Monday, July 28, 2008

Developing Your Writing Style

In my early writing, I was so insecure about my abilities, that my main goals were to seem smart and to cover every relevant detail. Not surprisingly, that created turgid, often impenetrable writing.

I was cured of that when I decided to send a draft of my writing to my neighbor: a kindergarten teacher. In her sweet way, she let me know that she couldn't understand much of what I wrote and found it so boring that if she didn't know me, she'd have stopped reading it. Her feedback made me promise that I would try hard to make everything I wrote pleasant to read and understandable even to a kindergarten teacher. I figured that even an educated audience would appreciate a crisp, pleasant read.

But I went too far: My pervasive attempts at humor were distracting and too often, not funny: humor isn't my greatest strength.

Today, I try to write simply and without forced humor. If a humorous idea emerges naturally, fine, but I don't deliberately try to be funny. Also, I'm typically willing to sacrifice thoroughness for conciseness. Especially on the Web, readers operate on Internet time, which means they want their information fast.

So now, my writing aims to provide maximum fresh ideas per minute of reader time, and be pleasant to read. How would you define the writing style to which you aspire?


Anonymous said...

It partially depends on what kind of piece I'm writing, but the most important thing to me is saying what I want or need to say to that audience.

You absolutely have to make sure that you keep your audience in mind (perhaps that's why your neighbor wasn't impressed?), but if you write only for that audience without letting your natural rhythm come through, I imagine neither side will be satisfied.

Dave said...

I was planning to become an academic. Unfortunately, I am not capable of scholarly writing. My MA thesis supervisor and my PhD supervisor think my writing is too journalistic. "Colloquial" is another word they use to describe my writing!

I can write a doctoral thesis, but I can't write scholarly articles for academic journals.


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