Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Ten popular mistakes for writers

Like me, do you think yourself as a good writer?

Well, then you must love mistakes. Because good writers do that frequently in their manuscripts. Otherwise why the post "Editor", "Copy Editor", "Proof Reader" for?

Anyway, recently I read an article at Holt Uncensored about 10 common mistakes writers don't see. I just can't resist myself to share the tips with you:

1. Don't repeat the same word or phrase.
Repeated words are crutch word. Like Hillary Clinton's crutch word, in her Living History, is "eager". Cosmopolitan magazine editor Kate White uses "quickly" over a dozen times in A Body To Die For. And "Notes From Dystopia" editor Ishtiaque repeats the word "share" many times in his blogs. Replace your crutch word with some appropriate synonym.

Telling again, don't repeat the same word or phrase. :)

2. Stop flat writing.
This blog is the best example to understand the "Flat writing". Text is monotonous. It dies on the page.

Flat writing is a sign that you've lost interest and inspiration by your own narrative. So when you see flat writing on the page, it's time to rethink, refuel and rewrite.

3. Remove empty adverbs.
Actually, Basically, apparently, totally, absolutely, completely, continually, constantly, continuously, literally, really, unfortunately, ironically, incredibly, hopefully, finally...

You think these words promise emphasis, but too often they do the reverse. They suck the meaning out of every sentence.

4. Be careful of using dialogue.
Avoid words that are fashionable in conversation.

Dialogue offers glimpses into character the author can't provide through description. Hidden wit, thoughtful observations, a shy revelation, a charming aside all come out in dialogue, so the characters show us what the author can't tell us.

5. Minimize *ize.
Finalize, conceptualize, fantasize, deoxidize, categorize, statementize -- The "ize" hooks itself onto words as a shortcut but stays there like a parasite.

Use less *ness.
The "ness" words cause the eye to stumble, come back, reread: mindlessness, characterlessness, courageousness, statuesqueness, preciousness...

Don't use *ingly unnecessarily.
cuttingly, winningly, startlingly, harrowingly, angeringly, careeningly, groundbreakingly - all hell to pronounce, even in silence.

Not all these suffixes are bad always, just use them rarely.

6. Don't use "To be" words frequently. Am, Is, Was, Are, Were, Be, Being, Been etc.

I am liar. You are buyer. It is tyre. I am here. You are there. It was Qeta who blogged yesterday. It was Emily who dreamed to be a journalist, It was Ishtiaque who thought himself intellectual.

Flat, flat, flat writing. So don't squander the "to be" words - save them for special moments.

7. If you're going to describe a number of items, jack up the visuals.

8. Show, don't tell.
Handsome, attractive, momentous, embarrassing, fabulous, powerful, hilarious, stupid, fascinating are all words that don't describe in specifics what is unique to the person or event described. Often they begin with clichés.

9. Beware of Awkward Phrasing.
Always give your work a little percolating time before you come back to it.

10. Use, Commas, correctly.
You may break the rules to use comma from time to time, but you can't delete commas just because you don't like the pause they bring to a sentence or just because you want to add tension.

Oh, thanks Biz Stone for the link of the article.


Qeta said...

Pretty much everything mentioned (except maybe #5) apply to my writing. Boo-hoo, I'm not a good writer. I mostly just tend to pay attention to the so-called flow. An awesomely bad strategy to regulate your writing, isn't it?

You also inadvertently blew my cover on the net.

N er, Qeta

Ishtiaque Zico said...

Sorry Qeta for uncovering the name! now it's okay.

BD said...

Thanks for those tips man, even I need to rewrite rephrase and re--what thats bad again ..oh man its a closed causal loop!!!

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