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Ten Tips for Good Writing

You've just begun your story.

You have talked to some people and searched out information on the Web.

You are ready to sit down at the keyboard and write.
Before you begin at the computer, here are some basic writing tips that will help you tell your story more clearly.  


Tell your story out loud.
Make it fun: tell your story to your mother, friend, a tape recorder, your cat. Explain what happened, who was involved, what they said, how it looked.

You can do this as if you were talking about something that happened on the way home from the mall this afternoon. Going through the process like this will help you figure out what story you are going to tell in writing.


Get the most out of every word and sentence.
Put subjects and verbs up front in your sentences to tell their reader exactly what happened."The bus crashed into the building."

Use active voice instead of passive.


Use concrete and specific words to get your meaning across.
It was a pearl-grey Siamese -- not a cat.

It was a crumbling cement building with broken panes of glass where windows used to be — not an abandoned building.


Avoid cliches and overused expressions.
Hey, chances are if you have heard it before, everyone else has too.

You need to push yourself to find a new way to get your point across.


Use simple words
Don't use technical or flowery language, foreign phrases or rarely-used words.

You want to communicate information and ideas — not show off your extensive vocabulary!

Use the language that most people know.


Keep your sentences short.
Break longer sentences into two smaller ones or vary the length by putting a long sentence between shorter one.

If you have two distinct ideas in your sentence, you probably need to break it into two smaller sentences.

Show your reader instead of telling.
Why say a person is friendly when you can say how they bounce down the street, smiling at everyone and calling hello to strangers.

Remember you are telling a story
That means characters, scenes and action. Who is there? What are like? What are they doing and saying? What does the place look like?


Make people earn quotation marks.
Quotes should be something interesting and compelling, something that the source says better than you could.

Do not quote people stating facts:
"The school board will hold a hearing next Monday night to find out what parents think of the school closures."

Save the quotation marks for a person's opinion or their experience:
"If parents don't turn up for the hearing, then I think we know that they just don't care about the school system," says Anne Smith, a school board member.

Avoid repetition in your stories.
Once you have stated a fact or quoted someone who makes a point about a particular, there's no need to re-visit the issue.


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