What is effective writing?
Effective writing secures defined objectives from a defined audience while keeping within defined constraints (like time constraints- don’t spend too much time for writing). And contributing to better relationships (with the audience).
Readers and objectives
A typical reader (“persona”)
- Should know the gender, age, education, occupation, finances, interests, and reading habits of the reader.
- Must know the purpose of writing, be informed about the methods, and explain them clearly.
Features of Effective Writing
- Useful: Provide only relevant information and avoid unnecessary data; also consider the reader’s level of knowledge.
- Clear: Should explain clearly about who (who is the actor) does what (what is the object) to whom.
- Vivid: Having or producing a strong, clear picture in your mind.
- Specific: Content should be particular rather than general.
- Confident: Be confident while communicating information to the reader. There should be no ifs and buts about it.
- Organized: It must follow a clear sequence. All data must be organized in some logical order.
- Friendly: While writing, use personal pronouns (use our, we, or you) to convey information to the reader in a friendly way.
Is your writing trim and fit?
When one has to verify the quality of their writing or obtain a report on the contents, the writer’s diet tool is more useful. The Writer’s Diet is a diagnostic tool created by international writing experts to help writers shape their sentences. Based on a simple algorithm, the tool identifies some of the sentence-level grammatical features that most frequently weigh down stodgy prose so that you can learn to communicate more clearly and effectively.
Go to the writer’s diet website and take the test. Enter a text sample of between 100 to 1000 words, then click “run the test” to see your result. It provides the following result upon the pasted content:
- Lean: Using too many nouns in writing strains verbs and prevents the flow of thought.
- Fit and trim: Content in excellent condition.
- Needs toning: The content would benefit from a light workout.
- Flabby: Editing must be done carefully.
- Heart attack: Content in bad condition. May call for editorial liposuction!
Tips for Good Writing
- Avoid abstraction (avoid general data).
- Make writing concrete (specific) – contain some numerical values like statistics.
- Develop Analogies- (introduce known things first, then introduce unknown things).
- Ask questions and answer them.
- Mention numbers, size, shape, color, etc. Be specific : How large is large? How small is small?. A large number of people were present. – More than 200 people packed the room.
- Use abbreviations sparingly. IIT: Information Integration Theory (not Indian Institute of Technology).
- Put things positively- provides better understanding than the negative terms.
- Incorrect grammar can mislead. Avoid errors of grammar.
- Use the right choice of words. Use hyphens to improve clarity.
- Remove superfluous words. Avoid using too many words, use only confined words.
- Correct use of articles is tricky (a, the, an).
- Use proper symbols (degree sign, multiplication sign, minus sign, etc.).
- Refer to appropriate style guides or manuals.
- Cite responsibly, correctly, and fully.
- Use capitals sparingly. Use prepositions correctly. Use gender-neutral language.
Tackle writing systematically
- Assign a slot for writing in your schedule.
- Write the core message in 25 words.
- Expand the message to a page.
- Prepare and revise an outline.
- Expand the outline: target at least 400 words per session. Write fast; forget about errors.
- Revise only after at least 2000 words.
Tips on scheduling writing tasks
- Write and revise the outline whenever convenient.
- Keep large chunks of uninterrupted time for writing text. Productive writing or flow of writing needs a large time.
- Set targets: number of words a day.
- End a session at a point from which it is easy to resume.
Learning to be a better writer
- Effective writing is an acquired skill.
- The acquired skills are regular practice, supervision- getting feedback from a person, progressively difficult tasks- that is starting from a simpler task and moving to difficult tasks, and monitoring your progress.
Way to Attempt progressively difficult tasks
- Ten sentences a day for 30 days; each sentence is at least 12 words long; no repetition of a single pattern.
- The next level of difficulty is writing ten sentences on one topic a day for 30 days; twenty for another 30 days.
- Rewriting what you have read and summarizing what you have read.
The key to good writing is reading extensively all that you need to do, automatically your writing skill will improve. There are some terms and conditions:
- Do not read magazines and newspapers. Prefer books because these are better-finished products.
- Also, read popular fiction to absorb the common patterns of grammar.
- Don’t read just any books, read writers known for the quality of their prose.
- Spend ten hours on reading for every hour you spend on learning to write.
- Reading speed: from 60 to 150 words per minute.
- Increase Vocabulary: from 50 to 18000 words.
- No. of books to be read: 25 to 370 for attaining the above two objectives.
- The time taken for obtaining the reading objective mentioned above is 2 to 280 hours.