Whats Your Story
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Three Tips For Good Writing

My website designer has access to Google tools and he lets me check them out. One of the things in the toolbox is a list of all the words Google thinks I use a lot and, I gather, that list tends to dictate what search terms I will rank for. The list they have for my site is as long as my arm but, frustratingly, it does not seem to include words like write, writing, writer, editor, editing or copy writing.

I was telling my brother how much this hurts my pride since, on my front page, I claim to be a writer and a good one. I have arrogantly assumed people will find my site via their searches for a copy writer to help them optimize their website by writing, or rewriting, their website content but it is just not happening. People are not finding me in copy writing, content writing or any other writing or writer related searches. Pout!

One of the original purposes of this site was, in fact, to try and make some money writing, editing, rewriting or adding keywords to content for people. I did not expect to make much, if anything, since I am brand new to offering a writing service so I do not have much of a portfolio. I did, however, expect to rank for those writing related search terms because I am used to ranking for pretty much anything I write about.

My work seems to appear in dozens of other search results even if I have only used the keyword one or two times! I think Google is just being stubborn about keeping me from ranking for these ones.

My website designer said this is happening because I am not writing about writing or search engine optimization. He said I should write about these things if I want to rank in searches for them. He says people would like to read about how to write better.

I said I can’t tell people how to write – I don’t know the terminology! I know about nouns, verbs and adverbs but, to be honest, I am not entirely sure which is which. I know about spelling and grammar but not rules. I write instinctively. I know how to do it but I don’t know how to teach it.

Someone once told me the reason I know, instinctively, how to obey rules I have never been taught is because I have done a lot of reading. I think that is true. I often find, when it comes to spelling for example, I pick up most of the mistakes I make as soon as I have made them because the way I have spelt the word just looks wrong to me.

How can I teach other people something I was not really taught myself?

So I have not written about writing and the words continue to be absent from the list in Google tools. My pride is taking a beating and my ego is hurting so bad I have decided to give it a try. The result may, or may not, be helpful to readers but it’s the best I can do without going back to school myself.

Rule one: Have something to say

When I sit down to write I always try to have a “story” to tell. This means there is a start, a middle, and an ending. For this entry, for many entries, the start is the story of why I decided to write the item. It sets the stage, explains the reasoning and prepares the reader for what will follow. Theoretically anyway.

The middle is the stuff I want to say. In this article it will be a description of how I go about writing. I have some personal rules I follow when writing and I am going to share those since that’s all I can share on the subject.

The end is a kind of wrap up and I always try to tie the final sentences back to the beginning somehow. The aim is to leave the reader feeling they got an ending and were not left hanging. When you leave a reader hanging you leave them feeling unsatisfied. That’s my opinion anyway.

If I can’t come up with all three parts I tend to think I don’t have enough to say about the topic to make it worth writing about.

Rule two: Don’t write – talk.

When I write I’m picturing people in my head and I am talking to them. I use words I would use if I were really talking to someone about the subject and I use short sentences because, in any good conversation, you don’t use long winded sentences.

That last sentence is, in fact, too long in my mind and I am considering rewriting it. It’s 32 words and I tend to prefer less than 30 words per sentence – maximum.

I was taught to write short sentences in my journalism training and I think they said 25 words was the maximum. For some reason my personal limit is closer to 30 but I will, occasionally, allow a longer one to slip through.

I don’t count the words in a sentence though. I can tell from looking at them when I have written a sentence that is too long. If you are not sure if your sentence is too long try reading it out loud and imagine you are in a conversation with some person you like. Would you say it in a conversation? If the answer is no you need to rewrite it.

Rule three: Punctuation and spelling

People who can’t spell and don’t know anything about punctuation may not mind if I make mistakes in these areas but others will. Nobody hates good writing but a lot of people hate spelling mistakes.

The written work is all a reader has to go on when forming an opinion of the writer as a person. Spelling errors go hand-in-hand with a mental image of the writer as ignorant, uneducated, careless, sloppy, lazy and other negative things. A lot of people say spelling doesn’t matter but people often form negative opinions about a writer without understanding why. Poor spelling is often the reason for that.

When it comes to spacing and punctuation my rule, and I think this is a formal rule for writing too, is one thought or idea to a paragraph. This has the effect of creating a pause. People take a second to digest that thought before they move to the next one. It helps them stay with you and understand what you are saying. It also prevents them from feeling “tired” and losing interest.

The white space (blank sections of the page) are, to the eye, what silence is to the ear – restful. If there is not enough white space a reader will not read. It will seem too much like hard work. I am constitutionally unable to write short entries so I provide white space by writing short paragraphs.

I keep my sentences short so there is not a lot of need to worry much about most of the punctuation. Full stops (or periods) go, as per the name, at the point where you stop the sentence hehehe. Comma’s are a bit trickier. One of the few things I do remember being taught is that, if you use one comma, you must use two.

That particular rule can cause me no end of rewriting! I think, from the dusty and vague vaults of my memory, this is because you are breaking your sentence up to insert something. I was told the words before the first comma and the words after the second comma should make sense even if the words between the two comma’s were to be removed.

OK – that’s it! I’m floundering now. I’m moving from “I know what I am talking about” into “I’m just guessing”.

I shall ponder the topic on an ongoing basis and if I think of anything useful to add, or I learn more about the subject, I will write a part two.

As some wise wag once said: “It is better to keep your mouth shut and let people think you are stupid than to open it and remove all doubt.”

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