Help & Advice on Writing for Non-Native English Speakers & Those New Article Writing Alike
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Who Am I, And What I Know
This Article was inspired when I was helping out by hub hopping and came across an article that contained great info but has formatting issues. I posted a comment to help the author out and the next day I woke up to an email that was asking for help and advice. Since I do not have permission to reveal the name of said person I will keep that identity anonymous. But what I want to do is focus my attention on helping this person and any other who may have the same challenges that he/she is facing and a few others I think I may be able to help with.
But first about me a little. I am not a natural writer. I had to learn my skills and I am still learning. I face the challenges of dyslexia and dysgraphia every time I write, which is frustrating. Essentially what these are is communication blocks that make it hard for me to translate my ideas into written words. I have, however, managed through long practice to overcome most if not all of my limitations and have since written millions of words for work, pleasure and scholastic pursuits. Despite this I still have to keep on top of my spelling, grammar and leaving out words.
Now that you have a view of me, I would like to focus on the issue that inspired this article.
Ben Stein's performance in the movie Ferris Bueller's Day-off is a perfect example of the wrong type of voice. Interestingly, he actually is a highly talented s
Tip One: Find Your Voice
Have you ever read a book or article that put you to sleep? How about one that kept you interested? One of the things that puts you to sleep or keeps you on the edge of your seat is the author's voice. Watch the video I post to the right of Ben Stein's performance of in the movie Ferris Bueller's Day-off. Once you have done that, come back and read more please.
Okay, now you see a verbal voice that obviously is not effective. The student's are bored. Do you think they would choose to be in that class on their own? Not likely. Well, the thing about articles is that your viewers have a choice. If they don't like your voice they are one click away from going somewhere else. This is why your writing voice is so key.
+ Write How You Speak
When you are speaking to someone, what do you do? What do you say? How do you say it? Do you use flowery language or do you politely get to the point? This is one of the hardest things for new writers and non-native English speakers are challenged with. The best way to test your work to see if it sound natural is to have someone else read out loud to you. The best authors and screen play writers do this all the time. If you don't have someone who can do that for you then you should read aloud yourself. If possible record your voice, if not, just listen to how natural that feels. Self editing is NOT EASY but it is possible. Honestly, I depend on my wife for editing of some things, while at other times I have to self edit.
+ A Tip for Self Editing
I already mentioned reading out loud, but another thing that helps is reading your article/paper backwards. How you do this is start at the bottom of a given paragraph and read each sentence on its own. This makes it easier to spot errors. Part of your voice is effected by spelling and grammar.
Below is an example of writing naturally. Please read this and consider how you would say such a request out loud.
An Example of Voice Do's & Don'ts
I am going to use the email that was sent to me as an example but I have removed personal details. After showing the article I will re-write it to my natural voice. Keep in my each voice is different.
The Letter Version 1:
Good Evening and Nice to Meet you.
This is Freddy [Name Changed] from India. I seen your various hubs and your accolades which are displaying on your profile. Now I would like to ask you one question. Could you please clarify the same.
How to write articles on some topic that which attracts visitors. I had written upto 40 [Number Changed] hubs till now. But I didn't get the result what I am expecting.
How would you get the idea to write on some topic to attract visitors. How to select that topic on particular state of time?
Please help in this issue. As you are very senior on writing hubs and getting visitors to your hubs.
Please please help me.*
Will be looking for y our valuable reply.
Thanks & Regards,
The Letter Version 2:
Hi, how are you doing? This is Freddy from India. I saw your hubs and read your comment on my hub and I was hoping you could help me with a few questions.
I have written over 40 hubs and yet I have a hard time with attracting visitors. How do you select topics to write about? What am I doing wrong? Since you are very senior on hub writing I hope your advice can help me.
Please, please help me.*
I look forward to hearing back form you.
* Please note that the most natural voice in this letter is where the author is asking for help most clearly. This is how he or she would ask in real life. This is great and why I only added a comma to that repentance.
Tip Two: Choosing the Right Topic
This is the hardest part of article writing. Some writers choose one topic like cooking or politics and write only about that. Others like myself are schizophrenia and write about whatever is on their minds at the moment. To be honest, the topics that have generated the most views have surprised me while others I thought would generate a lot of traffic didn't. The key is making all of that content interesting from the start. If you loose the reader before you get to the point you lost the battle before it really has begun.
