Author Archives: Steve Aedy

Be Aware of the Most Misused English Words

the most misused English words

There are many misused words in the English language. Through repetition, the misuse becomes more widespread. Whether you’re trying to write a great essay or report, nail an interview or simply impress your readers, proper use of the English language is essential.

Check out this mega-list of commonly misused words:

Laying vs. Lying
Incorrect use: I was laying on the beach.
Correct use: I was lying on the beach.

Unthaw vs. Thaw
To thaw means to unfreeze something. So unthaw, technically means to freeze.

Hysterical vs. Hilarious
Hysterical is to be uncontrollably emotional. Hilarious is funny.

Anarchy
Anarchy is a political term that means the absence of government. It’s often used in the place of “crazy” or “chaotic”.

Momentarily vs. Shortly
Momentarily means something has the span of a moment.
Incorrect use: I will be with you momentarily.
Correct use: I will be with you shortly.

Anniversary
Anniversary means once per year, “annus” coming from the Latin for “year”. Therefore it’s impossible to celebrate a six-month anniversary.

Different than vs. Different from
Incorrect use: Apples are different than oranges.
Correct use: Apples are different from oranges.

Electrocuted vs. Shocked
Electrocute means to be killed or to kill someone with an electric shock. If you received an electric shock and didn’t die, then you were shocked, not electrocuted.

Literally
Literally is often used incorrectly and somehow has become a form of hyperbole. “You’re literally killing me,” means that someone is actually killing you instead of what you probably mean which is that they’re hurting you or causing you extreme stress.

Disinterested vs. Uninterested
Disinterested means that something holds no value or importance for you. Uninterested means that it doesn’t hold your attention.

Espresso vs. Expresso
“Espresso” is the correct spelling of the strong coffee drink.

Could of vs. Could have
Incorrect use: I could of gone to the store for you.
Correct use: I could have gone to the store for you.

Travesty vs. Tragedy
Travesty actually doesn’t mean tragic at all. It means absurd or ridiculous. It can also be used as a verb “travestying” which means to make a mockery of somebody or something. Ex: The play was banned for travestying the ruling political party.

Capital vs. Capitol
Capital is a the city where the seat of government is located. Capitol is the name of the building where the government members assemble.

Bemused vs. Amused
Bemused means to be confused whereas amused means to be entertained.

Affect vs. Effect
Affect means something has been influenced by something else. Ex: She’s really been affected by losing her job. Effect means something is a result of something else. Ex: Losing her job has had a negative effect on her.

Complement vs. Compliment
A complement is something that makes something better or more perfect. Ex: A glass of pinot noir can complement a steak dinner. A compliment is something that expresses admiration. Ex: She complimented her on her well-written article.

Irregardless
This word doesn’t actually exist. Those who use it mean to use the word “regardless”.

Peruse vs. Skim
Peruse means to examine thoroughly. Ex: She perused the report for hours, looking for evidence to back up her suspicions. It’s often mistaken to mean skim. Ex: He skimmed the book in a matter of minutes which caused him to fail the test.

Toward/Anyway/Afterward
Many people erroneously tag an “s” onto the ends of these words. Correct use: I walked toward the building./ I didn’t want to go to the party anyway./ I’ll see you afterward.

Supposed to
The “d” is often erroneously left off the end of this word.

For all intents and purposes
A lot of people mistake “intents and” for “intensive” as in “for all intensive purposes.” The correct form is “for all intents and purposes.”

Accept vs. Except
Accept means to receive or to agree to something. Ex: I accepted the job offer. Except means that something is excluded. Ex: I would like to try on all of the dresses except for that one.

Emigrate vs. Immigrate
When someone emigrates, they are leaving their home country. Ex: I emigrated from the United States to Brazil. When someone immigrates they are moving to another country. Ex: Many Mexicans immigrate to the United States.

Then vs. Than
Than is used to compare two words. Ex: I am taller than my brother.
Then is used in reference to time. Ex: I didn’t want to see him then, but I’m ready to now.

There, Their and They’re
These three are often confused.
There is used to determine place. Ex: Put the books down over there.
Their is a possessive pronoun used to show ownership. Ex: Their car is over there.
They’re is a contraction of they + are. Ex: They’re walking to their car over there.

Your vs. You’re
These two suffer the same fate as there, their and they’re.
Your is a possessive pronoun used to show ownership. Ex: Your dog is chasing my cat.
You’re is a contraction of you + are. Ex: You’re a very interesting person.

Who’s vs. Whose
Yet another possessive vs. contraction issue.
Whose is a possessive pronoun used to show ownership. Ex: Whose bicycle is that?
Who’s is a contraction of who + is. Ex: Who’s going to the show?

All right vs. Alright
All right is the correct spelling. “Alright” is an incorrect spelling of “all right”.

Beside vs. Besides
Beside means next to. Ex: Come and sit beside me on the couch. Besides means “anyway” or “also”. Ex: Besides, the only reason he wants that job is for the corner office.

Cite vs. Site
Cite means to quote a source. Ex: She cited the leading expert on this subject.
Site is a location. Ex: The site of the shooting has been roped off by the authorities.

