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7 Golden Rules of Writing and Editing: A Non-grammar-focused Guide to Irresistible Writing

7 Golden Rules of Writing and Editing: A Non-grammar-focused Guide to Irresistible Writing
    Photo by jjpacres' on flickr

    For the longest time, I was too scared to publish anything on my blog.

    I had the debilitating fear of making a mistake – a simple error. What if somebody catches my mistake, corrects it and lets the world know? I would agonize over this problem. I thought my credibility as a Business Writer would be shot to pieces.

    When you write, you constantly feel the pressure of mastering the art of using commas. You are required to understand the difference between a colon and a semi one, the misplaced modifier, and the rules on splitting the infinitive. Really, who has a brain to for that? Not me, for sure.

    Do we really need to go back to school and learn grammar and punctuation all over again? Do we really need to take writing classes to understand the basics of forming intelligent sentences?

    No and no. You need to do these things but you don’t necessarily have to go back to a classroom setting.

    Here is a list of 7 rules that will help you to revise and edit your work painlessly – or at least with the least amount of it.

    1. Make a good first impression

    What is the most interesting bit or angle about your writing? Clue the reader in early and don’t bury the introduction in the body of the text.

    If you lose your reader at this stage, there is no point to your writing. You might as well stop wasting your time as well as the reader’s.

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    2. Write to express, not to impress

    Why is it that you are writing, again? Is it to make a point or to show off your literary prowess?

    Always write so that everything is clearly understood.

    Use simple words. Use the first word that comes to your mind as that will often work best.

    Don’t look up fancy words in thesaurus as you go – write naturally. The only way you can get a better understanding of language is through your reading habit. Read more to increase your vocabulary organically.

    Avoid clichés and jargon. Think outside the box.

    3. Be specific – it won’t kill you

    Use short sentences. Use clear sentences. Pay attention to structure and craft sentences that inform or even entertain your readers.

    Use short paragraphs. Connect them in a logical, seamless flow. For every new idea you explore, start a new one.

    Write in the active voice – this will make the most difference to your writing.

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    In active voice, the subject performs the action – it is the most direct, straightforward way to write.

    “The dog chased by the boy.” This is passive.

    “The boy chased the dog.” This more direct. Remember to use active voice whenever possible. Passive voice is usually slow and boring, and often doesn’t fully convey the message.

    Often, the sentence becomes shorter as well. Writing in the active voice will make it much easier for you to stick to the text guidelines.

    Try using strong verbs for action, be bold.

    “She did the crime so she could pay for the jewellery.” Weak.

    “She stole from her Mum so she could splurge on the jewellery.” Much better.

    4. Reign over pesky punctuation and grim grammar

    Make sure full stops, commas, apostrophes and dashes are in their proper places. Do the best you can and then move on.

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    Check for spelling and grammar. Remember to use spell check as well as your eyes.

    Read for style. Make sure it is consistent throughout.

    5. If in doubt, leave it out

    Is there anything that really worries you? It’s much better to take it out now than to have regrets later.

    Brevity is the secret of good writing. Do not waste words, do tight editing where every word means something. Avoid unnecessary words.

    As Stephen King has said famously (and not famously said – remember not to split the infinitive),

    Kill your darlings.

    Do not get attached to your sentences.

    Edit, edit, edit. Anything that doesn’t make sense, anything that doesn’t sound right to your ears; kill it. Go on, be brave and kill your darlings now.

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    6. Pay attention to the boring bits

    Do attribute all quotations and allegations to someone. Check that the text does not defame anyone or breach copyright.

    Make sure the length of your copy is appropriate. If you need to cut, cut from the bottom. That usually works well.

    When you are satisfied you have edited the copy to the highest standard, read it again.

    7. The Final Read – One More Time

    You must become a tough editor of all text, even if it takes significant time and effort. Check and check again to see your basic ingredients are correct.

    Read aloud – one last time.

    While fear of imperfection should not stop you from writing, not educating yourself is not good enough of an excuse.

