I have a treat for my readers– guest posts scattered from today till the end of the month! They are all awesome writers who I missed in the last run.
It’s fitting that the first post belongs to Duncan, because he is the first person I asked. You might know Duncan already from his blog, NobodysReadingMe, which is a misnomer because I am in fact reading him– and you should, too!
With no further ado, here he is with some advice for writers!
I must have been very wicked in a past life, I think. Very naughty indeed, despite my current blameless existence as a paragon of virtue and clean living. I’ve been forced to this conclusion by some of the events of this past week. In particular, I have been asked to do some sub-editing for a new local magazine where I live. I agreed with a light heart and a gentle smile. How hard can it be, I thought? I used to make my living editing scientific documents, often with some very very obscure and clever concepts involved. A few hundred words about a local fete or such couldn’t be that hard, surely?
I’m here to tell you that it can be very hard work indeed. It’s close to an extreme sport. The reason is quite straightforward. Lots of people are incapable of writing a coherent sentence. When I was at Dotheboys Hall, back when dinosaurs were still waiting to evolve, I was taught the basics of writing a sentence. A sentence requires a subject and a predicate. The predicate consists of a verb, so the subject actually does something, and may involve an object, to which the subject does something. Easypeasy lemon squeezy eh? Cinch. The cat sat on the mat. There you go.
Unfortunately, it seems as if these simple skills have now passed into obscurity. With some of the items I was editing I genuinely didn’t have a clue what the authors were attempting to impart. A relatively simple article about the local racecourse became impenetrable. I just had to wing it and hope for the best.
There was an additional problem. Nobody seems to realise that the use of multiple exclamation marks does not increase the emphasis on a particular point. A row of them simply makes you look like a moron. This also applies to the use of BLOCK CAPITALS IN BOLD ITALIC!!!!!!!!! You simply come across as a tyro if you pull that stunt.
It helps also if you can spell. I’m a bit fat thumbed myself, and am prone to the odd typo. However, I have found the spell-check function key (F7 if you don’t know,) and I use it assiduously. It’s still possible to miss things, or get it wrong, but at least I make the effort. I don’t see it’s that hard to do. But what do I know? It’s also possible to check for double word spaces. Everybody can do it with a word processing program. Anybody can, but most of the people I’ve been editing this week didn’t bother.
What else? I’m a bit old fashioned I suppose, but I’m a believer in punctuation. It’s useful. However, it’s not useful if you try to write sentences that are an entire paragraph in length. The reader will lose the will to live well before the end, however many commas and dashes and parentheses you use.
One last whinge. If you use more than one typeface, then you run the risk of your lovingly crafted piece of writing looking like a scrap metal merchant’s handbill. Just say no.
That’s a sound piece of advice, come to think of it. If someone asks you to do some subbing for a local magazine, just say no. It’s a thankless task.
Let Duncan know how impressed you are by him– because I only asked him for this guest post 12 hours ago! Stop by and check out his writings, too- be generous with your rawr LOVE!
- http://nobodysreadingme.wordpress.com/2013/06/19/how-to-know-when-youre-not-at-home/ (This is the one where he stood up for the glory of travel in the face of my anti-travel rawr.)
What other skills have passed to obscurity? Do you agree or disagree with any of Duncan’s thoughts here?