Aaaah English class. You learned about everything from writing a proper thesis statement to how to dig up sources in the depths of the school library. Papers were double-spaced, had one inch margins and followed MLA style (or some other tedious style).
Essentially, writing was restrictive.
And often quite boring.
(This is a re-post of one of my very first posts about blogging. Still rings true today!)
It’s no wonder there are so many mediocre writers out there. We were conditioned to write research papers with so many restrictions. Just following the proper formatting was enough to get you a decent grade, regardless of the actual content. And no one expects you to be too good.
In fact, I was once accused of cheating in Spanish class not because my translation was perfect but because my story WAS TOO GOOD. Yep, that’s what I was told. Sheesh.
We were pushed through school to be academic writers. The problem is the vast majority of us aren’t in academia. So why should we write like we are?
If you’re reading Momcomm, it’s most likely because you’re blogger. Blog writing shouldn’t sound like your old thesis paper.
Blog writing should be:
- Informal (spare the text speak though like “wuz” or “2nite.” That’s like 1000 levels below informal.)
- Full of personality
So which parts of English class do you need to unlearn?
Paragraphs Should Be Long to Make a Point
In school we were taught to write 5- 6 sentences a paragraph in order to get our point across. However, people in the real world have short attention spans. It’s been proven that people digest information better when it’s broken down into smaller chunks.
With long paragraphs, your writing loses its effectiveness and readers may even lose their place in the midst of reading ALL THOSE WORDS jumbled together.
Make it easy for them to get through a blog post. Give your readers a place to pause by breaking up your larger paragraphs into smaller ones.
Don’t Use Incomplete Sentences.
In school, you probably remember the rule that a sentence needs a subject and a verb. Hogwash! While you don’t need to go around writing “I really to eat pizza” you CAN use incomplete sentences. Like this. Or this.
After all, it’s closer to how you really speak if you were chatting with a friend over coffee, right? Dang straight.
Use Formal Language and Big Words
At some point in your academic days, I’m sure you broke out your thesaurus and replaced a word like “confuse” with “discombobulate.”
Big words are GREAT. Truly, they are. Just don’t use big words for the heck of it. Think about your audience and how you would talk with them in person. Mirror that in your writing. Use the same tone, the same slang, and the same words.
Of course, there are things I sometimes write that I wouldn’t necessarily say if I were speaking to someone. I’m one that’s more eloquent in words than in voice. That’s okay. All I’m saying is not to get caught up in sounding fancy. Just sound like your serious/funny/poignant self.
Begin a Sentence with a Conjunction
I remember being told to never ever begin a sentence with and, or and but. It often left you with no choice but to cram as much stuff into one sentence and to keep going and going.
No one needs long, boring compound sentences. Break them up! It’s become more acceptable in recent years so the rule is outdated anyway. And it makes for nice, punchy sentences.
You Cannot Use Contractions
Contractions are everywhere these days in writing. I’m sure you probably use them anyway but it’s worth mentioning that it’s okay. Contractions are part of our everyday speech and it sounds unnatural NOT to use them. So don’t worry- no one is going to break out their red pen on you.
Follow Proper Formatting Rules
As much as a self-proclaimed Grammar Bitch that I am, I simply love reading blogs whose writers have infused personality into how they format their posts. It adds flair.
Stephanie from Nie Nie Dialogues centers all her posts, making it read almost like a poem.
Beth Ann from Okay, BA has a mild obsession with ampersands. & she uses them all over the place.
I can’t say I have as much flair as these guys. I keep relatively short paragraphs, use sub-headings a lot and like-to-run-words-together-with-hyphens but that’s about it. I do like it when I see it from other people though (for the most part… I’m not a fan of a gazillion colors and font sizes because O-M-G my eyes).
Inspect your writing. Do you see a pattern in the way you write your posts? If not, no need to make one up unless you want to. It can make your posts more memorable but it’s definitely not a requirement.
If You Read Only One Part of This Post, Read This
Just write. Yes, just take a deep breath, sit at your keyboard and write. Don’t worry about the outdated rules or re-live a paper full of red ink. It hinders your writing. To be a better writer, you have to keep doing it. It’s really as simple as that.
Just do me a favor and use spell check before you hit post.
That’s one part of English class that will never go out of style.
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