How Writing Feeds Your Inspiration

writing for inspiration

Ahhhh, inspiration. That moment when the rest of the world falls away and all that’s left is you and the perfect sequence of words, like the unveiling of a mystery, the solving of a puzzle, everything all of the sudden just fits.

While these moments exist, and thank goodness that they do, most professional writers will confirm that inspiration isn’t enough to finish a project or to carry an idea to its fruition. You have to also sit down and slog through some pretty ugly stuff when everything you write looks awkward and stupid and you’re considering becoming a waitress or a used car salesman because this artist thing is just too hard.

But sitting down and slogging through the mud is actually what opens you up to moments of inspiration. It’s creating the space for it to happen and working through it when it isn’t present that allows for inspiration’s sudden arrival. Kind of like a lightning beacon – by showing up, sitting down, scribbling out some words that may look like total nonsense, you’re basically holding up a metal rod in the middle of the storm, saying “Okay, come and hit me.”

Many novice writers carry the erroneous notion that in order to write, they must first be inspired. Researcher David Boice found that writers who write on a daily basis have creative thoughts twice as often as those who only write when they feel like writing. William Faulkner said of inspiration: “I only write when I am inspired. Fortunately, I’m inspired at 9 o’clock every morning.”

It’s true. The writing process is the road to inspiration. Take this quote from Joyce Carol Oates: “The first sentence can’t be written until the last sentence is written.” It might sound like a Zen koan. But it basically means you start out not knowing where you’re going or even where you are. By the time you get to the end, you can finally see the beginning. But without going through the steps to get to the end, you’ll never even see the beginning and the rest of the story will never unfold.

Louis L’Amour advises us to “Start writing, no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on.” Many writers describe the feeling they get when they’re writing as something transcendental. It has the ability to heal, to comfort, to transform and yes, to inspire. Catherine Drinker Bowen explains one of the great pleasures of writing, “For your born writer, nothing is so healing as the realization that he has come upon the right word”.

Neil Gaiman explains the feeling of fulfillment that writing can bring when he says, “Tomorrow may be hell, but today was a good writing day, and on the good writing days, nothing else matters.” Anne Frank said, “I can shake off everything as I write; my sorrows disappear, my courage is reborn.” Anais Nin defines the pleasure of writing: “We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect.” And Joss Whedon tells us that “I write to give myself strength. I write to be the characters that I am not. I write to explore all the things I’m afraid of.”

Joan Didion uses writing as an exploration of her own mind, “I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means. What I want and what I fear.” Toni Morrison advises us to use writing as creative fulfillment when she says, “If there is a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.”

Some writers warn that writing comes with a huge price. Flannery O’Conner explains that, “Writing a novel is a terrible experience, during which the hair often falls out and the teeth decay. I’m always irritated by people who imply that writing fiction is an escape from reality. It is a plunge into reality and it’s very shocking to the system.” And George Orwell admits that, “Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one was not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.” (via WritersDigest)

The demon, the muse or whatever it is that drives writers to write is also what makes it so painful when they don’t. Though writing does have a price, what about the price of not writing? Paulo Coelho poetically explains that, “Tears are words that need to be written.” (via Goodreads) Mitch Albom says, “Nothing haunts us like the things we don’t say,” and Maya Angelou warns, “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” Writing not only inspires better writing, but having the courage to write inspires you to live more freely and courageously.

Kurt Vonnegut tells us, “We have to continually be jumping off cliffs and developing our wings on the way down.” (via BuzzFeed) And Ray Bradbury begs us, “Let the world burn through you. Throw the prism light, white hot, on paper” and “You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you. (via WritersDigest)

And Franz Kafka instructs us, “Don’t bend; don’t water it down; don’t try to make it logical; don’t edit your own soul according to the fashion. Rather, follow your most intense obsessions mercilessly.” (via Goodreads) And Natalie Goldberg wants us to be brutally honest with ourselves in the writing process, “Write what disturbs you, what you fear, what you have not been willing to speak about. Be willing to be split open.” (via BuzzFeed)

The writing process takes you out of the mundane and throws you into the creative realm. It’s there that lightning most often strikes. So if you want to be inspired, don’t wait, write.

Improve Your Academic Writing With 7 Simple Tricks

improve your academic writing

There is virtually no such thing as being naturally good at academic writing. It’s a skill honed over years of training, starting from your first expository essay in middle school and gaining momentum throughout high school and university.

The good news is that it’s never too late to learn. If you’re struggling with your academic writing or would simply like to improve the skills you already have, here are some tricks to get you writing better essays:

Craft a clear thesis

One of the biggest favors you can do for yourself is to spend time fine-tuning your thesis statement. The clearer, more well-defined and specific it is, the easier your essay will be to write. That’s because you’ll have a good idea of exactly what to look for. On the other hand, the more vague and broad it is, the harder it will be to research and find supporting evidence for it.

For example: “Young children who are exposed to reading in their home environments tend to perform better academically throughout their education.” vs. “Reading is good for you.” For the first one, you know what age group you’ll be researching, what kind of evidence you need to support it, the types of academic journals you can look for to find evidence to support it, etc.

The second statement could apply to any age group or demographic and could mean anything from staving off Alzheimer’s to alleviating depression. It’s just too broad to know where to begin.

