The art of writing well

The Art of Writing Well

Whether you are writing an essay, exam, office email, letter, message—our life is full of writing tasks that require us to be brief and intelligible in our communication. The smaller decisions of choosing the right words are as important as organising your material into a coherent whole.  In this article we provide you tips on the art of writing well.

The basic aim of writing is to communicate in clear and concise words the message that needs to be conveyed. Unwanted jargon and complex sentences only make the task difficult. You could be an MBA aspirant, a student, a junior employee, a super-boss, an aspiring writer—even a seasoned one or a writer indulging in a whim—the basic rules of good writing applies to all.

By Suman Kher

The essential components of good writing apply to any form of writing. Some components that are worth paying attention to are:

Tools of language: Grammar, vocabulary, sentence structure and punctuation are just a few tools which, if put to use effectively can help you write better. It is important that the foundation be strong before you venture to build an edifice out of your imagination.

Grammar: Pay special attention to ensure that wrong grammar does not create ambiguity in your writing. Good writing has to be grammatically correct. Re-visit, if required, Wren and Martin to brush up the basics of grammar.

Reader: Always remember the readers you are writing for. Your writing should ensure that the reader glides through your sentences rather than having to stop every now and then to make sense of what you might mean. The reader, with an attention span of just a few seconds, is just going to give up reading it.

Unity: Maintaining unity in your writing is equally important to take your readers to the end of your work. Unity can be in terms of time, tense, mood and voice. Shifting between time frames or formal and casual tones will only confuse your reader. The best way to ensure unity is to decide at the outset the time frame, the tone, the person and the mood you intend to write in.

Structure: Writing is linear and needs to have a sequence to it. It is important to structure your thoughts into neat paragraphs with only one thought in each paragraph. Each sentence in a paragraph and each paragraph in your whole work should be linked with the common theme you are writing about. Any loose links and you lose the reader.

Style: Style doesn’t mean embellishments like high-sounding words and long winding sentences. Style is not above comprehension. It is better to use formal style for emails and exam essays. Choose shorter words over longer ones. Try and cut out corporate jargon in emails and simplify your writing style.

Clutter: Keeping clutter out will do a great favour to your writing style. Clutter means words and phrases that can be easily pruned without affecting the meaning of what you want to say.

Proofread: This is one of the best practices that should be followed with all writing work. Read through even your casual work email before you hit send. A little spelling error or omission of a word can defeat the whole purpose of communication. Read through every word of what you have written and make sure this is how you want the world to receive it.

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Write: You can’t become an excellent chef by watching a lot of cookery shows. Likewise, you cannot be a virtuoso writer by just dreaming about writing well. Roll your sleeves and get down to the actual work of writing. Schedule time out for writing activities in your daily routine. Pick up one of the following ideas to stimulate your creative juices:

Open the dictionary randomly and write on a word that appeals to you for 10 minutes. Repeat this exercise with another word. You can write on more words and try to find a common theme that might run through what you have written.

You can also write on a picture in a magazine. You can weave a story around it and see where it takes you. Or pick up a place given in the magazine and write what would you do if you had the chance to visit it.

Start a blog or a diary. Blogs are as easy to set up and give you the convenience of typing on a computer. Blog posts can also be your personal space where you express your ideas before you are ready to share it with the world. In good time, they can also be easily shared with your friends for their feedback.

Choose topics for the week. You can also decide on six topics for a week and deal with them one by one. For instance, begin by writing about activities you like to do in your free time.

Dig out any old pieces you might have written. Re-write them with a fresh perspective. You will be pleased with the new shape your old writing has taken.

Analyse: Examine your writing for the extent to which you have incorporated the components of good writing into it. Is your grammar in place? Are there any phrases or words that can be hacked down or made simpler? Is your writing a neatly made structure? Is your punctuation in place? Try to reduce your written material by a third. When you deliberately set out to prune your writing, you will see the amount of verbiage that had crept into it.

Read:  Read good literature, impressive style guides and try to imbibe that into your writing. You will take a while to develop your own style. Pick up a book of your choice and read a few pages of it everyday. Follow the style, word usage, structure and the overall arrangement of ideas. Note the points that you can learn from it.

Share: Have your siblings, parents or your friends read what you have written. Discuss the finer points of writing with them and get their feedback. Don’t lose heart if your writing is still not perfect. Remember that even established writers learn with each new book they write.

Enjoy yourself when you write and you can be sure that your readers will too. Don’t be in a hurry to reach the finishing line since there isn’t one. Write aplenty to master the techniques of writing and you will gradually discover your original style.