Basics of Writing

by Melanie Nelson*

For some of us, writing comes easily. For others, it’s math. Or sports. Or organization. Everyone has something that just seems to click with them one way or another. For me, it is grammar and writing.

We’ve all heard that Content is King if you want your blog to be successful. The real question is how do you achieve that? Writing well doesn’t have to be a mystery, it just takes practice. This month I want to touch on some basic writing steps: Prewriting, Revision, Editing, Evaluation, and Publishing.

Prewrite

Before you start writing, think about the topics you’re most familiar with or most passionate about. Brainstorm new ideas (remember, the art of brainstorming means there are no bad ideas–you can cull through them later). Once you have a list of relevant (to you) topics, you can consult your list any time you’re suffering from writer’s block.

Now it’s time to plan your post–in other words, how you’re going to write about that topic. Will you tell a story? Do you need to back up your opinions with facts? Will you use humor? Outlines are extremely useful when planning how you are going to write about a topic.

Outline done? Get those words out! Start filling in the gaps left by the outline and write your little heart out.

Revise

As you get your words out of your head and into your blog post, consider what is missing. Look at what you’ve written and see where you can add description or clarification.

I tend to write declarative thoughts and facts and I rarely take the time to explain them. For this reason, I constantly need to re-read my posts and discover what questions readers may have. I usually need to add background information or resources to clarify or support my point.

You can do the same by writing your post then stepping away, even if only for 15 minutes. Coming back to a project usually provides a new perspective. If necessary, re-work the organization or flow of your post.

Edit

Editing isn’t just about re-writing. It’s about reviewing and correcting your work. I find that in the throes of writing The Next Great Blogging Post, I often write homonyms (site/sight/cite, here/hear). Spell-check isn’t going to catch that I can’t here the dog barking; I’m going to have to catch it on my own.

Taking a break from your writing before attempting to edit is always a good idea. If you don’t have time, though, try reading the post from bottom to top. I sometimes read my writing backwards (not literally, I just read the words in reverse order). For example,

Here is a sample sentence.

If I were going to edit it, I would read it as

.sentence sample a is Here

I’m more likely to catch a mistake that way.

In addition to re-reading your article and correcting grammar or spelling mistakes, there are a few things you can look for specifically to tighten your writing.

  • Clear the dead wood. Look for words that aren’t necessary. For instance, many times the word that can be deleted without changing the meaning of your sentence.
  • Consider whether your writing is meeting your targeted audience’s needs. Are you writing for the lowest common denominator or have you chosen to write to a more experienced reader? Re-write as necessary to keep it consistent and interesting for your audience.
  • Make sure you have topic sentences for each paragraph. A topic sentence gives your readers an introduction to what the paragraph is about. Can your readers scan your article just by reading your topic sentences?
  • Re-read your conclusion. Have you brought your ideas to an end cleanly? If you are asking your readers to complete a task (e.g., sign up for a newsletter, leave a comment, etc.), have you clearly asked them to do that task and told them how?

Evaluate

Step away from your writing again. Reflect on and evaluate what you have written. Can it be shortened and still have the same effect on your readers? Is the humor invasive or subtle and was that your intent?

I find that I’m always writing in my head or thinking about what I’ve written. Then, when I see the writing again, I can make changes as necessary or love it as is.

Publish

You’ve done it. You’ve written, you’ve revised, you’ve edited, you’ve evaluated. You are ready to share your writing with others. Hit that Publish button and start over.

Conclusion

It’s important to point out that, when reading these “rules” for the first time, it can be daunting. The time commitment implied is off-putting. Remember, though, that writing takes practice and these “rules” are the best kind: bendable. The more you write, the more you’ll realize that many of these steps can be completed at the same time–you’ll often be evaluating (or thinking about) something you’ve written and revising it in your head. When you log-in to make your changes, you may find an editing issue. The more you write, the easier it is to find your groove.

And really, who doesn’t like a good groove?

You can find even more articles about writing at BloggingBasics101.com.



Email Author    |    Website About Melanie Nelson*

Melanie answers your basic blogging questions Monday through Friday at Blogging Basics 101 (http://www.bloggingbasics101.com). If you'd like to submit a question, you can e-mail her at bloggingbasics101@gmail.com.

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{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

1 DJ September 2, 2008 at 12:54 pm

Great post, I aways find I have to go back and edit more after I publish (blogger layout doesn’t like me, it never seems to look like it’s suppose to!)

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2 Rachel L September 2, 2008 at 2:24 pm

You must be an English teacher; those are all of the same steps my students had to follow in my class. Great tips!!!!!! (They really work!)

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3 Doll Clothes Gal September 2, 2008 at 3:35 pm

Great set of basics for methodical writing. You stick to the rules and have imaginary content then you’ll be on to a winner.

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4 mannequin September 2, 2008 at 5:41 pm

Hmm.. I love the reading it backwards tip!
Clearing the “dead wood” is something I am working on!
Thanks so much Melanie and 5 Minutes for Mom!

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5 Omie September 2, 2008 at 5:56 pm

Great post. When I think of the steps you’ve outlined, I realize that’s what I do when I write reports for work. But somehow, blogging lends itself so easily to “write” and “publish”, so simple. I have to remind myself now that I’m publising my “prewrite” and maybe that’ll help me go through the proper cycle.

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6 Lightening September 2, 2008 at 8:58 pm

I tend to prefer to write unedited because my style is “as I talk”. However, I think there is definitely a place for walking away and coming back with fresh eyes on a piece too.

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7 Anissa September 2, 2008 at 9:10 pm

I am a spiller. I just gush out onto the page and then go back and cut and edit and delve deeper. I probably should have more method to my madness, but that’s how it has to come out of me.

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8 Petula September 2, 2008 at 9:24 pm

Great article! I like that you covered all the basics.

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9 Shannon (Muzbee Crazy) September 2, 2008 at 9:37 pm

If my husband is around after I write a post, I’ll ask him to proofread it for me. A new pair of eyes seems to be helpful. He usually picks up on things that I have missed. Thank you for the great tips!

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10 Kathryn September 3, 2008 at 6:48 am

Thanks for the tips. The more I learn about writing the more I need to learn about writing. And the more time that passes the more I need to REVIEW what I’ve already learned. :D

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11 Lisa September 3, 2008 at 11:44 am

Very helpful tips – thank you!

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12 Kim September 3, 2008 at 9:14 pm

What a great post, I need all the help that I can get. I rely on Word to catch my spelling and grammatical errors. I have never been good at English, but I really enjoy blogging. I think that I like to blog because I enjoy reading other people’s stories about their lives. Thank you for your hints, I hope by reading and applying them to my writing. Kim

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