How To Develop Your Writing - Developing Your Voice As A Writer

There are certain basics of which every writer should be aware. Poor spelling, bad grammar, improper punctuation, and a slipshod or sloppy presentation can derail any well thought out article. It stands to reason that improving these building blocks of writing will improve the overall quality of your product.

In the field of online writing where so many of us are concerned with earning a living as well as writing for pleasure, it can be difficult to balance the demands of SEO, Search Engine Optimization, with delving into topics we find interesting. It is tempting to consider quantity over quality, as, sooner or later, you will garner the traffic. The problem with that approach, though, is that you will receive little repeat traffic, and can become trapped in the necessity of churning out more and more articles to keep traffic coming in.

Traditional writing tools - www.mrlproductions.net
Traditional writing tools - www.mrlproductions.net

Why We Write

Most of us write out of what is referred to as "a felt need". This is an academic term used in the analysis of why a writer, or any artist, feels drawn to create. Simply put, it means that we feel a need to communicate. Some use learnèd prose laced with clever humor to sway us to their viewpoint, some make us weep with their verses, some add a melody to their lyrics and move us with their songs...but all of us put words together to express that need.

Whether it's a particular topic that piques our interest; a desire to pass on knowledge; to explain, inform, or set the record straight; or the need to express some deeper pain or joy - wherever it come from - it is manifest the same way in all writers. We write.

What we choose to write about - what resonates with us - is as much a part of our unique style of communicating as the way in which we express those feelings. Our writing style may vary or be modified to better suit the topic we are exploring, but it will still retain the essential flavor of how we seek to express ourselves. Some refer to that combination of content and communication style (our personal, writing style) as our voice.

The Basics

"Finding your voice" as a writer can be a long road that finally leads to that magical combination of grace and hard work - the perfect story in the hands of the perfect story teller. How we reach that magical state is different for each writer, but there are some steps we all can take to facilitate the journey.


Spelling

Regardless of the language you use when writing, correct spelling will go a long way to adding credibility to anything you have to say. Similarly, poor spelling will detract from your overall presentation and believability.

Using a good SpellCheck program will help the situation considerably, and using the SpellChecker that is part of the Hub Pages program is highly recommended. Those little red lines that appear under some words are there for a reason - the word has been misspelled.

I see them a lot - not because I can't spell, but because I am not a very accurate typist. I then dutifully right-click on the underlined word and a menu pops up with several selections from which I can choose the correctly spelled entry. The real trick lies in knowing which is the correct one.

I work with a dictionary and a thesaurus on my desk, but these reference books can also be accessed in any decent word processing program, by right-clicking on the word and selecting "Look Up", or its equivalent value from the menu. If you work in Note Pad, or something like it, I would highly recommend either purchasing the books in hard copy or becoming familiar with the online dictionary sites.


Proofreading

Careful spelling checks will catch most mistakes, but not all. Common typos, though, such as typing "fro" instead of "for", or "form" in place of "from" are errors that the SpellCheck program will ignore. They are correctly spelled words, just not the ones you wanted to use.

Careful proofreading is required to ferret out such slips. Try reading the sections of your article out of order, rather than from beginning to end. Better yet, start with the last section and work your way back to the first.

It is often useful to have someone else cast fresh eyes over your work. If you have a friend or colleague who is willing to help out, they can provide an invaluable service.

Punctuation and Grammar

Though not fun subjects in school, these are still useful to master. Using punctuation and grammar correctly can mean the difference between appearing credible, and having your message weakened, or worse, discounted by incorrect punctuation and poor grammar.

If you are writing dialogue, here are a few general guidelines:

  • each new speaker begins a new paragraph
  • enclose the speaker's words in double quotation marks
  • the punctuation that belongs to the speakers words stays inside the quotation marks, otherwise it belongs at the end of the sentence

For example:

"I wish I had never met you," she cried, her eyes filling with tears.

The first comma is used to denote the end of the speakers words, the next to separate a modifying clause, while the period ends the complete sentence.

You can add emphasis to the speaker's words by using an exclamation mark:

"I wish I had never met you!" she cried, her eyes filling with tears.

The exclamation mark, used for emphasis, comes at the end of the speaker's words and appears inside the quotation marks, but the sentence is not ended there. The phrase "she cried, her eyes filling with tears" completes the sentence and is correctly punctuated with a period.

