Thursday, 22 December 2011

The Qualities of a Good Writer - 5 Technical Habits a Good Writer Needs

In the previous articles in this series we've talked about the personal habits and skills which a good writer must have. But what we haven't talked about are the habits and skills which allow a writer to put his or her words on the paper. And then have them read. And make sense.
We haven't discussed the technical skills a good writer needs to develop.
The first of these five habits is proper spelling. Perhaps the most hated of the skills. That skill which is hardest to obtain and most obvious in its dereliction. It's true. We can excuse grammar, we can excuse selecting the wrong word or using the words incorrectly. But the one mistake which every reader will spot is spelling the word wrong.
It seems simple and innocuous. After all it's just spelling. And if it's only a word or two in a piece as large as a book it might escape notice. But more than one or two... even in a piece as large as a book... has a major effect on credibility. After all, if you as a writer can't be bothered to spell correctly, how can you be bothered to consider other ideas and work towards truly understanding your subject?
The second of these habits is the use of proper grammar. Now that we are no longer in school, we are no longer caught in the tyranny of English class. But even so, and despite our skill in using grammatical rules, we must overcome the limits on our sentences. We must know when to use a rule. Why it is made the way it is. What is the point of the phrase? When should we break the rule?
The third habit is the constant development and use of our vocabulary. Words are the blocks and mortar of our castles in the sky. They are our levels and squares. They need to be cared for and nurtured and polished. A good writer must create a habit of constantly improving his or her vocabulary so the proper word is always at hand.
The fourth habit is keeping it simple. We've been taught throughout our school lives to use long and complex wording. To write in an academic style. Which is fine if your purpose is to confuse poor students. But in the real world your reader can choose to buy your books or not. In the real world you either please the reader or starve. And complex sentences tend not to please readers. Instead most readers prefer a simple, straight to the point style.
The fifth technical habit is to develop one's voice. This is the distinctive use of words and writing style which defines the writer. For many traditional writers developing one's voice was a difficult, time consuming task involving years of practice. But there is an easy way. You see you've been developing your voice over almost your entire lifetime. You only need to write the way you speak. That alone will give you a distinctive voice. From there it's merely a matter of refinement and polishing. But even so the constant refinement of one's voice is still a habit that a good writer needs to embrace.

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