Becoming a Better Writer

writing-habitsBecoming a Better Writer

I initially composed this as a resource for the writers at Gospel Today, but I’d like to serve it to you as well. I pray it helps you on your journey to becoming a better writer!

I want you to be the best writer possible! Wherever you are and whoever you are, you can always be better. So with that in mind, here are some tips to help make your writing that much better.

Readability

Let’s face it. Most people don’t actually read today as much as we writers would like them to. Thus it is our job to make them want to. Here are some pointers to encourage readability.

  • Use Shorter Paragraphs. Make these bite-sized and easier for the reader to “munch.”
  • Use Shorter Sentences. No run-ons. Please. The occasional lengthy sentence is fine; changing things up is good. But overall, shorter sentences make for easier reading.
  • Use Subtitles. This helps the reader to scan the piece and know what’s ahead or even which part they’d personally prefer to read. It also visually breaks up the space and doesn’t feel so daunting to the reader.
  • Use Lists. This is paramount for ultimate readability and “skimability.” Numeric and bulleted lists are both great.
  • Use Bolds & Italics. These also increase readability and “skimability.”
    • Bolds: Great for subtitles, lists, and special emphasis, etc.
    • Italics: Great for subtitles, special emphasis, definitions, quotes, Scriptures, etc.

Some great online writers to glean from for style and expertise who employ these tactics are:

Writer’s Aid

Many of you may not need this, but sometimes it’s helpful to provide a visual of what we’re looking for when it comes to editorial formatting. Below is a guide that you can use, particularly if you like to create an outline, that will help you to better organize your articles.

Every piece may not be formatted exactly like this and we certainly allow room for creativity, however, this guide is a good rule of thumb, especially for less experienced writers.

I. INTRODUCTION (Head/Opening)

  1. Introductory Paragraph: This paragraph introduces us to your topic. Depending on the tone of the piece, an anecdote, joke, quote, personal experience, etc. would be great to use. If this were a sermon, it’d be the opening.
    1. Thesis Statement: This is the main thought of your article and must be present, otherwise the reader won’t know the point of the piece. This point should be a strong, clear statement, that will close the introductory paragraph and make the reader want to keep going.

II. BODY (This is where you prove your thesis.)

  1. First Paragraph: First Topic Sentence backing your thesis opens the paragraph.
    1. First Proof*: First source backing up the first topic sentence.
    2. Second Proof**: Second source backing up the first topic sentence.
    3. Transition Statement: A statement that prepares the reader for the next paragraph.
  2. Second Paragraph: Second Topic Sentence for second paragraph.
    1. First Proof: First source backing up the second topic sentence.
    2. Second Proof: Second source backing up the second topic sentence.
    3. Transition Statement: A statement that prepares the reader for the next paragraph.
  3. Third Paragraph: Third Topic Sentence for third paragraph.
    1. First Proof: First source backing up the third topic sentence.
    2. Second Proof: Second source backing up the third topic sentence.
    3. Transition Statement: A statement that prepares the reader for the next paragraph.

*The proofs may be quotes, paraphrases, etc. whatever valid sources/citations you can find. This includes Scriptures.

**You may have more than two proofs, but preferably not less.

III. CONCLUSION (Feet/Closing)

  1. Restate the Thesis: Close us out. Summarize the entire piece in this last paragraph.
    1. Closing Statement: This must be firm. You may leave the reader with a CAT (Call To Action) or question that will make them think and think hard.

Citations

Citations, citations, citations! I know that the writers present their own unique thoughts to the audience. I also know that there is a fair amount of “idea sharing.” And by “idea sharing,” I mean sharing thoughts, comments, ideas, etc. that you did not personally come up with and that are not common knowledge.

Sources

When ideas are shared that are not your own–whether intentionally or unintentionally–you are guilty of plagiarism. And we all know that’s a no-no. So here are some easy ways to cite or list your sources.

1) The Lead-In:

According to C.S. Lewis…..

2) The Quote: Italicize or place in quotes the idea you are sharing, ended by the source.

Example A: For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. (John 3:16)

Example B: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)

3) Sources/See Also: Another way to share items you may have read or researched to write a piece, but may not have directly quoted or paraphrased, is to create a “Sources” or “See Also” list at the bottom of your piece.

And this brings me to my next point…

Hyperlinking

Hyperlinking is an EXCELLENT way to cite a source and invite the reader to do further research on the topic you’re writing on. This also works if you dislike regular citations. Here are some examples of how to hyperlink your pieces.

Example A: According to Dr. Renny McLean, matter doesn’t matter.

Example B: As one great writer reasoned, either Jesus was a liar, a lunatic, or the Son of God.

Example C: You can search all over, but never find another greater than God.

If you would like to employ hyperlinks, but don’t know how, here are three tutorials to teach you how to do it.

Also, some helpful items to hyperlink are:

  • Articles & Blogposts
  • Websites
  • Online TV shows
  • Products (books, DVDs, curriculum, etc.) and more

The Trick to Easier Writing

Your time is valuable so when you sit down to write, you want to be able to maximize that time. Here is a very simple two-part trick that everyone can implement to make the the writing process easy (or easier).

  1. Write first.
  2. Edit second.

It’s as simple as that. Writing and editing require two separate sides of your brain which means that things may get confusing or even disheartening when you try to do both at the same time. Writing requires your creative juices produced by the right side. Editing requires the analytic nature that stems from the left brain.

Write your piece completely. Then go back, immediately following the first draft or after a break at the length of your choosing and then edit it for grammar, punctuation, word usage, structure, etc.

Edit your article at least two times before submitting!

We don’t expect you to be world-class editors (that’s what professional editors are for!), but we do expect you to catch the obvious mistakes and blunders that we all make in writing. This will usually solve the bulk of whatever issues the article may have and will make the editor’s job that much easier.

The Rule to Break All Rules

When in doubt, break the rules. All the greats do.

And Finally…

As we continue to write, the better we will write. Remember,

The more you write, the more you write.

The more you write, the better you write.

The more you write, the faster you write.

Practice makes perfect. The more time you put into your craft the better, the easier, and the faster you will be able to do it and it will show. Let’s all work to be better!

What are your favourite writing tips?

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