A general rule of thumb is that the punctuation belongs to the words it is affecting - an exclamation mark for emphasis, a question mark to denote a query. The speaker's words are being emphasized, so the exclamation mark belong inside the quotation marks, next to the words it affects.

Those are two fairly basic examples of using quotation marks. There are many rules governing correct usage, and if you are going to write dialogue, you need to acquire a good manual.

The same applies to grammar. The English language can be an extremely difficult one to master, whether by a native speaker or by one who speaks it as their second or even third language. Unfortunately, poor grammar can make the message of either appear confused or weak.

If we attend to the basics to improve the vehicle of our communication, that is, to improve our writing skills, then whatever we write will be greatly improved, whether fiction, non-fiction, poetry, songs, short stories, novels, or "How-To" articles for the online market. We will be able to convey our message with precision and clarity - to move, to enlighten, to inform, to persuade, or just to give our readers a good chuckle.

It's comfortable to write about things we know. It can be easy to let your familiarity with the material, and your feelings about it, color your perceptions of how well you are conveying that to your readers. The emotion sometimes gets in the way of the message. In poetry and song, where the emotion is often the message, it is even more necessary to be able to communicate the feelings clearly.

Find topics that will stretch your abilities. Learning to write about things with which you're not familiar will force you to stretch yourself, and hone your communications skills. The choice of material, whatever calls you to write about it, will come naturally and become clearer as you continue to grow as a writer.

If you want to become a writer, you must first of all write. If you want to become a good writer, you must learn to write well...but if you want to become a great writer, you must truly master your craft. Only then will that ineffable combination of grace and endeavor come to be - the perfect story, perfectly told by the perfect storyteller.

Happy Writing!

Mont Blanc fountain pen from hattonsantiques.co.uk
Mont Blanc fountain pen from hattonsantiques.co.uk

...and did I say "Never give up"? Well, I should have - here's an example of someone who hasn't:

"Just wanted to share this with everyone to let you know that dreams do come true (eventually, perhaps, but some "Loving Abundance" is starting to happen) Enelle Lamb has been writing about ADHD/ODD on Hub Pages and other sites for some time.

Her self-help book "One Step Forward Two Steps Back - Living with ADHD/ODD, a Mother's perspective" was published on Amazon in 2009.

While checking out one of her hubs, I noticed that the Amazon capsule featured her book - first on the list!

Is that AWESOME or what?!?!
"

Screen shot of Enelle's book in the Amazon capsule - on her own hub!
Screen shot of Enelle's book in the Amazon capsule - on her own hub!

© 2010 RedElf

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56 comments

Papa Sez profile image

Papa Sez 6 years ago from The Philippines to Canada

Perfect! What more can I say, but thanks RedElf for these reminders on writing and how to do it well. Now all I need to do it practice, practice, practice...or should I say write, write, write!


RedElf profile image

RedElf 6 years ago from Canada Author

Wow! You are quick tonight, PS! Thanks so much - I'm glad you like the article. It kept me writing, writing, writing for a while ;)


Hello, hello, profile image

Hello, hello, 6 years ago from London, UK

Thank you, RedElf, for a very useful and explicit hub. English is my second language and I do wobble a lot. If you could do some more because you writing is so clear and basic. Thank you again.


RedElf profile image

RedElf 6 years ago from Canada Author

Greetings, Hh. You are most welcome, glad to help out any way I can!


William F. Torpey profile image

William F. Torpey 6 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y.

An excellent piece, RedElf. While writing is fun, it is also a lot of work if one hopes to do it well. It's important, in my opinion, to be sure that the words we use to make our points are precise. Personally, I often consult a thesaurus and/or a dictionary to be certain I choose the exact word that correctly states the meaning I hope to convey. Thanks for the good advice.


2uesday profile image

2uesday 6 years ago from - on the web, I am 2uesday.

I have bookmarked this and voted with the green button as it is useful to have something like this to return to read when one wants to do a self check on 'am I improving and developing my writing abilities?' Thank you RedElf.


hypnodude profile image

hypnodude 6 years ago from Italy

Another great hub RedElf. I usually apply most of them, well, when writing in Italian :)

And I agree, the hubpages spell check is priceless, I just hope one day there will be a grammar check too. :)

Thumb up.


trish1048 profile image

trish1048 6 years ago

Hi RedElf,

Great tips! These serve as good reminders. The majority of my writing is about personal experiences, along with a few recipes here and there. I have always enjoyed writing and am glad to have been led to this site by my dear friend.

