image? How many times have you heard such a deadbeat phrase? Now think about it: Is your writing going to sound better because you want to incorporate lame, overused metaphors? Or will it sound better if you create new, refreshing metaphors? This also applies to things like cliches ("I can eat a cow!", "You reap what you sow", etc). The overall message is: think, depict, and don't reuse the crap that you hear everyday.

Here are the six rules that Orwell provides in his essay:
1. Never use a metaphor, simile or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
2. Never use a long word where a short one will do.
3. If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out. (Important when proof reading!)
4. Never use the passive voice when you can use the active.
5. Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
6. Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.

Offline Tyrdium

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Improving Your Writing
« Reply #1 on: September 29, 2005, 02:09:10 PM »
Quote from: Tamashii
(Most of these ideas are based on George Orwell's essay Politics and the English Language; if you manage to find it in a library or on the internet, READ IT!)
YES.

I just read this a few weeks ago for my freshman writing seminar. Go read it. Now. Here's a copy.
[ LJ | ASIP | Home ]

Offline Tamashii

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Improving Your Writing
« Reply #2 on: September 29, 2005, 04:26:23 PM »
Thank you. I had a feeling that at least someone smart had read it before.

Kudos.
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