Make it readable

The common belief is that academic writing has to be stiff, boring and full of words that require a dictionary to understand. Actually, an essay’s greatest strength is in its readability. If the ideas are conveyed in simple terms in a way that flows and with supporting evidence, that’s the best you can ask of an academic piece.

Overusing of sophisticated terminology may confuse your reader and make it difficult to understand your thesis. Don’t let your point get buried under unnecessary academic frills.

But don’t be too casual

Though you don’t want to be too stiff, you don’t want to be too casual either. Slang, curse words and colloquial phrases don’t belong in an academic paper. Keep the point of view in the third person present or simple past.

Don’t use the first or second person. Ex: “The beginning of the 21st century can be defined by the use and misuse of social media.” vs. “These days, you need to be careful who you friend on Facebook.” The first one is appropriately formal, the second one is too casual for an academic paper.

Stay objective

Writing an academic paper is a little bit like being a diplomat. You have to make a statement but at the same time tow the line between making an objective observation and stating a subjective opinion. An academic essay should always be objective.

Blanket statements that express bias are not appropriate. Ex: “All Republican politicians are corrupt.” That’s a biased statement and an accusation. It’s also too broad. Try this instead: “Widespread allegations of voter fraud in Florida districts during the 2004 elections have cast a long shadow of corruption on the Republican party.”

Avoid subjective statements that include “all”, “every” and “always”. Instead use objective phrases such as “It’s likely that…”, “It’s possible that…” and “Evidence suggests that…”.

Quote sparingly

There’s nothing wrong with using quotes. At the very least, they show that you’ve done some research. But it’s all too easy to cross the line into over-quoting. Of course it sounds good coming from the mouth of an expert and it’s tempting to let them do all the talking. But the essay is yours and the professor wants to read your words and your perspective on the subject. Over-quoting not only drowns out your voice, but it robs you of the chance to practice writing. And the more you practice writing, the better you’ll get.

Be specific

When producing evidence to support your thesis statement, be as specific as possible. Don’t say “A lot of people use alternative forms of medicine these days.” Instead say “According to a study by the American Journal of Medicine, from 2000-2010, use of alternative and holistic medicine has increased in the United States by 23 percent.” Fill your essay with credible information.

Use numbers, statistics, dates, facts, titles, names of institutions and experts. These things lend authority to your writing, making your research so transparent that the reader can essentially trace your steps and verify your research for themselves. No fuzzy blanket statements or fabricated opinions, just solid facts.

Leave time to edit and proofread

Probably one of the most overlooked skills in academic writing is editing. That may be because of a common ailment called procrastination. You wouldn’t be the first or the last student to write their essay at the last minute, but by doing so, you lose a chance to edit. Editing requires time – not only the time it takes to edit, but time in between the writing and the editing process to let your thoughts settle, so you can look at your words with a fresh perspective.

By doing this, you’re more likely to spot grammar, punctuation and spelling errors, identify and fix awkward phrasing and catch any contradictory theories that don’t add to or support your thesis. An essay that’s been edited at least 3 times is usually good to go. Make sure you leave time for this process. There’s really no substitute for it.

For a helpful guide to common grammar errors, crafting an argument and other writing tips, check out this link from the University of Essex.

10 Non-Fiction Books to Read This Winter 2014-2015

non-fiction books to read this winter

With the short days of winter having arrived, we’ve turned our attention to compiling a list of reading material to get writers through until spring. There’re lots of great books to choose from, so we’ve shortlisted this selection of 10 non-fiction books that are making their way up the bestseller ladder. Enjoy!

1. Small Victories: Spotting Improbable Moments of Grace – Anne Lamott

A compilation of new and selected essays written with Ms. Lamott’s stylistic humor and self-deprecation, Small Victories offers insights into the human condition. Drawing from her own experiences with family and friends, Ms. Lamott connects with the reader at a deep, heart-felt level. With wit and intelligence, she delves into the trials and tribulations of daily life and gives us her stories as a vessel to shift our perspective from the “why me?” mindset to the one of gratitude and appreciation. Small Victories could be called Small Miracles as she invokes the grace of forgiveness with her charming storytelling.

2. Dreamers and Deceivers: True Stories of the Heroes and Villains Who Made America – Glenn Beck

Engaging stories of American history’s visionaries and black hats, Mr. Beck uses his considerable storytelling skills to delve into the characters’ psyches. Using perspective to look back on these fascinating people and events, he shows how they affected not only their times but also the future. Each chapter centers around a person or historical event told in an anecdotal style, as Mr. Beck draws us into these spellbinding vignettes. History made interesting and exciting.

3. The People’s Platform: Taking Back Power and Culture in the Digital Age – Astra Taylor

Proponents of the new digital media landscape make promises of a utopian society with unrestricted communication, autonomous artistic expression and a cultural balancing of society. But Ms. Taylor challenges the presumptions that the new media is an improvement over the old guard, pointing out the contradictions contained in today’s technological consortiums – elitist control of access, surreptitious marketing, and an unrealistic emphasis on personal popularity.

A savvy analysis of digital reality, The People’s Platform summons the reader to question the kind of culture and democracy we’re creating with our tacit agreement to cede power and control to the monopolies of the 21st century. Excellent reading for anyone who uses the internet.

