Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Seven Axioms of Writing

• Consistency
Make sure that you have used the same term spelled the same way throughout the story, blog post, or copy. This is especially true if you have created a language in a Sci-Fi story, or are using specific jargon in copy, or in blog posting. Nothing will turn your reader off faster than simple mistakes in consistency that yell amateur.
• Grammar
Know when to capitalize, making sure that you use correct sentence structure to make your meaning clear, not ambiguous causing the reader to wonder what the author meant, also not being wordy. If you can say something in fewer words, do it.
• Punctuation
Know how, and when to use commas, semicolons, or quotation marks. Writers should know whether the punctuation mark goes inside, or outside the quotation marks. If you are an author, and not sure, have a good reference book in your writer’s library, and verify it.
• Tense
If you are writing in third person past tense, are you consistent in tense? If a sentence in past tense, are all of your verbs in past tense also? Something this simple can make a reader put down a story, and never pick it up again. Readers may also tell their friends that the story was lousy, or hard to read.
• Spelling
Do not trust the Spellchecker or Grammatik in word processing programs. Using Spellchecker only tells you that you spelled a word correctly, not if it is the right word. As Mark Twain said, “The difference between the almost right word & the right word is really a large matter–it’s the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.” Have a dictionary handy to look up any word you need to, do not make the editor do the work for you. They may not a second time.
• Verb subject agreement
The basic rule is to use singular verb with singular subject, and plural verb with plural subject. This may sound easy, but always verify to make sure you are correct.
• Verification and facts
If you use names, places, double-check for accuracy. If you use a town as one author did in a town this author lived in for over fifty years, while doing a review, the reviewer noticed that he called a street and avenue, and had the wrong address for a business in another town. There may be a reader that is familiar with where you are describing. Television programs are notorious for this.

Depending on what type of edit you ask an editor for, or edit yourself, always strive to make the editing process easier by doing the best writing you are capable of as an author. Follow proper manuscript formatting, always read, and follow submission guidelines for specific publications. Make sure that a publication accepts what you have written, and in what format. Some accept mail, some electronic, and others Word, or a combination.

Are these axioms for book authors only? No, these axioms apply to all writers from book authors to copywriters, and anyone in between. Can you imagine how an author would look in the eyes of readers if they have a website with bad grammar, punctuation, spelling, and tense error?

If you do not wish to imply the perception of an amateur, always do your best writing and check for any errors before you post or submit your writing. As Mark Twain put it, “The time to begin writing an article is when you have finished it to your satisfaction. By that time you begin to clearly and logically perceive what it is that you really want to say.” Think about it, and write your best.