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On Writing

Good writing can be learned. Language is a science, with rules and laws. Start with a strong foundation, and you can improve your writing. Here’s how: 


Learn grammar and punctuation. Only when you have a firm grasp on these pillars of language can you begin to play with them. You’ll learn that these rules can be bent, but they cannot be broken if you want to be an effective writer. Start with Strunk and White.  

Study logic. Finding something illogical is not an opinion or an insult; it’s a fact. Deeming a statement illogical is not a subjective decision. It is the result of applying the rules of logic and determining that the statement does not fit. Knowing how to identify and employ concepts like red herring, slippery slope and deductive reasoning will make your arguments stronger.  

Learn a second language. Studying French helped me understand the structure of English, and it taught me how to break down and apply grammar and literary terms. Learning even the basics of another language also can help you identify the etymology of words.
Take a literature class. Learn to not only identify and define literary devices but how to integrate them into your own work. Metonymy, hyperbole and metaphor can strengthen your writing and explain complex subjects in terms your reader can understand.
Read good books. A good writer is a good reader. Read often, and read works that are well-written, not just those that entertain you. Marcel Proust tops few readers’ lists for entertainment, but he is one of the greatest writers of all time. Trudge through at least a portion of “Swann’s Way,” and you’re bound to learn a thing or two about writing. (Note the use of litote in that last sentence.)
Be curious. Keep learning. Life is your research. The Bronte sisters and their Victorian literary brethren are the rare exception. A sheltered life does not make a great read. In the words of Paulo Coelho: “Be brave. Take risks. Nothing can substitute experience.”
Use your words. Do not be afraid to pull out the dictionary (Merriam-Webster that is, not the one in Microsoft Word) and seek the true meaning of the words you put to paper. Words are nuanced, and they carry weight. Only when you learn to treat them with reverence and respect can you then play with them and embrace irreverence. Slang can be clever, but do not rely upon it heavily.
I’ve decided to start sharing notes on writing here on the blog. Please let me know if you have any questions related to editing and writing. 
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