4. The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History – Elizabeth Kolbert

More than any other species on the planet, mankind alters the Earth in ways that compound change in a frightening manner, accelerating the destruction of the very forces that support life here. A sobering and disturbing subject, Ms. Kolbert reports with clarity the hard science and historical concepts behind the impact humans are having on our environment and ecology as a bona fide, destructive geological force. Told with scientific exactness, wit and lucid prose, The Sixth Extinction reads like a good thriller – enthralling, compelling and gripping. An important and enlightening read for our times.

5. Little Failure, A Memoir – Gary Shteyngart

A best-selling novelist, Mr. Shteyngart’s memoir is full of humor and pathos as he explores issues of ethnicity, immigration, integration and creative expression. Refreshingly free of blaming others for life’s foibles, Mr. Shteyngart exposes his every wart and floundering efforts to fit in with droll candor. The descriptions of his outlandish family and the cultural ridiculousness of both the old world and the new, are poignant and heartrending. A wonderful foray into the alchemy of turning misery into art.

6. The Motivation Manifesto – Brendon Burchard

Peak performance trainer Brendan Burchard has delivered a towering work that will shake even the most lethargic out of their familiar comfort zone. The Motivation Manifesto urges us to reclaim our personal power by overcoming the twin demons of external, social oppression and our own inner resistance of self-doubt, fear and daily distractions. Much more than the trite euphemisms found in a majority of self-help books, Mr. Burchard provides deep psychological insights combined with wisdom that will inspire you to think carefully about accepting mediocrity for one more day.

7. Monster – Steve Jackson

From the fascinating world of true crime, Monster is a well-researched and compelling account of repeat offender Thomas Luther and the dogged pursuit by Detective Scott Richardson to bring him to justice. The reader gets to know both sides of Tom Luther, as well as the other characters involved, as Mr. Jackson skillfully guides us through their motivations, insights and fears in this compellingly well-written case study.

8. The Secret History of Wonder Woman – Jill Lepore

Pulp fiction comes to real life in this wonderfully bizarre tale of Wonder Woman’s creator, William Marston, who is equally famous for the invention of the lie detector. Racy, colorful and improbable, Ms. Lepore investigates the contradictions behind the man responsible for one of America’s leading icons of feminism.

9. The Empathy Exams – Leslie Jamison

In The Empathy Exams, Ms. Jamison delivers an exquisitely written series of essays on pain -emotional, psychological and physical pain, and asks primary questions about the reality of pain itself. Penned with humor and keen insight, The Empathy Exams offers a peek into out mind’s inner workings in relation to the way we judge and relate to empathy. Philosophical and passionate, it’s a moving attempt to guide us into being more generous and genuine in the manner in which we relate to ourselves and others.

10. What If? Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions – Randall Munroe

Funny, entertaining and strangely heart-warming, What If is written in a breezy style with quirky sketches illustrating the mathematical and scientific points outlined in Mr. Munroe’s explanations. He offers scientifically sound answers to strange and inane questions (many of which he receives at his science Q&A blog) in a way that makes science fun and approachable. Not your typical science and technology textbook.

And there you have our selection of 10 non-fiction books to read over the long winter months, ones that will hold your attention and entertain. Some science, a bit of true crime, a dash of philosophy and the wacky origins of Wonder Women… showing that truth really can be stranger than fiction!

How To Write a Great Longread and Attract New Readers

how to write a longread

You’ve got a few of them in your “Good Ideas” folder haven’t you?

And you can see they’re growing in popularity. They seem a natural fit for your business, but you’re just not quite clear on how to use them… The digital longread has entered the marketplace and it sure seems a great way to promote your book or novel or blog, but where to start?

To sort it all out, let’s have a look at some of the benefits of the longread, why and how to write a good one and how to use it in your marketing strategy.

Potential Benefits of the Longread

To start, let’s have a look at some of the advantages of this emerging digital genre to see what the potential upside will be.

1. Higher search engine results.

Well, we all want that, don’t we? In a post on Kissmetrics, Emma Siemasko, a content marketing specialist, cites a recent study by serpIQ that found “the top-rated posts usually were over 2,000 words.” (This info is based on the top 10 results of search queries.)

Professional tip – for a longread such as a guide or manual, make sure each page has unique value to take advantage of people’s searches.

2. Greater social media success.

In the same post Kevin Delaney, editor of Quartz, claims that longform, or longread, content (2,000+ words) performs better in social media than posts of 500-800 words.

And, of course, with longreads the opportunity for link building is greater due to the sheer volume of material available to link with, compared to a 400 word blog post.

3. Establish perceptual authority.

You can establish trust in your niche by providing helpful, informative or entertaining longform content to complement existing work, or as part of a promotional campaign in marketing a book publication.

4. Promotional strategies.

For branding purposes, a longread piece is ideal to create a marketing campaign around. Longreads of high caliber content are more compelling for advertising campaigns than shorter blog posts, and sponsored ads on Facebook and longreads.com will put your piece front and center for social media sharing.

Combine ads with newsletter/email series, free mini-courses, contest giveaways, or a book launch to maximize exposure.

