Writing is a series of Choices

Writing is a series of choices. As you work on your manuscript you choose your subject, your approach, and your sources. Then when it is time to write you choose the words that will express your ideas and decide how you will arrange those words into sentences and paragraphs. As you make revisions you make more choices. You might ask yourself, “Is this really what I mean?” or “Will readers understand this?” or “Does this sound good?” Finding words that capture your meaning and convey that meaning to your readers is challenging. When editors write things like “awkward,” or “wordy” on your document, they are letting you know that they want you to work on word choice. Keep in mind that it can sometimes take more time to “save” words from your original sentence than to write a brand new one to convey the same meaning or idea. Don’t be too attached to what you’ve already written. If you start a new sentence you may be able to choose words with greater clarity.

Sometimes the problem isn’t choosing exactly the right word to express an idea. It is the usage of the words or being “wordy”. Also, using words that are “extra” or inefficient can be the problem. Take a look at these:

1. “I came to the realization that…” why not say, “I realized that…”
2. “She is of the opinion that…” why not say, “She thinks that….”
3. “Regardless of the fact that…” simplify to, “Although…”

Be careful when using words you are unfamiliar with. Look at how they are used in context and check their dictionary definitions. Be careful when using the thesaurus. Each word may have its own unique connotation or shades of meaning. Use a dictionary to be sure the synonym you are considering really fits what you are trying to say.

Don’t try to make your work sound impressive or authoritative. In the end, you will come off as pompous and will lose your reader to boredom. Take a look at these two sentences and decide which one you would rather read.

1. Under the present conditions of our society, marriage practices generally demonstrate a high degree of homogeneity.
2. In our culture, people tend to marry others who are like themselves.

Whenever we write we make choices. Some are less obvious than others so that it can often feel like we’ve written the sentences the only way we know-how. Read your paper out loud and at a slow pace. You can do this alone or with a friend. When reading out loud, your written words should make sense to both you and other listeners. If a sentence seems confusing, rewrite it to make the meaning clear.


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7 Great Websites for Writers

Here is a reprint of an article I thought people might find useful.  Some of the entries are obvious, but a couple were new to me a thought it was worth a reprint.  It was orginally published on http://www.dailywritingtips.com/ 

7 Great Websites for Writers

by Mark Nichol

From usual suspects to obscure gems, from grammar guides to usage resources, here are some websites of great value to writers:

1. Amazon.com 

You may have heard of this website — a good place, I understand, to find books (or anything else manufactured). But what I appreciate even more is the “Search inside this book” link under the image of the book cover on most pages in the Books section. No longer does one need to own a book or go to a bookstore or a library to thumb through it in search of that name or bon mot or expression you can’t quite remember. And even if you do have access to the book in question, it’s easier to search online (assuming you have a keyword in mind that’s proximal in location or locution to your evasive prey) than to try to remember on what part of what page in what part of the book you remember seeing something last week or last month or years ago. And then, of course, there are the site’s “Frequently Bought Together” and “Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought” features — but the book search can be a writer’s salvation.

2. Banned for Life 

Newspaper editor Tom Mangan’s site lists reader contributions of clichés and redundancies.

3. The Chicago Manual of Style Online

My review on this site of The Chicago Manual of Style notes that buying the bulky book, despite its abundance of useful information, is overkill for writers (but not editors), but editorial professionals of all kinds will benefit from the CMOS website’s Style Q&A feature, which responds authoritatively, sensibly, and often humorously to visitors’ queries.

4. GrammarBook.com 

The late Jane Straus, author of The Blue Book on Grammar and Punctuation, created this site to promote her book, but it also features many simple grammar lessons (with quizzes), as well as video lessons, an e-newsletter, and blog entries that discuss various grammar topics.

5. The Phrase Finder 

A useful key to proverbs, phrases from the Bible and Shakespeare, nautical expressions, and American idiom (the site originates in the United Kingdom), plus a feature called “Famous Last Words” and, for about $50 a year, subscription to a phrase thesaurus. (Subscribers include many well-known media companies and other businesses as well as universities.)

6. The Vocabula Review 

The Principal Web Destination for Anyone Interested in Words and Language

Essays about language and usage; $25 per year by email, $35 for the print version.

7. The Word Detective 

Words and Language in a Humorous Vein on the Web Since 1995

This online version of Evan Morris’s newspaper column of the same name (some were also published in the book The Word Detective) features humorous Q&A entries about word origins.



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