Wednesday, March 4, 2015

National Grammar Day

 




Did you know that March 4th is National Grammar Day?  

That means it's time for a rousing discussion on grammar, right? :) Well maybe not, but I'm thinking we can at least share a few grammar tips that have helped us along the way. 

One of my favorite gems comes from William Strunk and E. B. White. In their book The Elements of Style they said, 

“Do not overstate. When you overstate, the reader will be instantly on guard, and everything that has preceded your overstatement as well as everything that follows it will be suspect in his mind because he has lost confidence in your judgment or your poise. Overstatement is one of the common faults. A single overstatement, wherever or however it occurs, diminishes the whole, and a single carefree superlative has the power to destroy, for the reader, the object of the writer’s enthusiasm.”

I believe that overstating can take different forms. For example:

1) Capitalized Words 

Consider - which is better? This:

I KNOW you’ll AGREE with ME when I SAY that we MUST put an END to THIS DISPUTE.

Or this: 

We must end this dispute.

Have you ever received an e-mail loaded with caps like this? I understand the desire to make a point, but this is distracting and unprofessional.  

We can avoid this pitfall and emphasize instead with clear, efficient prose. Skip the caps except for abbreviations and similar instances.

2) The Exclamation Point 

The exclamation point (or mark) suffers from overuse too. Its true purpose of course, is for commands or exclamations like: 

Stop!    Wait!     Halleluiah!

Ever read anything (other than informal correspondence) that had exclamation points sprinkled throughout? Was it really that exciting or was the emphasis lost? 

I've read advice that said to review your text for exclamation points and remove all but one. Other alternatives such as italicizing key words and selecting sharp content help make our writing shine.

I think Strunk and White had the right idea. When we put our best writing foot forward, we avoid weak and diluted content. What do you think?


Visit Grammar Girl's National Grammar Day page for tips, links, and more grammar fun.

Do you have any tips to share? Have any grammar pet peeves?

Happy writing,

Karen


Photo credit: Free Images

Text copyright Karen Lange, 2015. Please feel free to link to this post, but no part of this post may be reproduced without written permission.
  

Monday, March 2, 2015

Meet the Blogger







My blogging friends are an interesting and diverse group. Their kindness and talents know no end. With that in mind, I've created a feature called Meet the Blogger to introduce you to a few of my friends. 

I'm kicking off the series with a visit from Cecelia Lester of Following My King



Welcome Cecelia! Why did you start blogging? How long have you had your current blog? 


I had written a play some church friends were going to perform on Good Friday in 2007, and spoke to our pastor about how I wanted to find a way to get others to know about my writing. (Now I know it’s called building a platform.) My first effort was not good, but after I had to step away from a job, I thought about trying again on another site. In July 2008, I chose to start over, so I have been blogging for almost seven years.
                                                                                       

What is your blog about? 

My blog is about Jesus and God. It has a long title: Quiet Spirit-Following My King. The name of what I call my writing ministry is Quiet Spirit.


What benefits have you gained through blogging? 

I have gained confidence in who I am. I am glad that blogging has given me a lot of friends that I wouldn’t have otherwise. 

Those are great benefits, I agree. What project/s are you working on right now? 

I am stalled on projects beyond my blog and the weekly column I write. My manuscript for a devotional book may be more of a teaching type book than what the publishers want. This is where I am stalled. 

Hang in there. :) Slow stretches have their purpose too, right? What might people be surprised to learn about you? 

I am somewhat introverted. I sometimes have a hard time talking to people.  

What advice would you share with a newbie blogger?  

My advice to new bloggers is they need to be consistent. I am able to post new blog entries three times a week. Some bloggers manage to add content two times a week or even only once or twice a month. But the key is consistency. 

Thanks for stopping by, Cecelia!

Thank you, Karen!

Visit Cecelia at her blog

Read her weekly column at Live As If.org

Cecelia Lester and her husband of 46 years live in east central Indiana and are the parents of one son. When not writing, she enjoys reading and participates in a prayer group and visitation ministry at their church. 



Write Now News

Please stop by for a new post this Wednesday, March 4 for National Grammar Day. The topic is - you guessed it - grammar. :)

March marks Write Now's 6th Blogoversary! Stay tuned for special features and a giveaway. 


Do you have any questions for Cecelia? How long have you been blogging?

Happy writing,

Karen


 Photo credit: Stock Exchange

Monday, February 23, 2015

Stretching and Polishing




What's the best way to stretch and polish writing skills? Ask a dozen writers this question and you might get a dozen answers that include:
  • Writing 
  • Reading 
  • Continued education  
  • Joining a writing group 
  • Reading writing books/blogs
  • Feedback from critique partners

These helpful tools provide opportunities to exercise and strengthen writing muscles, meet other writers, and gain valuable insight.  

Each item on this list can lead me in a myriad of directions, rabbit trails even, so I aim for "big picture" balance and assess what's applicable not only for long term growth but for current projects.  

For example, when working on an article or book draft, sometimes I use an exercise I require of my teen students

It goes like this:

Read the sentences in the first paragraph of your current project. 

List these sentences on paper, one per line. 

Examine and consider:

Do they relate to each other? 

Do they tie into the theme?

This can reveal gaps, typos, and awkward spots, or affirm that all is well. It provides a different perspective and a breakdown that makes sure the content is focused on the main theme I do this with all or various portions of a project, especially when struggling with the overall picture. 

Speaking of writing exercises - not sure if they are worth the time? E. J. Runyon offers insight in Take Your Writing Further: How to Get the Most Out of Writing Exercises. It's a quick and interesting read that hits the topic from a different angle. 

Is there anything you'd add to the list above? What helps stretch and polish your writing?  

Happy writing,

Karen


Photo credit: Free Images

Monday, February 16, 2015

Procrastination Central



To the casual observer, my writing space looks like any other home office.

Sometimes though, it is known as Procrastination Central.

Yes, I admit, I am quite often a procrastinator.

My office is not only used for writing, it's where I facilitate online writing classes and work as bookkeeper for my husband's/son's carpentry business. So there's much happening there, with great potential for procrastination and distraction. As much as I like to get right to a task, I often circle around them, wasting time.

Can anyone relate?

After a few super crazy weeks, I felt the need to revisit my strategy. These tips should help convert Procrastination Central into Productivity Central.




1) Ignore the internet. I often compare the internet to an abyss. It's too easy to fall in and get lost. Ignoring it for a while is a must. 

2) Minimize potential interruptions.  Take care of pressing must-do items (like paying a bill), set the phone on silent, etc..  
                                                                                                                                      
3) Assemble resources. Place snacks, beverages, files, books, etc. within reach.

4) Set small goals. Break tasks into segments. Progress, even in small chunks, offers a sense of accomplishment and motivation to press forward.

5) Set the timer. This correlates with #4, and provides a catalyst for productivity. 

6) Dangle the carrot. Set mile markers and include rewards. Meet a small (or large) goal and celebrate with chocolate, a walk, or something equally fun and exciting. :)

7) Apply the principle of sowing and reaping.  Build good habits by exercising self control and perseverance. Sow discipline and determination, reap productivity.

What would you add to the list? What's the craziest thing you've ever done when procrastinating?

Happy writing,

Karen


Photo credit: Stock Exchange