    Learn, write and most of all, have fun along the way. You will find many people supporting you, because they themselves have been caught in the act, in this case, publishing their work with a typo.

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    Marya Jan

    Facebook Ad Strategist

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    Last Updated on October 14, 2019

    12 Inspirational Speeches That Teach You the Most Valuable Life Lessons

    12 Inspirational Speeches That Teach You the Most Valuable Life Lessons

    The most valuable thing an experienced person has is their experience. People make mistakes, learn from them, and adapt their life around them to become better people. Those people would then tell tales to others to help teach those lessons so that others would not have to make the same mistakes.

    People still tell these stories today but in a slightly different format — they use speeches to express their experiences. Here are some valuable life lessons you can learn from some of the greatest inspirational speeches:

    1. JK Rowling teaches us to not fear failure no matter how bad things become

    It is a well-known fact that JK Rowling’s now-famous Harry Potter series was turned down by several publishers before it was finally picked up. Those publishers are likely kicking themselves in the pants right now. However, before that, JK Rowling was in a fairly dire situation and was on the brink of failure. Despite being turned down time and time again, she kept trying. Her efforts paid off. Harry Potter is now a ubiquitous character in today’s world culture. Despite failing over and over again, Rowling kept trying and fulfilled her dreams. You can watch her deliver some valuable life lessons in her Harvard commencement speech video above.

    2. Steve Jobs teaches us to never settle

    Steve Jobs had a fairly tumultuous life. He co-founded Apple, was kicked out of the company, came back, and then re-defined the mobile phone space with the iPhone. Even if iPhones aren’t the rage they once were, its iconic value is forever written in stone. One thing Jobs never did was settle. He lived life on his own terms and was rewarded for it by being dubbed one of the most revolutionary voices in technology of our time. In the Stanford commencement speech above, Jobs explains how you should never settle for what someone else wants out of your life. It’s your life and you should do what you want with it.

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    3. Admiral William H McRaven teaches us to make our beds every day

    Anyone who has gone through the basic training of a military service will tell you it’s pretty difficult. However, every seemingly obnoxious step is actually a life lesson in disguise. This even applies to flawlessly making one’s bed every single morning. As Admiral William H McRaven teaches us, recruits are taught to make their beds every morning to remind them that even the little things in life matter. After all, how can you be expected to handle the biggest obstacles in your life if you can’t even handle the small and the mundane like making your bed every day? You can watch the entire speech in the video above.

    4. Author David Foster Wallace teaches us that we’re a part of a greater existence

    David Foster Wallace found fame in 1987 with his book The Broom of the System. Nearly 20 years later in 2005 he game a commencement speech at Kenyon College that is worth listening to at least once. In his speech, he reminds us that was are but a part of a huge, dynamic, ever changing interaction of life forms. In order to truly experience life, we need to leave our personal bubbles and interact with others even if it’s in an unpleasant way. Wallace states, “It will actually be within your power to experience a crowded, hot, slow, consumer-hell type situation as not only meaningful, but sacred, on fire with the same force that made the stars: love, fellowship, the mystical oneness of all things deep down.” You can watch the whole speech above.

    5. Stephen Colbert teaches us that life isn’t something you can plan

    If there is anyone who knows about improvisation, it’s comedian Stephen Colbert. In his commencement speech at Northwestern University in 2011, Colbert reminded students that you cannot plan life. Life throws too many curve balls. There are too many unpredictable things that can happen. The most successful and happy people are not those who have a plan, but those who can roll with the punches and overcome the obstacles. He goes on to site his time as an improv comic and how all of the actors working together to create a scene out of literally nothing are all working for one another. He states that like improv comedy, you don’t know what happens next in life. You just make it up as you go along. You can watch the whole speech above.