Thanks for sharing.


h2oforthegaslit profile image

h2oforthegaslit 6 years ago from Birmingham, Alabama

Grate infromation, herr, Elf, an pot togethr verry wull!!


Springboard profile image

Springboard 6 years ago from Wisconsin

I enjoy your emphasis on the quality of the written word in and around the idea of making money with it, because I see far too MUCH emphasis on the other things like SEO, and traffic, and keyword usage. I just think that in all, the writing still has to be there if you want to build readers, not just traffic. And IMO, readers where it's at. They come back. Traffic just passes through.


Laura du Toit profile image

Laura du Toit 6 years ago from South Africa

Thanks for a great Hub. We all strive to be good writers. Not all of us have the talent to be considered excellent writers but the very least we all should do is make sure our hubs are grammatically correct. They may still be boring but at least they will be considered presentable.


nadiaazhar profile image

nadiaazhar 6 years ago from kuwait

hey redElf thanks for the tips and advice on writing,and i love the picture of Mont Blanc pen,it reminds me that i need to get one so desperately:)

best regards,nadia


RedElf profile image

RedElf 6 years ago from Canada Author

Thanks, William. Sounds like you are really serious about your work, too. :)

You are most welcome, 2uesday! I'm so glad you find this a useful article!

Thanks, dude! A grammar check would be amazing, but the program would have to be part mind-reader, I think ;)

Thanks so much, trish! This is a great place to be if you truly enjoy writing!

Moast wilcomb, h2oforthegaslit! Thnaks fro hte chukl. Gud won!

Thanks, Springboard. I have very few purely commercial hubs, and even those I try to infuse with at least a bit of character. I much prefer that happy combination ;)


RedElf profile image

RedElf 6 years ago from Canada Author

Too true, Laura. It really makes such a difference to the credibility of the article if it is well-presented with proper grammar, punctuation, and spelling.

Most welcome, nadia. They are gorgeous writing tools, aren't they? Thanks so much for commenting!


Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 6 years ago from Lawrence KS USA

I was always taught the writing well will help in the business world because so few can do it.

Whenever someone asks me to help with their writing, grammar, punctuation, etc., I always advise a writer to know the difference between there, they're, and their. How often do you see someone use these words randomly? You almost never see "they're" in online writing.

In college, my English 101 professor told me it's = it is and nothing else. I asserted that "it's" can also be a singular possessive for the word it, as in "don't take it's food away." I still don't know who was right. Well, sorry, I guess I'm babbling now.

Thanks for this, RedElf. Grammar and punctuation are becoming a lost art in the world of Twitter and text messages.


RedElf profile image

RedElf 6 years ago from Canada Author

Great advice from you too, Mike - I don't think texting has helped anyone's spelling!

I think those three words you mentioned are among the most often mangled. "They're" followed closely by the misused "apostrophe s" combinations - most often misused used when forming a plural. You see it a lot especially on signs and billboards.

Sorry to tell you but your prof is correct "it's" is a contraction of "it is". I checked out several manuals and they all cited the possessive form of "it" as "its", and then they all uniformly droned on about it being a word like "his" or "hers" or "theirs" which also don't use an apostrophe for the possessive form.

:( Oh, well! ;)


Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 6 years ago from Lawrence KS USA

RedElf, despite my protests, I have never since used "it's" as anything except a contraction for "it is". While it sounded right and I was willing to debate the issue as an 18 year old, a little voice kept telling me, "Mike, you're wrong."

"You're" and "your" are also butchered frequently.

Well, thanks again. I enjoyed reading this so much, I had to come back.

Mike


dohn121 profile image

dohn121 6 years ago from Hudson Valley, New York

This is a great hub that's chock-full of great advice, RedElf. I really liked the links that you provided. If you don't mind, I'd like to link this to my,"How to Write a Novel and Find the Voice Within." I'd also recommend doing a ton of reading too, especially in the same genre of the story the writer in question plans to write.


RedElf profile image

RedElf 6 years ago from Canada Author

Hey, Mike - welcome back! U R so right about those two as well! I am so pleased you came back, by the way. Glad you enjoyed the hub.