Steps to Writing Successful Longread Content

Now that we’ve established some of the potential benefits of publishing longreads, here are the steps for writing a successful and engaging one:

  • Know your goal in creating a longread article. Promoting a new book? Or building an audience? Clarity on why and who you’re writing the piece for is necessary for a seamless connection to the outcome you desire.
  • Choose a topic. Obviously, a topic that will relate to your book, guide, website or other promotion and support your campaign. Give consideration to keywords, any existing analytical data, your niche and target audience as well as what the competitors are doing successfully.
  • Create an outline and draft first to ensure your idea is on-topic and relevant to your book promotion or other marketing goals. For book promotions, a working chapter makes for good, relevant long-read content.
  • Design for the digital reader. Ensure that your long-read is mobile friendly, use discerning anchored links to other relevant content, have easy to use email sign up boxes and social media share buttons.
  • Longread blog themes. WordPress and other blogging platforms now have themes of a minimalist nature that work well with the long-read format.
  • Think multimedia. To enrich your longread article, Paul Woods in his post on edenspiekermann.com recommends weaving “videos, images and information graphics…into the story back and forth… during the writing process.” Not added to the text later as an afterthought. They’re important components that should be given appropriate consideration for inclusion in your writing.
  • Keep it clean. Again, from the above post by Paul Woods, keep in mind how easily a reader is distracted online and maintain a clean and simple reading screen to hold their interest. To minimize distractions, all interactive agents need to disappear while reading the actual text so as not to interrupt the readers flow.
  • Gated vs. Ungated. Will your readers need to exchange something (an email address for example) in order to download your work? This is considered to be a “gated” offer, while a free download with no strings attached is referred to as “ungated”. Let your business model guide your decision here.

Digital Platforms for the Longread

Some platforms options for longreads are:

Longread content is ideal for iPads, Android and iPhones, and Kindle, Quick Reads and Nook Snaps as well as apps such as Instapaper, Read It Later and Flipboard.

Publishing platforms Atavist, Byliner and Narratively now curate and publish fiction and nonfiction material with new players entering the digital marketplace in ever increasing numbers. Some of these platforms charge for long-form content while others offer free content with premium membership fees – choose ones that work best for you.

Clearly, online readership is shifting. Readers are now looking for meatier content of greater substance that will hold their interest, entertain and inspire them. Good news for writers who have a breathtaking story to share!

Longread content is ideal for those times of the day when we’re waiting – waiting for the bus, on the train going home, in the doctors’ office etc., and we’re looking for something to engage with. Why not take advantage of longreads’ growing popularity to provide greater value for your reading audience and promote your new book as well?

5 Writing Habits To Avoid

writing habits to avoid

Writers never have an easy time of it. Often either unpaid or underpaid, they spend a lot of time toiling away in solitude just for the love of writing. Even when they’re successful, gaining publishing deals and fame, they’re not always all that happy.

Anne Lamott writes of her experience of writing success: “…I found myself stoned on all the attention, and then lost and derailed, needing a new fix every couple of days and otherwise going into withdrawal. My insides became completely uninhabitable, as if I’d wandered into a penny arcade with lots of bells ringing and lights flashing and lots of junk food, and I’d been there too long…”

And yet, writers continue to write. And everyone’s happy that they do. And because the world of writing is full of challenges both professional and emotional, sometimes they need support and advice about how to avoid some habits that are actually harmful for writers.

So, how not to become “derailed”, how to write better, how to be more productive and how to value your work and creativity as much as you should? Just keep away from these habits:

Rely on cliches or stereotypes

Writing, whether it’s a work of poetry, fiction, an essay or a blog post, is an art. The goal of art is to express something from a new perspective – yours. It’s difficult to avoid cliches because we’re exposed to them so often that they’re easy to pluck out of the subconscious and use instead of sweating it out to find a more original way to express something. George Orwell avoided even using the word cliché to tell writers to avoid cliches: “Never use a metaphor, simile or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.” Check out this list of 681 cliches.

The same goes for creating stereotypes. Art is supposed to inspire us to challenge our beliefs and our perceptions. Creating stereotypes not only fails to achieve that, but leaves you with flat characters and an uninspiring message.

Start writing when you land a writing job

This one mainly applies to freelancers. If you want a job as a writer, you must first write. Write for yourself. Write a blog, write stories or articles on an area of expertise or interest. This is how you build a portfolio to show to potential clients, so you can land a job that is perfect for your writing style and background. It’s also how you become a better writer. By committing yourself to writing, you’ll build the skills and the credentials you need to be a successful one.

Forcing yourself to write on topics that don’t inspire you because it’s your job is pretty much the worst introduction to writing life that I can think of. It may even put you off writing forever. Write for pleasure first and see what direction that takes you.

Allow interruptions

The writing bubble, that place your mind slips into when you’re in the flow, is a delicate environment that needs your protection. It’s constantly under attack from phone calls, children, spouses, family, friends and neighbours. But its most powerful enemies are Facebook, Twitter, email, scrolling and surfing.

These are the types of interruptions that are so insidious because they’re all integrated into your laptop where your sacred moments of writing are supposed to occur. Some writers have a whole other computer for writing that doesn’t even have the internet on it. You can also install an app that blocks the internet while you’re writing.