    6. Kurt Vonnegut teaches us to not sweat the small stuff

    Some of our younger readers may not know Kurt Vonnegut. He is a famous author that found of of his success during the middle of last century. In 1999, Kurt Vonnegut was at Agnes Scott College giving a commencement speech. During the speech, he mentioned that in order to live a more complete life, people needed to let stuff go. He argued that you cannot reasonably expect others to forgive you for your mistakes if you cannot forgive others and that you cannot live life fostering a personal vendetta against others.

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    7. Neil Gaiman teaches us that success can be distracting.

    Neil Gaiman is most known for his work in a number of literary mediums including journalism, comic books, and novels. In 2012, Gaiman gave a speech at the University of the Arts where he talked about success. He stated that when you become successful, you may be unintentionally swayed from performing the actions that made you successful. Gaiman recalled his early success and how he felt pressured to answer emails all day long and it actually prevented him from writing as much as he wanted. So he reminds us to keep doing what makes us successful and to not let others get in the way.

    8. Barack Obama’s life lessons teaches us that you really can beat the odds

    We know that not everyone likes Barack Obama but that doesn’t mean the man can’t deliver an amazing speech. In this 2004 keynote speech at the Democratic National Convenction, Obama reminds that it is possible to beat the odds and become something great. He cites his own upbringing as an example and how he was never expected to make it as far as he did. It shows that when you’re passionate about something and when you try hard enough, you can accomplish almost anything. It’s important to note that Obama talks about this in 2004 and would become the President of the United States just four years later.

    9. Robin Roberts reminds us that we each have the courage to overcome challenges

    Robin Roberts knows a thing or two about courage. She is a breast cancer survivor and has done battle with a rare blood disease called myelodysplastic syndrome. Her sister once had to donate bone marrow just so Robin could remain alive. She was also ESPN’s first African American broadcaster in the early 1990’s. She’s a woman who works in an industry predominately populated by men. So when Robin Roberts takes the stage at the ESPYs and delivers a short lecture on having courage, we would do well to listen!

    10. Martin Luther King Jr. reminds us that some things are more important than success

    We all know the story of Martin Luther King Jr. So much so that we have a day of the year to celebrate him as a national holiday here in the United States. Most of us have listening to segments of his famous speech where he told the world about a dream he had. The main message of his famous speech is that racial inequalities needed to end and he was absolutely right. However, he also reminds us that there are things that are more important than success such as equal rights and treating each other with respect and kindness. If you somehow made it through school without watching the famous speech, we’ve got it linked above.

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    11. Jim Carrey reminds us that even if you keep it safe, you can still fail so you might as well go big

    Jim Carrey delivered a commencement speech at Maharishi University recently that went absolutely viral. You may know it as the one minute video that will change your life. They weren’t lying but they weren’t telling the whole truth because the speech was actually 28 minutes long. During the speech, Carrey talks about his father who wanted to be a comedian but decided to take the safe route and become an accountant. As it turns out, his father was laid off and his family ended up poor anyway. With that, Carrey tells us that you can still end up failing even if you play it safe so you might as well swing for the fences and do what you want to do.

    12. Bill Murray teaches us that it’s the hard times that determine if someone really loves you

    You may have heard the story about Bill Murray crashing someone’s bachelor party and delivering a speech. It turns out the speech was both short and fairly epic. During the speech, Bill Murray challenged the bachelors to travel around the world with the women they love and go to places that are difficult to go to and deal with. He says if you can get back to the United States and you still love each other, then you should get married right then and there. It’s a great message. It’s easy to love one another when times are good but do you still love each other when the times are bad? If so, that’s true love according to Bill Murray.

    Final thoughts

    Inspiration comes from everywhere and from anyone. There are a countless number of speeches and stories that can teach us an incalculable number of life lessons.

    All these speeches almost share the same message: Don’t be afraid to fail and keep trying.

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    If you also want to live your best life like the above successful people, this is what you should start doing:

    You’ll Only Live Your Best Life Once You Step Out

    At the end of the day, everything is inspirational. It’s just a matter of finding the message that we need to hear to change our lives.

    Featured photo credit: Miguel Henriques via unsplash.com

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