+ Find Your Audience & Write to It
Who are you writing to? Are you focusing on people in India, the USA, the UK? Do you want to communicate to American or English sports fans? Are you trying to get the attention of Indian teachers or doctors? Is the demographic you are writing to even on the internet? Writing to new born children or the very elderly would be some example of who not to direct your writing to. On the other hand, consider writing to new parents or the elderly person't children and grandchildren. These are just examples mind you, but effective none the less.
+ Personal Knowledge Helps
Write what you know about! Seriously! Sure you can learn about anything quickly, especially with the internet now, but if you have personal knowledge about the subject you are 3 moves ahead. If you want to write about something that you are not as knowledgeable about seek advice or at the very least reference knowledgeable sources in your article to back you up.
+ Ask the Right Questions
Who? What? When? Where? Why? These are key questions in deciding what you should write about. For example, I wrote about AT&T Phone Replacement. Who was I writing to? Those people who have had their phone lost, stolen or broken. What am I writing about? Replacement phone options for AT&T customers. Why am I writing it? Because they need a new phone without spending an arm and a leg. Where can they find this information and/or the new phone? My article holds the information and I tell them were to look for the phone. When is this information useful? Right now. The information is current and useful to that group of people.
Tip Three: Don't Start the Conversation in the Middle
Have you ever started talking to someone and it seemed like you missed the first part of the conversation? Frustrating isn't it? The same issue happens with article writing. You need and introduction. Something that gets the read drawn in. This is also called the hook. My hook for this article was first the title of the hub and second my explanation of why am writing it. Not the most effective hook I have ever written, but focused to those who want to read it. The point is that you as the reader understand WHY I am writing this as well as HOW this helps you by reading it.
Writing is difficult because you are trying to convey information with just words that you normally do with words AND gestures AND facial expressions AND tone. If your starting in the middle of the conversation as well your audience is lost.
+ Use Structure
Write your articles and hubs like you would write and essay. This saves you from some of the pitfalls mentioned above. The basic essay has 4 components. A Thesis, an Introduction, the Body and a Conclusion. The Thesis is always in the introductions and that is the basis for why you are writing. If you are arguing a point, this is the core of your argument. If you are reviewing a product, this is that you think the reader should or should not buy the product. If you have a clear thesis your article may be appealing to your audience, even if they disagree with you. The Introduction is the means by which you deliver your Thesis and part of that Hook I mentioned before.
The Body is the information you are presenting to present and justify your thesis. Be sure it is organized or you WILL lose your audience.
The Conclusion routes back into the Thesis. Usually it is best to restate the Thesis and if possible in a different way than the original wording. Either way, by using a conclusion you are provide a clean exit from the world or argument you are making. Sometimes you don't want this. Sometimes you want to end on a point that wants the reader wanting more, but you have to make that decision. The point is that if the article is unclear or leaving you the reader hanging in a bad way you don't really want to read more.
+ Give Your Writing Tone & Emotion
The use of bold, italics, underlining, CAPITALIZATION and punctuation like exclamation points is useful! BUT DO NOT OVER USE THEM!!!!!! Your reader may feel like you are yelling at them. Some other things that are useful is inserted information (like using parentheses [or brackets]) to convey information. Also useful this this area is the use of the hyphen -since sometimes this looks really interesting- in doing the same thing as paragraph. This all has to go back to your voice. One final thing to consider on this subject is the use of multiple periods to encourage contemplation...
...and you can use the same format to continue a thought or idea.
I am not an expert by any means on the English language. As for my seniority at Hubpages, part of that was time were I was distracted by lots and lots of school so in some ways I am still sort of a novice. As of the time of this writing I haven't made very much money but it is growing and every article I add helps me towards generating a little extra income. But while I am motivated by making money, I am more motivated by my love of teaching and writing. I do it for fun, not just the money. If you find writing just too hard then maybe it isn't the right thing for you. That being said, failure only happens when you give up. For me the journey to be able to write this article in about an hour of time was VERY VERY LONG & HARD! I still have a hard time here and there but I keep trying. So far I think I am successful and I hope this article has given you some tools and ideas to be success. Please research further on this subject and always remember to seek to improve your writing, even when others may view you as an expert. The best writers I know are always learning.
Now get out there and write. Good luck!