Saturday, February 17, 2007

More Writer's Tools

I give you ... a perfect summer rose.

After spending about a half-hour today chipping away at a 2-inch crust of ice on my driveway, I felt in need of a reminder that we'll soon be feeling the warmth of the sun on our faces, smelling the scent of newly cut grass, and drinking in a riot of color with our eyes. Sigh. Oh, well. For now, I guess I'll have to try to find some sort of beauty in the thousand shades of brown and gray that are the colors of a Delaware winter.

As promised, here are a few more tools to help you improve your writing:

  • Use proper outline structure ... there can't be a 1 without a 2 or an A without a B. So if a section only has one subhead, add another one. One of the easiest ways of dealing with this is by adding "Introduction" or "Background" after the main head, before the text. Then your other subhead has a yang to its yin.

  • Be consistent ... if you capitalize a word in this section, be sure you capitalize it throughout your document (search/replace is good for this -- just be careful that what you're replacing isn't part of some other word. If your subject is singular, be sure the verb is, too. If your document's heads and body text use particular formatting, be sure that this formatting is used throughout the document.

  • Know the differences between hyphens, 1/n dashes, 1/m dashes, slashes, colons, and semicolons so that you can use them to the best effect.

  • Incorporate QC into your process sooner rather than later. You don't want to be at the very end of a project only to have someone tell you that a crucial element has been overlooked. (As an aside, I can't tell you how often big, important projects have been brought to me for a final--and only--QC check with instructions to "only check for spelling and grammar problems." I didn't make too many friends when I pointed out errors in logic, incomplete information, or even language that some would find downright offensive.)

  • Create a style guide that addresses everthing from acceptable use of your company logo and colors to correct phrasing and punctuation. A style guide can help streamline the work process and help you present a unified voice and appearance to your internal and external audiences.

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