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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.
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.
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"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.
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.
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
"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.
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Writers should be aware that the style books used at colleges may be different from the style book used by a publishing house for novels.
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.
...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?!?!"
© 2010 RedElf