Thanks, dohn. I would be thrilled for you to link to your hub. You are so right about the reading, too.


kartika damon profile image

kartika damon 6 years ago from Fairfield, Iowa

Hi RedElf, you really practice what you preach here - your articles are always well written and you have a clear and distinctive voice! (:


RedElf profile image

RedElf 6 years ago from Canada Author

Thanks so much, kartika! That's so nice of you to say so! I must admit the odd typo escapes my vigilance at times ;)


Enelle Lamb profile image

Enelle Lamb 6 years ago from Canada's 'California'

Well done! Another excellent hub chock full of very useful tips to improve our skills. I admit to being caught by the 'its' 'it's' contractions as well! Thanks for the explanation :D


William F. Torpey profile image

William F. Torpey 6 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y.

Odd typos have a mind of their own.


RedElf profile image

RedElf 6 years ago from Canada Author

Nice to see you again, Enelle. Glad to help, btw. I have trouble with doubling the "c"s and "m"s in some words (recommend, for one) ;)

They sure do, William! I just seem to keep tripping over them, too.


DynamicS profile image

DynamicS 6 years ago from Toronto, Canada

Wow! Now that is a useful post. Thanks RedElf for such informative and pratical post. As a fairly new writer, and a not so good typist, I constantly struggle with typos or spelling mistakes. I am getting better, so it is true, practise make perfect, if not better.

Thanks for sharing these useful tips.


RedElf profile image

RedElf 6 years ago from Canada Author

Greetings, DynamicS! Nice to meet you! You are so right about the practice aspect. Keep writing!


lorlie6 profile image

lorlie6 6 years ago from Bishop, Ca

Fabulous article! Good spelling does give credibility to one's writing, and proofreading can be invaluable. Good to know you!


RedElf profile image

RedElf 6 years ago from Canada Author

Thanks so much, lorlie! So nice of you to comment! I am pleased to know you, too1


Paradise7 profile image

Paradise7 6 years ago from Upstate New York

Well said, Elf! Thank you.


RedElf profile image

RedElf 6 years ago from Canada Author

Most welcome, Paradise7! Thank you for commenting.


HubCrafter profile image

HubCrafter 6 years ago from Arizona

Hi RedElf:

What a wonderful lesson... well written.

What...a buncha "w's". sorry, mah bad.

So. You're frozen in paradise?

I know what you mean. I actually had to wear long pants today. Brrr.

I had a brisk bike ride today. I waited til midafternoon and when the thermometer hit 64...I was off like a herd of turtles.

There!

Now you've been thoroughly teased. It must be time for a nap. (I take lessons from my cat.)

Thanks for dropping by my Hubstead earlier. I may have emailed you or deleted my contact list. I'm hoping for the best.

HubCrafter


RedElf profile image

RedElf 6 years ago from Canada Author

Greetings, Hub! Most welcome... :D :D :D

Too funny!

Cats are great teachers, aren't they!


HubCrafter profile image

HubCrafter 6 years ago from Arizona

I love a good cat.

Mine has never been outside.

The thought of little icicle furballs hanging off him (sob) I can't look, man.

So. We live in Arizona. And the iceballs..are just this phobia thing. It's not a real problem. Cuz.... ....

So, ya got a sister. She cooks, maybe? Lives close? She a hubber or a helper?

Ach. LOOK at the time. I should make a meal. Somebody should be happy. Am I right?

So. I'll see you, yes? good.

HubCrafter


RedElf profile image

RedElf 6 years ago from Canada Author

Hub, I would have to say your voice is quite well-developed! Nice to see you again! They both cook, by the way - both write, neither lives close to me - or was that close to you? LOL Happy Days!


theblackedition profile image

theblackedition 6 years ago from Jamaica

Thanks for this great hub RedElf! English can be such a tough language because of many exceptions for grammar and spelling.


RedElf profile image

RedElf 6 years ago from Canada Author

Most welcome, theblackedition. You are so right about that - some days it feels as if there are more exceptions than rules ;)


dragonbear profile image

dragonbear 6 years ago from Essex UK

This was a delight to read; thanks for making a great and encouraging hub.


RedElf profile image

RedElf 6 years ago from Canada Author

Thank you, dragonbear, for your comments!