Underestimate the importance of a schedule

This is a big issue. Think about an athlete training for an event. They have a training schedule to adhere to. Otherwise, they’ll never get in shape. If you don’t set a schedule and only decide to write when you feel like it, you’re writing life will be pretty miserable. If you’re writing a book, you may never finish.

If you write articles, you’ll spend too many nights running on adrenaline, having wasted hours procrastinating and producing nothing. Ernest Hemingway woke up early every morning to write his daily 500 words. Joyce Carol Oates writes before breakfast, sometimes writing for hours if she’s inspired and only stopping for breakfast well into the afternoon.

Writers can have (semi) normal lives. They can have children. They can have relationships. They can have other jobs. They can go to the gym or to yoga classes or to Jui Jitsu classes. They can cook. They can have friends. But they can’t have any of these things AND write if they don’t make a schedule.

Say ‘Yes’ to every opportunity

Don’t say ‘Yes’ to projects that pay poorly or that suck your will to live. You’re probably writing because you like to write and you’re good at it. Maybe you’re even writing because it’s your dream. That’s great. But is your dream getting paid slave wages while writing on topics that don’t interest you? There are a lot of interesting writing jobs out there that will pay well for a good writer.

Taking jobs that exploit your time and your talent aren’t even good ways to build your portfolio. How can you hold your head up high and brag about how you wrote articles for $1 for some outsourcing company in the Philippines? Instead of wasting your time on such projects, invest your time in writing on topics that interest you and looking for companies that will pay you well. That’s a much smarter investment and one that’s worthy of your time and creativity.

21 Online Education Resources For Writers

online education for writers

Do you need to polish up your writing skills a bit? Maybe you feel a little shaky on punctuation or grammar? And how’s your confidence with verb conjugations?

If you feel your writing success is being held back because of a lack of skills, technical knowledge or expertise, we’ve got some good news for you. With so many outstanding resources available online, you can now easily get the support and information you need to develop your writing skills – without having to become a full-time student again.

With that in mind, we’ve curated this list of 21 free online education resources for writers. So, dig in and take advantage of the generosity of our fellow scribes.

Punctuation, Grammar and Spelling

WikiHow’s How to Use English Punctuation Properly covers the basics of using correct punctuation to create a more polished product.

Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips provides easy tips on grammar rules and word choices guidelines to improve your writing style. And some easy to remember exercises that will help to remember grammar rules.

From the University of Ottawa’s Writing Center, Hypergrammar is an electronic grammar course covering parts of speech, grammar, spelling, building sentences, using verbs etc.

The Capital Community College Foundation offers us the Guide to Writing and Grammar. This site is full of useful information on word choice and sentence structure, grammar, the writing process, and writing essays and research papers.

Paradigm Online Writing Assistant gives us access to articles on freewriting, basic punctuation, common problem areas, basic sentence concepts and choosing a subject. Well worth a visit.

From Rutgers University English Department, Professor Jack Lynch gives us his Guide to Grammar and Style. A miscellaneous collection of grammatical rules, tips on style, and suggestions on usage gathered from his classroom notes.

Writing Style and Skills

Scribe Consulting gives us a series of articles in Better Writing Skills that outlines proper use of ampersands, apostrophes, colons and semicolons as well as tips on using ‘which’ and ‘that’, ‘who’ and ‘whom’, and ‘you and I’ versus ‘you and me’.

The English Style Guide is based on the style book new journalists at The Economist are given. It’s full of helpful advice on journalism in general, and common mistakes and clichés plus guidance on consistency in punctuation, capitalization and abbreviations. It also houses a wealth of reference material.

Now freely available online, William Strunk’s The Elements of Style is a timeless classic on writing and one of the most commonly used reference manuals. Every writer should have a copy, and now you can too.

Roy Peter Clark at Poynter runs a blog for writers and journalists and gives us the Poynter Writing Tools, a series of articles in the ‘how to’ format for improving your writing skills.

Technical Writing comes to us from Dr. Ronald B. Standler. He compiled this guide to help his undergraduate students with the grammar and style requirements necessary to write effective technical compositions. It covers the use of numbers in sentences, equations in text, citations and bibliography usage as well as verb tense and voice.

At Purdue University’s Online Writing Lab, you can find hundreds of resources on writing, research, grammar, formatting and writing style guides, and professional writing tips.

Writer’s Digest is a site dedicated to providing information on improving your writing skills, and the publishing process. It also has a community forum, editors’ blogs, competition listings, events and a large library of educational resources for writers. This site should be in every writer’s listing of favorite websites for quick access to a wealth of information.

Steven Barnes, novelist and screenwriter, generously shares the material of his nine weeks Lifewriting Class that he instructs at UCLA. He offers material on how to write, as well as how to structure your life for success as a writer.

On Blogging and Copywriting

From one of the leading authorities on successful copywriting and blogging, Copywriting 101 comes to us as courtesy of Copyblogger. It’s an ebook with 10 lessons to get started on the basics of writing effective copy. You should also check out their vast library on SEO copywriting tactics, writing headlines and online marketing in general.

At Problogger, you can find tips and tutorials on crafting great content, writing headlines, how to start a blog, copywriting, and how to monetize your blog.

The blog at Men With Pens offers over 1,000 articles all geared to help you improve your content writing, blogging, freelancing, and entrepreneurial efforts.

