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Want to be a Better Writer? 7 Tips to Help You Improve Your Writing Skills

Want to be a Better Writer? 7 Tips to Help You Improve Your Writing Skills
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So, you want to be a writer? Ever since reading your first story, you’ve been dreaming of being able to put your emotions and the world of your imagination into words. Or, maybe you just started a blog to express your opinion on all things worldly. Unfortunately for you, even though you have that wish, you may not have what it takes in terms of technical skills. Well, becoming a writer can be achieved through learning and practice. Like any other skill, writing skills can be taught and strengthened over time. Having said that, here are some suggestions on how you can develop your writing skills.

1. Read a lot

A writer is also a reader. If you want to be able to write, you will have to read. Read like your life depends on it. Working through various genres and styles, for example poetry or novels, Shakespeare or Tolkien, provides insights into how writing different techniques can be used. Moreover, this process will allow you to know how to express yourself and create new worlds and characters. The more you read, the easier it will be for you to develop your own style. Also, you will see what makes a great book, how to create a flow and a compelling piece of fiction.

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2. Attend a writing class

If you are a beginner, this is where you could start off. Have someone guide you through the whole process and help you build your writing skill. Plus, as you complete tasks, you will get useful feedback on what’s right and wrong with your writing from the teacher. Your classmates could help you out, as well. Reading your work out loud, in front of an audience, will help you build your confidence as a writer.

3. Brush up on the basics

In order to write, you need to have good vocabulary and grammar. These are just the basics you must master as a writer. Being able to select the right word, an appropriate synonym, or to effectively use complex sentence structure; these things can help make you noticeable as a writer. For instance, you can buy a good thesaurus or use an online source to help you build a considerable vocabulary.

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Other than that, you need to be familiar with various creative writing techniques. So, find a few books on that, too. Learn about topics such as how to write a novel, how to evolve characters and how to write the perfect poem. All of this will be an important part of your education process.

4. Imitate other writers

One of the best ways to practice writing is to, well, copy other writers. Of course, you shouldn’t use their exact sentences in your own work. Imitation, here, implies taking any book and starting to copy those exact sentences onto a piece of paper. This will help you understand how that writer created their story. Ask yourself questions such as: What kind of style do they have? How are the sentences constructed? Even better, this will assist you in growing your own knowledge. As you copy, you will become influenced, and as time goes by, you will be able to explore in further detail and insight a sentence from Sylvia Plath, for example.

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5. Edit your work

Once you finish a story or a chapter, or even a whole book, you should sit down and go through it once more. You should focus on finding errors. As you go along, edit anything you think is wrong. Maybe you misused a word, a comma, made a spelling mistake – anything from grammar to style should be edited. But, as mentioned before, edit when you are done with writing. If you do it on the fly, not only will you waste time, but you risk losing the whole idea and the essence of the story. And when you finish editing once, go through it again. Proofread your work several times before submitting the final copy.

6. Find the right place for writing

Other than your mood, inspiration or idea, one more thing can affect the way you write. That thing is the place where your writing occurs. It can be your garage, study, bedroom, kitchen or even a public place like a café. The choice depends solely on you. Maybe you like to be alone, in a quiet place like your study, or perhaps you prefer the hustle and bustle of a coffee shop. It all comes down to how comfortable and inspired you feel at that location. And, once you find the right one, stick to it.

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7. Research

Do your research before writing anything down. If you are writing a news story or a piece filled with historic elements, do your research on the specified topic. Being too free with the facts, or coming up with your own is wrong and it can lead to a serious backlash. Not only will you be seen as a fool, but you will spread lies, too. The important things is to not make a foolish mistake and look like an amateur.

Hopefully, some of these tips will help you improve and be the writer you always wanted to be. And, if you are already a seasoned writer, but you are going through writer’s block, these tips could be helpful for you, as well.

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Nemanja Manojlovic

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Published on July 27, 2021

15 Smart Video Conferencing Etiquette Tips to Follow

15 Smart Video Conferencing Etiquette Tips to Follow
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During the pandemic, video conferencing replaced in-person meetings and has now become the standard option for business meetings. Over the past 17 months, most workers have gotten past the video conferencing learning curve with Zoom or Microsoft Teams (or their platform of choice).

