Monday, November 16, 2009

Cut to the straight and narrow

Want to get an audience to actually read your prose? Get off the meandering path and stick to the straight and narrow.

Strip it down
Along with being a writer you need to be an editor and this means, being brutal! Cut back on your word count dramatically by snipping off the excess word-fat and keeping it lean. This holds all the more true in the case of query letters where concise information is required, not a long drawn out account of how brilliant your article is. Check the ratio between the number of words you use and the amount of information you offer. A 50% ratio is good.

Get rid of relative pronouns: Avoid as much as possible using ‘that, which, who’ and their verbs.
E.g. The report that was submitted by Mr X is on my desk versus The report submitted by Mr. X is on my desk.

Avoid repetitions
It’s quite common while editing to find a word repeated, not necessarily in the same sentence but in an adjoining one. Getting someone else to give your work a once-over can help reduce this problem immensely as can taking a break and getting back to the piece to view it with a fresh pair of eyes.

Stop being passive:
Use the active voice as much as possible. Take action, tell your readers what they should (or should not be doing) and get straight to the point with doable advise.
E.g. I give versus You are given; Do this versus This should be done

Be animated: Start your sentence with an animate subject. Using animate subjects also allows you to select more colourful verbs.
E.g. We solved the problem versus The problem was solved.


Sorcerer said...

this was soo informative..thank you :)

i am beginning to write some articles for my clients and this blog gave me some insights into writing!

Usha Krishnan Sliva said...

Glad it helped. Come back and visit often ;)

Concord Carpenter said...

Great post

Organic Meatbag said...

The last time I stripped down for an audience, I got arrested...aye...

Blog Header Guy said...

The topic of "cutting the fat" is one that every writer needs to grasp.

I was critiquing a piece for a budding writer friend and referred to it as "marshmallow goodness." Explaining that I was so stuffed on excess fluff that I didn't feel like reading anymore.

You have a very clean style. :)


Usha Krishnan Sliva said...

Thank you Concord Carpenter.
Haha Organic meatball.
Thank you Roy. I love the 'marshmallow goodness' phrase! I used to be a bit flowery in my writing style, but a stint with a PR agency soon took care of that ;)

Usha Krishnan Sliva said...

Thanks Sorcerer. Come back and visit often, and please do join us on our Getting It Write! newsletter which is filled with writing tips. Good luck with your writing career.