Tools for Writers

Well, we did promise a site on verb conjugation, so here it is: the English Verb Conjugation tool from Verbix. Fill in the infinitive and you’ll get a list of English verbs in every imaginable conjugated tense, from nominal forms to indicative and conditional right through to the imperative. Easy to use and understand, this impressive tool should be in every writer’s kitbag.

Use Ornagoo’s Spell Check to check the text, grammar, and synonyms of your entire website.

Using English has an online Advanced Text Analyzer to dissect your word count, lexical density, word and phrase analysis, as well as readability of text. You’ll need to register first, but it is free.

Wordcounter will rank the frequency of words used in a given section of text. Use it to expose where you overuse words that result in repetition or redundancy.

Wow! There’s a lot of free educational information and resources available online. We writers are a lucky lot. With such an abundance of valuable information available to improve our skills, it’s really hard to justify not starting that new writing project. So check out some or all of the above tips to make your writing journey easier, and more enjoyable.

After all, you never know when some future blogger is going to be referencing your site or guide as one of the go-to resources for writing success.

How To Read Right For Better Writing

read right for better writing

You’ve heard it a hundred times, haven’t you? If you want to become a better writer, you need to read more.

And it’s not just good advice for professional writers either. Writing well helps anyone to communicate better, to express their thoughts and feelings with greater clarity. And a greater understanding of the written word helps us to develop a better comprehension of the world around us.

It’s clear that reading and writing go together. But to fully understand the benefits of reading and how it applies to better writing, let’s first look at some of the reasons why we should read. And then we’ll go into how to read more effectively.

Reading is Primary

Dan Kurland at criticalreading.com gets right to the point. “Reading is primary. One can only write as well as one can read.” You have to first understand how language works as a reader before you can communicate as a writer.

Improving your reading skills will help to understand “how thoughts are developed and how meaning is conveyed in a written discussion.” And Mr. Kurland further urges us to become “more aware in our reading” in order to extract meaning from the written word. “When we see how we draw meaning from others, we can see how to instill meaning in our own work.

Reading Gives You Language

The following snippet on language is from Joanna June:

“Reading exposes you to the words, vernacular, relate-able stories and information to describe something you know but didn’t have the language for previously.”

And a few more practical aspects of developing your reading skills are:

  • It will improve and reinforce your vocabulary development.
  • It exposes the reader to different writing styles and models.
  • Reading expands and deepens your approach to subject knowledge.
  • It gives you the opportunity to comprehend a topic at your own pace.

Jeff Goins emphasizes the point that to become better at their craft, “Writers need to read. A lot. They need to grasp the art of language, to appreciate the finer points of words.” And reading will help you do that.

Reading Expands Possibilities

Not only is reading instructive, it’s also inspirational to read the works of others as it keeps our flow of words fresh and in a state of evolution.

Also, through the practice of reading more, you avoid slipping into writer’s rut. That is, as you broaden your perspective and knowledge base through reading, your writing skills naturally expand and grow correspondingly.

Now let’s move on to some techniques to improve your reading effectiveness.

Step Out of Your Comfort Zone

While it’s fine and well to study the style and characteristics of your own genre and favorite authors, to really reap the benefits of reading you’ll have to “venture outside of your normal reading realm.” This is from Joel Goldman who believes that writers should read from a buffet of styles and topics.

This is a common theme in all of our research for this topic – read outside of your normal sphere of influence. Read romance, thrillers, non-fiction, biographies, magazines and manifestoes. Basically, anything you can get your hands on.

Mr. Goldman also presses the writer to “Read things that would normally turn you off.” This will broaden your perspective and gain a better understanding of the appeal of the subject matter, and its audience.

Develop the Reading Habit

We’ve established that to be a better writer, you’ll need to read more. And to benefit fully from reading, consider developing it into a habit.

  • Determine what your reading goal is and set up prompts to remind you. This is important in the beginning to stay on track – use post-its, journal about your goal, set reminders on your computer, etc.
  • Plan ahead to determine when you can read. If necessary, start small and grab 10 or 15 minutes when you can. At bedtime, coffee breaks, lunch, or waiting for appointments… by doing this four or five times a day, you can clock an hour’s worth of reading. And again, set up appropriate cues to trigger the new behavior you’re trying to develop.
  • Always have some reading material with you;:a book, magazine or a longread online. And keep a stash of books in the places you’re likely to read: your purse or messenger bag, by the bed or your favorite chair and in the car.
  • Take notes. In 52 Tips for Improving Your Skills, author Dan Coyle references some interesting research. People who read 10 pages then stop and take notes in summary form, retain 50% more information than those who read 10 pages four times in a row. Jotting down notes in bullet points is equally effective.

Study the Mechanics

With every book you read, try to establish a little distance from the plot and begin to notice how the author has put it all together. You’ll still be reading for pleasure, but a bit of emotional separation will help to develop your scrutinizing skills.

Some observational practices to employ are:

  • Study the authors’ style and voice, and the manner in which they’ve developed characters.
  • Analyze the plot and identify the main ideas.
  • Learn to skim as you read to glean the gist of the material.
  • Scan the text for pertinent information, and re-read what’s relevant.
  • Think about what the author is saying. And,
  • How they’re saying it. Try to identify the unique manner in which they group words together, or the patterns and rhythm they use to convey an idea.

