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Writing Tips

Updated on January 2, 2011

Small business writing

One of the things that I've learned as I start up my editing and proofreading business is that there is a lot of editing that goes on by Web Masters. They have to pay close attention to every "character." It's imperative to have tools and resources at hand as the editing process continues. These include Help sections, forums, google searches, walk-through guides, and your own ability to patiently experiment. This is not a continuous, regimented process, but an inter-looping one that feeds upon itself, goes back to the beginning, and then jumps forward to the end. In many ways it is similar to the writing process. While brainstorming ideas, a specific web page design may come to mind, so we jump into the site and set it up with the layout. Later on as we're proofreading our FAQ page, we may be inspired with an idea to promote an RSS feed, so we jump back to brainstorming and researching. All of the stages of the writing process: brainstorming, organizing, drafting, proofreading and editing, and final drafting, are commensurate with the process followed by web page designers.

The writing process is a fairly new "invention" of the public school system. Before the 1980's, it was common to be "creative" rather than "constructive." As educators evaluated data and national standards became a new topic, teachers saw the need for everyone to be able to write a standard "essay." Authors were interviewed and their work habits analyzed. The data showed that their work generally fell into five distinct steps; the writing process was born! Nowadays, with extensive training and repetition, most students are able to write a coherent paper. For students, parents, and business owners, it is imperative that our published text, in whatever context, is just as strong, clear, and meaningful.

The bridge to editing and proofreading has been no nearer to technology then now.  I've noticed the similarities between web design and startup, and the writing process in our schools. How invaluable it is that it is taught and promoted! We should definitely support this endeavor this year in our schools, with our children, teachers, and administrators. Good luck to you in your endeavors this year, and remember to spend some time thinking about how important the writing process is and how you can support it in our schools and workplace.

Proofreading Techniques

When there’s a paper or business proposal due, are you willing to turn it in without reading it and carefully proving to yourself that there are no mistakes? Of course not. But you may not realize that all people have an inability to see their own editing mistakes.

I’m reminded of the time I heard two people arguing on the beach. We had been there all day and were about to pack up to leave, when they started shouting at each other about a missing pair of sunglasses. We had watched when a group of kids had run through and had kicked up sand. The glasses had been partially covered. Both of them reminded the other of when they had touched it last, and how it wasn’t their fault. Actually they were both right. It was a third person outside of their knowledge who had “made the glasses disappear.” I eventually walked over, interrupted the two, and pointed to where the sand had been kicked up. I reached down and pulled out the glasses. The point here is that it usually takes someone “outside” of the situation to see the problem.

So, you have a report to turn in? Well, you need a “different” perspective. There are two general ways to do this. You can either hand it to someone you know and trust, and give them a long period of time to edit and proofread, or do it yourself.

Do it yourself?

Yes. Do you remember what you got for Christmas last year? Okay, how about dinner last Saturday? No? We’ll make it easy then, How about the amount of money in your checking account? The point here is that we forget the details as time passes. Editing and proofreading focuses on analyzing details. So, if people generally have one main perspective about details, and people generally forget details as time passes, then you can apply that idea to your own editing.

Here’s the plan. Take the business report, memo, or thesis paper and place it on a shelf. You’ll forget that it’s even there. That’s the point. When people say, “Let’s shelve that idea,” they want to forget it. It’s like being benched during a baseball game. Everyone’s eyes are on the field, not on the bench. Put your paper on the shelf, or on the bench and forget about it.

One week later pick it up again and you will be shocked at all of the errors in spelling, word usage, and meaning that you find. The longer you wait, the more mistakes you will find. Good luck!

The Writing Process

The writing process is a method used to complete a well-organized, creative, and publishable paper or report. There are adaptations for certain genres and forms, but this article will cover the steps as if a 5 paragraph essay is to be written.

Let’s begin with Rule #1: The Five steps.

In order to make a literate society, teachers of writing realized that there needed to be a number of steps so that any person could sit down and by the end of their project, have a well-crafted paper. After an examination of authors and writers, it was determined that most of what they did during their paper’s writing process could be explained in five steps.

The first step is to brainstorm your ideas. This involves taking everything in your head and literally throwing it down on the page. Lists, webs, notes, whatever. The theory behind this is that in order to write a unique paper, you must use your prior knowledge and be motivated.

The second step is to organize your ideas. The best way to do that is to use a graphic organizer. While you may have used one to get ideas for brainstorming, this organizer will help you organize the entire paper. Webs and outlines are the two most commonly used organizers.

Most essays have 5 paragraphs: an introduction, three body paragraphs, and a final conclusion. Each of these has a unique pattern, but all can be placed on the organizer. Most of the paragraphs will be between 3-8 sentences.

Use the brainstorm page and select information that can be grouped with the five labeled parts of the essay organizer. 3-5 details should be placed under each section, including the introduction and conclusion.

The third step of the writing process is the rough draft. With the organizer in front of you, begin writing with #1, introduction, crafting your writing style, word usage, and tone appropriately. This is the creative and most challenging part. Move into the second, third, and fourth paragraphs as you prove your main thesis statement. The conclusion wraps it up. This is not that hard to understand; it’s just hard to do. This, is the make or break time of your essay.

The fourth step is the editing and proofreading step. There are many ways to proofread, but essentially what you are doing is looking at the characters and words in your text. Look for spelling, capitalization, punctuation, and grammar issues at the word level. The editing step consists of looking at the meaning of the words and sentences. For this skill, you must think in clauses, phrases, and in sentences. Sentences can be added, deleted, reordered, and paragraphs can even be scrapped and done over again.

The fifth and final step is the final draft. At this point, the writer is looking to create a final draft that has minimal errors, looks good, and essentially proves what their thesis stated. This is the time to check the essay requirements and add titles, cover pages, and work cited pages as needed.

At the end of the fifth step you have finished!

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