DominatingDame 6 years ago

Thanks for sharing. I love your Firefox theme. Very sleek and sexy and pretty... Do you happen to remember the name of it? I want one. :)


RedElf profile image

RedElf 6 years ago from Canada Author

I'll check on that for you! Thanks for stopping by to comment.

Found it - it's called "Another Pretty Flower"

Enjoy!


Sandyksk profile image

Sandyksk 5 years ago from Sanger

I used to never read my writing...but since writing online, I find that I can usually write it better, once I've re-read it. So I try to read it at least 3 times...minimum. It helps with spelling, grammar, and over-all readability. Thanks for another ~useful~ hub~vice. :)


RedElf profile image

RedElf 5 years ago from Canada Author

Sandyksk, you are most welcome - and that is a great start. I find it also helps to have someone else look at your work, as well.


munirahmadmughal profile image

munirahmadmughal 5 years ago from Lahore, Pakistan.

"How to Develop Your Writing" is a very useful and practical hub that adds to knowledge and creates courage and skill in the reader to improve his writings.

What I would like to add is that developmwent in anything must be meaningful and on this earth such meaningfulness comes when the thing produced even by way of writing causes welfare of mankind. At the back of all welfare is truthfulness, purity, and sincerity. "Keep to the left" is a writing to save the humanity on the road from possible accidents. "Dont pluck the flowers" is a writing to maintain the beauty of garden and to share others in it. "Make a queu" is a writing to repect for the turn of others. Writing in any form, prose or poetry have their value and it is the human beihind it that makes it noble or wicked. Hence, before holding a pen to write all other human faculties must be held properly as an expression is by a responsible figure on the earth who is accountable for his or her words. Integrity and transparency jointly prove honesty.

Copying, quoting, translating others writings are to support one's own expression while twisting, concealing, plagarise are dishonest behaviours not befitting a writer. No one claim perfection, yet their have been genius on all sides. It is the hardwork that is available to all to go higher and higher. Writing and Voice separately as well as jointly work heavens and are great favour of the Creator on mankind. The whole grace and activity is the outcome of them. If history is defined as the true record of the past events then firstly those were expressed and then recorded.

May God Almighty bless us all.


RedElf profile image

RedElf 5 years ago from Canada Author

You raise some good points, friend munirahmadmughal - thanks for commenting.


April Deonna profile image

April Deonna 5 years ago

Great post!


RedElf profile image

RedElf 5 years ago from Canada Author

Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting, April!


Ruby H Rose profile image

Ruby H Rose 5 years ago from Northwest Washington on an Island

Thanks for all the pointers, doing the "work" of good writing is something I have never liked to do, thanks for the cheers to keep going and learning.


RedElf profile image

RedElf 5 years ago from Canada Author

It's certainly no fun to plug away at the basics, but it is very rewarding in the long run. Nice to meet you Ruby! Belated welcome to HubPages!


Craan profile image

Craan 5 years ago from Florida

Thank you Redlf! I appreciate your writing pointers and will be taking them to heart.


RedElf profile image

RedElf 5 years ago from Canada Author

Thanks so much, Craan. Glad you found something useful here!


laidbacklady profile image

laidbacklady 5 years ago from Plumsted Township, NJ

Wow! Thanks RedElf! I have read many blogs and articles about writing these past weeks, and you make them sound like they are all amateurs. How great are you!? I gave you a green button, a useful and an awesome. I will also share you on FB. Thanks again!


RedElf profile image

RedElf 5 years ago from Canada Author

Thanks so much, laidbacklady! You are most welcome, and thanks so much for stopping by and commenting!


ocoonocoon profile image

ocoonocoon 5 years ago

RedElf, you are write that the basics are important in writing: spelling, proper punctuation. i guess if you pay attention to these little things it means you are giving your writing the correct intensity of focus, which should mean your writing should improve as a whole.

Alas, there are so many other things one must do to take one's writing to the next level, though! It is a constant challenge.


RedElf profile image

RedElf 5 years ago from Canada Author

It certainly is challenging, ocoonocoon, but a great outcome certainly make the effort worthwhile. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.


creativegenius profile image

creativegenius 3 years ago from United States

Many aspiring writers also need to learn not to model writing styles of best-selling authors, but to develop their own style. Thank you for your wonderful advice.


RedElf profile image

RedElf 3 years ago from Canada Author

Thanks so much, creative genius - finding your distinctive voice can be hard work, but always well worth the effort.

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