But just as with in-person meetings, attention can wax and wane. Some say we’re just not used to staring at ourselves so much on the screen. Instead of fixating on that, try employing smart video conferencing etiquette, or you may risk indiscretions that will flag you as a slacker.

Put the Pro in Professional

After more than a year of fine-tuning, here are the new rules of video conferencing etiquette.

1. Mute Your Mobile and Other Devices

The first video conference etiquette you need to know is muting your other devices. Just as in the pre-COVID days, someone’s obnoxious ring tone blaring Taylor Swift’s newest single in the middle of a meeting is also an annoyance if it happens during a Zoom meeting and so is the inevitable fumbling to turn off the sound. Even the apologies to the group get tiresome.

Also, when notifications are activated on the computer that you’re using for the meeting, the incoming message takes over the audio and you’ll miss out on snippets of the conversation. Be sure to eliminate this possible faux pas.

2. Dress the Part

While working from home, you may have fallen into the habit of slipping on your comfiest T-shirt each day. Hey, no judgments! But before you log on to your video conference, try to make an effort with your appearance.

Depending on your company culture and the importance of your meeting, consider dressing the part of the professional whom you wish to project. It will help you feel more self-assured, and others will likely take you more seriously.

For women, wear light make-up, put on earrings, and make sure your blouse is crisply pressed. For men, show up freshly shaved. Wearing a crisp collared shirt in a solid color will usually suffice.

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Pro Tip: Stay away from wearing white or black, unless those colors look great on you. Consider wearing light blue or brown instead.

3. Stage Your Workspace

Have you noticed the backdrops of experts interviewed on news shows? Bookshelves and photographs are carefully curated, and no busy-patterned furniture or artwork is in sight.

Take note of what appears behind you when you choose the location of your video conferences. Piles of junk mail on the table or stacks of folded laundry on the couch will convey more about your personal life than you care to share. Make sure you remove clutter from the camera’s eye, and present a tidy, orderly workspace to your colleagues, coworkers, and bosses.

4. Put Some Thought Into Lighting and Perspective

Be aware that in a video conference, your computer camera can actually make you look up to ten pounds heavier depending on where you sit. But you can easily drop those added pounds by moving back from the screen to diminish the wide-angle distortion.

Frame your head on the screen by tilting the screen up or down. Also, it’s best to not place yourself in front of a window or bright light, which makes you appear in shadow. Instead, face the light source, moving it (or yourself) until you have a flattering amount of illumination. You can also purchase some small spotlights that allow you to add light as needed.

Pro Tip: If your lights add too much redness to your skin, consider counter-balancing with a green filter.

Remember That Half of Life Is Showing Up

5. Arrive on Time

In the old days of in-person meetings, it was nearly impossible to slip in late into a meeting unnoticed. In today’s video conferences, logging in late still shows poor form. Instead, strive to arrive five minutes early and get yourself settled.

Once the meeting is underway, the host may be less attentive about late arrivals waiting to be let in. Diverting the host’s attention away from the meeting with a tardy entry request is the ultimate giveaway that you didn’t honor the schedule. If you don’t want a black mark against you, log in on time.

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6. Turn on Your Video

Few people like to see their face on the screen, but buck up and turn on your camera in video conferences. In most cases, it’s better to be a face on a screen than a name in a blank square. Your statements will be more memorable when other meeting attendees can see you.

If you need to turn off the video, either because of a poor connection, some commotion in the room, or a need for a quick break, give a short explanation via the chat feature. Then, go back on video as soon as you’re able.

Pro Tip: Keep your explanation for your departure pithy. “Sorry! Doorbell rang. Back in five” says it all. Be sure to honor what you say in chat and really do return in five minutes.

7. Plan Ahead Before Sharing Your Screen

Don’t be one of those people who makes everyone else wait as you click through folders in search of a document. That’s just poor video conferencing etiquette. If you know you’ll need to share a document or video on your screen, prepare by pulling it out of its folder and onto your desktop. Also, clean up the files and folders on your desktop to reduce clutter and facilitate easy access. Close other programs like chat, calendar notifications, and email. Disable pop-up notifications to ensure there’ll be no unforeseen distractions.

