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Writing Tip Number 8: Communicate Respectfully

Posted on September 1, 2014 at 5:25 PM Comments comments (107)
Email, texting and social media have become perhaps the most popular forms of communication in many parts of the world. However, many people express themselves via these outlets in ways they would never do over the phone or speaking face-to-face. Many people using these vehicles of communication are curt, disrespectful, vulgar, etc., especially if they believe they can be so in anonymity. However, the writers come off as rude, unprofessional, petty, ignorant, inhumane, etc.

In an organizational setting, disrespectful emails can ultimately destroy morale and even bring down the entire organization. Writers should not only re-read their emails to check for the tone, but they should not copy others if their emails are intended to discuss matters that could have a negative or detrimental impact upon the organization.

People composing or responding to emails regarding alleged poor job performance, etc. should be patient and give serious consideration to their writing before going off half-cocked. Respect and common courtesy are the keys to effective communication.

Writing Tip Number 7: Strive for Consistency

Posted on August 10, 2014 at 2:46 PM Comments comments (13)
Many writers are unsure of themselves and for that reason lack consistency. For example, within the same article, essay or book, they might spell words or use punctuation in different ways. They might spell a name "Terri" on one page, while referring to the same person as "Terry" on another. Or they might use a period outside of quotation marks in one sentence and use it within quotation marks in another instance.

Even if a writer is not certain how to spell a word, use punctuation, etc. she should be consistent. The words should be spelled the same throughout the work, and the punctuation should be the same when the same circumstances apply. It drives editors, proofreaders, and worst of all readers crazy when trying to figure out how a word should be spelled, how the writer wants to use punctuation, etc. At least if a writer is consistent, those reading, editing or proofreading her work will be better able to figure out the intent of the writer, and if necessary, how to correct her writing.

Writing Tip No. 6: Write What You Want or Feel

Posted on July 26, 2014 at 7:42 PM Comments comments (145)
The conventional wisdom is that writers, authors, musicians, rappers, etc. should only undertake subject matter which they know. However, this is not necessarily true.

Nobel laureate Toni Morrison, author of the masterpiece Beloved and other works, disagrees with this advice. She believes writers should write about what they don't know.

It all depends on the writer. One of the greatest writers and literary geniuses of all time, William Shakespeare, was not afraid to write about what he did not know. He did not know from personal experience what is what like to be an Italian, a Jew, a woman, a Black man, etc. However, he brilliantly made such characters relatable to his readers.

The bottom line is that writers should write what they want to write about. With enough imagination, they can have great success and highly believable characters.

Writing Tip No. 5: Write to Be Understood

Posted on July 15, 2014 at 1:38 PM Comments comments (23)
Writing tip number five is similar to writing tip number four: Know Your Audience. When addressing a general audience, refrain as far as possible from using foreign words or phrases. (Some writers go so far as to use foreign sentences and paragraphs, leaving many of their readers completely baffled.)

It is also a good idea to not use English words that are too rare, big or difficult to pronounce. A friend of mine used to say, "If you have an advanced vocabulary, you might as well use it." However, how would it benefit the communicator if the audience with whom she is trying to communicate cannot understand her?

Do not try to appear intellectually deep by using obscure words or incomprehensible jargon. This is not necessary. On the contrary, a wise man once said, "It is better  to be profound in clear terms than in obscure terms." Indeed, by trying to appear especially deep, the writer might merely come off as arrogant, pretentious, and pedantic. 


Posted on July 1, 2014 at 10:38 AM Comments comments (9)
Many speakers and writers deliver speeches and articles without being aware of what kinds of people are in their target audience. This can be disastrous.

A good example of a writer not knowing her audience would be an Intelligent Design advocate or a young-Earth creationist writing an article to be submitted to a prestigious journal such as SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN or SCIENCE. The writer would have no serious chance of being published unless the editors of such journals wanted to warn their readers about what NOT to accept.

When submitting articles, writers should know what kinds of journals in which they are seeking publication, who the general readers are, the philosophy of the editors of the journal, etc. This way, even if the writer wants to address an audience that could be hostile to her message, she could still tailor the message in such a way that it would receive less hostility, or possibly, even acceptance.

Writing Tip Three: Avoid the Double Negative

Posted on May 24, 2014 at 9:32 AM Comments comments (4)
Some writers make the mistake of using a double negative. Examples of double negatives are:

"Don't ask me for nothing."
(Correction: Don't ask me for anything.)
"We don't have nothing."
(Correction: We don't have anything, or, We have nothing.)
"Can't nobody hold me down."
(Correction: No one can hold me down.)

In the last sentence, not only is the grammar atrocious, but the syntax is wrong. Proper sentence construction is a must if the writer is to be taken seriously.

Then there is that rare bird, the triple negative. For example:

"I'm not battling nobody no more."
(Correction: I am no longer battling anyone.)

Remember to avoid the double or triple negative at all costs. There is no need to go for added emphasis. A single "negative" will suffice.

Writing Tip Two: Avoid the Masculine Bias

Posted on May 17, 2014 at 9:54 PM Comments comments (5)

Many people continue to write with a masculine bias. For example, they will write "A man must learn to assert himself in all things," when such a statement certainly applies to women as well. Or they might write of "man" or "mankind," when to be respectfully inclusive, they could just as easily write of humanity or humankind.

Moreover, many people continue to assume that only men are to be found in certain professions. That is to say, they might write of salesmen rather than salespersons, chairmen as opposed to chairpersons (or even chairs), mailmen instead of mail carriers, firemen instead of firefighters, etc.

Do not be reluctant to use "he or she," 'his or hers" and "him or her." (For example, "A person is likely to be hurt in certain instances. He or she must take certain precautions.") Or you might use "she or he" or "hers or his," whereas "her or him" does not flow easily.

Furthermore, a person could use the word "one" to be gender neutral. For example, "one must always do one's best," rather than "a man must always do his best."

Using a masculine bias is disrespectful toward girls and women. It is popular today for many men to complain about alleged "political correctness" whenever they want to defend sexist language and practices. However, what I am advocating is simply respect for girls and women, and inclusivity. Always recognize the common moral decency of simple respect, and strive to be accurate, fair and inclusive. That is not political, but it is morally correct.

Writing Tip One: Watch Your Tone

Posted on May 10, 2014 at 5:38 PM Comments comments (58)
Everyone has to write at some time. However, written communication, sadly, is a dying art. On any given day one can identify numerous errors in spelling, grammar, punctuation, etc. in emails, Web posts, on social media sites, and so forth.
For that reason, I have decided to do my part to help improve this dire situation. My first writing tip will have to do with tone. Too often, especially in email correspondence, in comments sections on Websites, etc. writers tend to be rude, crude, disrespectful, hateful, etc. Some even go so far as to issue threats of rape, torture and murder.
Some people express themselves differently in writing than they do when speaking. This is not necessarily conscious or intentional on their part. This difference is especially noticeable when they are making comments anonymously on Websites, etc.
However, it is a good idea to remember not to express yourself in writing in a way that you would never do when speaking with someone face-to-face. Common courtesy is the key. This is not to say that there are never times when we are justified in expressing anger in speech or writing. The point is to understand that if we are trying to communicate effectively, we usually have to do so respectfully. Being disrespectful can ruin an otherwise excellent point and make you look bad in the eyes of those that might have otherwise supported your cause.