Saturday, April 26, 2014

A Writer's Mirror

A lot of people do not realize that writing is a very laborious act that requires skills, training, unlimited practice, and a lot of passion to get it right. 

People do two kinds of writing. First, people write all kinds of work in their daily lives. These people write out of the necessity to do so without worrying too much about the craft of writing.

The second group of writers is those who write out of the passion to write. The group is made up of creative writers and hobbyists. The writers in this group are people who write poetry, short stories, drama, films, and novelists. Writers in this group are members of society who give society a picture of itself.

There are many writers in both camps. The difference is that good writers are those who understand their craft and the rules that govern good writing.

As a professional writer I am aware of the obligations and rules that govern my life as a writer. Good writing is never sloppy, breezy, and hasty. Good writing adhere to principles of composition and elementary rules of usage.

I teach a course that is very popular with a lot of students at the University of Papua New Guinea. The course is Writing, Editing, and Publishing. I offer it to BA degree students in their third year of studies. Over the years I had students with all kinds of writing problems enrolled for one reason: to improve their writing skills.

I am not sure whether I have helped them or not. The only thing I feel confident about is that I have introduced them to the fundamentals of good writing. In a semester of 13 weeks I usually work with them through their own works to teach them writing, editing, and publishing skills. I leave the application part to them to pursue in their own time.

The advice I give to students is for them not to waste their words. Good writing makes economic use of words. Good writing avoids unnecessary words and expressions. One way of recognizing that is to look at the way in which the adverbs appear in our sentences. Adverbs are often overused in our writing.  Adverbs corrupt our sentences. The good thing is we can correct this once we recognize them.

Let me demonstrate why adverbs are a problem in our sentences. In this sentence: “Marry excitedly and lovingly cooked the food for her children,” we see the adverbs have been normalized in the sentence as if that is a natural formation. In spoken expression the adverbs are used without care for the economy of language.
In written expressions the adverbs must face the elimination rule. The words “excitedly” and “lovingly” are adverbs because they modify a verb.  If we want to keep them in the sentence we need to drop the “ly” in the verb.  As a rule, any time “ly” appears in a word it means there is a problem with style.

The words “excited” and “loving” should be written without the modifier “ly” which makes them become adverbs. The sentence should now read: “Marry is very excited. She loves cooking for her children.” This example is a simple one.

Here are some more examples where we use unnecessary words to write our sentences. Sentences with the word “fact” are untrue to the good rule of stylistics. For example, avoid writing: “As a matter of fact”, “In fact” or “Inspite of the fact”; it is unnecessary. The same is true of “The fact that”.

The other rule that we need to observe in our writing is the use of words like “as”, “when”, and “while”. We love them don’t we? Take this sentence: “While we waited for them we drank some of our beers before they arrived.” The question is: how many sentences are packed into that one big sentence? Two or three sentences! Without using the word “while” we rewrite the sentence. Note there are three sentences altogether: “We waited for them. We drank some of our beers. They arrived before we finished our beers.” Now with the rewrite our sentences are complete, following the English grammatical rules: Subject + Verb = Object or the SVO rule.   

The reason I am talking about the importance of good writing is that written expression is very important in our society. We can talk and speak English with ourselves in the way we like, but when it comes to writing the English language we must observe the rules that govern that language.

Many people have problems with written English even after many years of schooling in English. True, the language is not our first language, but it must never prevent us from learning the rules that make it an international language of education, commerce, politics, and conversations across borders and through cyberspace.

I hope what I shared today stays with you. Writing is more than just an expression. To write well we must think about the way we are communicating our information to our ideal audience. The audience we write for determines the kind of writing and the style of writing we do. The audience must understand what we write.

Writing in clear language and expressions captures a reader’s interest. Our readers share the journey of the world we present to them in our writings. We need to acknowledge their time in reading what we write.  Readers and writers are both each other’s mirror of the world they reflect unto each other.

I am reminded that good communication involves clean writing without punctuation errors, spelling problems, and ungrammatical sentences. The purpose for writing is to deliver a message, share knowledge, and persuade others to believe in what you are selling or promoting in the world. By writing something we are involved in getting someone else to see the world we see as writers.

The importance of writing is the way a writer constructs his or her world with the careful use of words and expressions to create knowledge.

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