The Best Writing Advice I've Ever Received

08 December 2016

Day eight

My inner English major is coming out to play today, and this post is actually coming from the archives of my drafts folder.

The thing about good advice is you probably don't know how good it is until later in life. I took lots of notes in undergrad, but the nuggets of wisdom I noted mentally were the ones that stuck.

And so... may I present some of the best writing advise I've ever received - from professors, from guest speakers, from other students in writing labs, and so on.


Be Concise.


Have you ever read an article and it seemed like the author threw in a few extra words to sound... smarter? Or maybe they used fancier words to sound more articulate? Like there are too many adjectives or something? According to one of my Literature professors, this happens often with new/young writers, and it impedes your narrative. It's distracting in a you're-doing-too-much kind of way. Get to the point, quick, before you lose your reader.

By my third year as an English major, I was so used to writing papers that I could type for pages upon pages without hesitation. I once completed a 10-page final, from start to finish, in one night, and I didn't have to pull an all-nighter to do it. That semester, I had a professor tell me she enjoyed my writing but advised I dial it back a bit. I was doing to much. Trim the fat, and only feed your reader the essential details.


Utilize.


This one's subjective, but it stuck.

I had another professor harp on the fact that "utilize" was a pointless word. It's just a fancier, more pretentious way to say the word "use," and it doesn't make you sound any smarter; it makes you seem like you're trying to sound smarter. Now every time I hear/read someone using that word, his voice sticks in my head. And I never use the word utilize.



Write Every Day.


If you're trying to hone any craft, you need to exercise that muscle on a regular basis. Writing is no exception, even if you're just writing in a journal, even if the grammar and syntax are wrong. Just write.



Read Every Day.


Reading is fundamental, and not just for the kids. The more I read, the more I have an appreciation for a good narrative, and it inspires me to write my own. I'd rather read an article than watch a video where someone talks about said article. I know YouTube is super popular, but it will never replace the blog space for me because I'd much rather read something than watch something. 



Grammar Rules. 


Really, it does.

I took a few poetry classes while I was digging into my core undergrad curriculum, and I loved them. While I have no aspirations to take up a profession as a poet, it taught me one thing: follow the rules even when you're flexing your creativity. I used to think I could write my poems however I wanted, with or without proper punctuation because "HELLO, stylistic choices and creative liberties!" Wrong. Not only was my content difficult to follow, it often obscured my message - not good! 

When I finally learned to embrace the grammar rules, and even play around with them a bit, my artistry flourished. I thought it'd be stifled, but I was completely wrong. It's fun to see what flows from your fingertips while working within certain parameters. After taking that class, the Pantoum became my absolute favorite poem to write because it follows such a strict formula. (Here's an example of my favorite Pantoum)

*****

And that's that: all I learned in my 4 years of study as an English major.

I'm kidding. 

Kinda.



2 comments

  1. Being concise with my writing is something I'm constantly working on. What works for me is to simply start writing and then once I'm done, read through and delete as much "fat" as possible while still making sure my point comes across. Also, now I'm going to think of you and your professor whenever I hear someone use the word utilize.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I've seriously shattered your rose-colored glasses when it comes to that word. Whenever you hear/read it, you're going to mentally roll your eyes and assume that person is trying to sound smarter than they actually are. You won't even do it on purpose!

      Delete

Insta

© the active spirit. Design by FCD.