Be sure to remind the host before the meeting that you’ll need them to activate the screen-sharing function. Show courtesy once you’re finished by hitting “stop share” to return to the screen with participants.

Attend to the Pesky Details

8. Make Sure That Meetings Remain Right-Sized

With the easy accessibility of video conferencing, it can be tempting to extend the meeting invitation beyond the core group and include everyone peripherally involved in a project. But just as with in-person meetings, the more people involved, the more unwieldy the meeting becomes.

Use good judgment when asking others to sit through a video conference so that you don’t needlessly take up others’ time and so that participants can be fully engaged.

9. Remember to “Unmute” Before You Speak

Most of us are likely able to count on one hand the number of video conferences when someone didn’t have to be reminded, “You’re on mute!” Forgetting to unmute before speaking has become one of the most common missteps in video conferencing.[1]

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Show everyone your impeccable video-conferencing poise by managing your mute feature with flawless control.

10. Stay on Point to Keep the Meeting Length in Check

As with in-person meetings, an agenda with assigned time limits for discussions remains necessary to keep a meeting focused. Data shows, however, that video conferencing can actually reduce meeting time.[2] Reasons include the elimination of commuting time and the ability to screen share and annotate to keep everyone on task.

Additionally, side conversations are virtually impossible with video conferencing now that you can no longer have back-and-forth exchanges with the person beside you.

Pro Tip: If you’re running the meeting, let attendees know in advance the protocol for the chat feature. Is it okay for them to “chat among themselves” or not? (See point 11, as well.)

Talking Has a Time and a Place

11. Chat Appropriately

Just like side conversations or texting in an in-person meeting, the use of the chat feature during a video conference can be disrespectful unless it’s directed to all participants. Hence, it’s good video conferencing etiquette to mind your use of the chat.

At the start of the meeting, you may want to ask the host if it’s alright for participants to use the chat feature. This allows them to disable it if they choose. Used appropriately, it can be a helpful tool to clarify or amplify an earlier point once the conversation has moved on or to let the group know that you need to sign off early (and why).

12. Use the “Raise Hand” Feature to Avoid Interruptions

The slight lag in many video conferences can result in speaking over another person if you attempt to jump into a conversation. To avoid this awkward interruption, indicate when you have something to add to the discussion with the raise-your-hand feature that signals the host you would like to speak. This effective meeting management device makes video conferencing run more smoothly, especially with a large group, but it must be activated and monitored by the host.

Pro Tip: For meetings of six to ten people, sometimes the old-fashioned raising of your physical hand may be the best option. But it’s up to the meeting host. Ask them what they would prefer, and follow that.

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13. Don’t Record the Session or Take Photos Without Prior Permission

In this case, not sharing is caring. The “sharing culture” made popular through social media has little place in video conferencing. Before recording a meeting or capturing a screenshot of the participants, always ask for consent in advance from the full roster of attendees. Knowing that a video conference will be photographed or recorded could have a bearing on what others are willing to discuss.

Manage Yourself

14. Minimize Distractions

While de-activating audio and video features can keep distractions from affecting the other participants, you will need to manage noise and disruptions on your end to give your full attention to the meeting.

Move out of high-traffic zones in your home, keep your door closed, and ask family members to be considerate.

15. Save Snacking for Later

Save snacking for later—or earlier. Eating while on video conference is a no-no. Munching in front of the group while close to the camera—as you are when video conferencing—subjects the participants to an up-close and (too) personal view of your food consumption process.

However, it’s perfectly fine to sip quietly from a glass of water or cup of coffee or tea. If the meeting threatens to last for more than two hours, you may want to ask the host in advance to schedule a five-minute break at the halfway point.

Final Thoughts

Even though bosses are now beginning to ask workers to spend some of their workdays on-site, up to 80 percent will permit employees to work remotely at least part of the time, which means more video conferencing in your future.[3] Mastering these video conferencing etiquette tips will help you dial in—as well as dial back—your participation and demonstrate your unwavering level of engagement to the team.

Featured photo credit: Chris Montgomery via unsplash.com

Reference

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