Well, clearly there are plenty of good reasons why reading will help us to become better writers. Put into practice some or all of the above ideas to improve your reading abilities. And as you start reading more, you’ll experience a growth in your comprehension, communication, and knowledge base – which will naturally lead to greater writing success.

What You Need to Know About Writing: Tricks for Everyone

what to know about writing

Wow, there’s a lot of writing advice online. Seems like every blogger and writer has a tip or trick they swear by, some must-follow technique that unlocks the door of writing victory. But for every post about good advice, there’s another quoting someone famous who offers a counterpoint to debunk it.

So just what should everyone know about writing, and what tricks can be found to improve their craft, and chances of success?

We found this topical thread over on Quora asking “What should everyone know about writing?”. And like elsewhere online, there’s a lot of practical advice and tips on improving writing methods, but only a few actually answered the thread question. We decided to delve into it a bit further, and see what answers apply equally to all aspiring writers. Read on, and see what insights were found.

What You Need to Know About Writing

The noun writing has two applicable descriptions for our purposes, as found in the Miriam-Webster dictionary. They are:

The activity or work of writing books, poems, stories etc.”      

And,

“The way that you use written words to express your ideas or opinions.”

So, to break it down into the basic components, writing is work and a manner in which you arrange words to communicate ideas. Seems simple enough…

Writing is Work

Even if your writing is strictly hobbyist in nature, it still takes work to communicate your ideas clearly. It’s certainly one of the more common themes at the Quora thread. Here’s a sampling of quotes from contributors on the idea of writing as work:

  • “It’s a full time job. To be successful you must be disciplined.” Zachary Norman
  • “Good writing takes work, the desire to learn the craft, a thick skin, and practice.” Deanna Kizis
  • “Writing is work. Thinking about what we are writing is work.” T.L. Wagener

To successfully share your ideas and opinions, you have to put in the time and effort to develop the skill of writing. That’s what work is, you diligently apply yourself through repetition to learn the steps necessary to master a skill.

And how do you become proficient at any skill? With practice, of course. Chuck Wendig at terribleminds.com has this to say about learning the craft of writing: You can practice what you do. You practice it by writing, by reading, by living a life worth writing about. You must always be learning, gaining, improving.” Sound like work, right?

And Michael Nye, in a post at the missourireview.com echoes Mr. Wendig’s point with the following: “The writers achieving success are hard working. Being the most talented writer doesn’t necessarily translate into publishing success, which really comes from methodical and consistent work rather than raw talent.”

While talent is nice, you’ve either got it or you don’t. But a skill set is learnable, and writing is a learnable skill. And as with any new skill, the more time and attention you invest in its practice, the more proficient and, ironically, talented you’ll become.

And what should you practice? The basics. Start with the fundamentals of strong writing:

  • Spelling, grammar, and punctuation.
  • Build your vocabulary.
  • Learn how to compose a sentence, and to organize your thoughts into a paragraph.
  • Master the active voice and how to use action verbs.
  • Develop editing skills and how to eliminate unnecessary wordiness.

In a post for WriteToDone, Glen Long sums up the learning process in these three steps – study, practice and feedback. “This learning cycle is essential because it helps you to hone your writing instincts. It trains the internal critic that guides the hundreds of tiny decisions you make each time you sit down and write.”

The trick here isn’t very tricky, but one that’s apt to be bypassed in the rush to be published. It’s this – you have to know the rules before you can break them.  Writing is work. To become really good at your work, you must practice the necessary skills. And the necessary skills to practice are writing basics.

The Way You Use Words

The second description of writing relates to your voice. It’s the way you use written words to express your ideas or opinions. Your voice is the one truly original thing about your writing. While style, form and structure are all derivatives modeled from the work of others, your voice is your unique perspective. It’s one of a kind.

Why develop your voice? Jeff Goins gives a pretty clear explanation: “Finding your voice is the key to getting dedicated followers and fans and that’s the only sustainable way to write.”

And this comment from Cori Padgett in a post at Copyblogger.com gets straight to the point: “It seems that in my rather meandering journey to becoming a ghostwriter-cum-blogger, I unexpectedly stumbled upon what seems to be the Holy Grail for many aspiring writers. I’m talking about my voice.”

To share your ideas and your opinions, it must come from your voice – and your voice needs to be heard in a multitude of ways. From the above post, we have three great tricks to develop your voice:

  • Speak your readers’ language. Talk to them in everyday language they understand and can relate to.
  • Know why you’re writing. Without a purpose, writing can seem flat and lifeless. Infuse it with the passion that comes from knowing your purpose for writing.
  • Brand it. Stamp your work with your individuality, let your idiosyncrasies show in rhythm, word selection and tone. It’s the best way for your readers to get to know you.

In conclusion, perhaps the best tricks we can offer everyone to know about writing are simply to be yourself and to invest in your writing success by learning the basics. You need to pay your dues… so, get to work.

17 Blogs Writers Should Follow

blogs writer should follow

You can see it in your mind’s eye, can’t you? Your name boldly embossed on the jacket of your first novel. Or your sparkling blog posts, with first page rankings on Google, over and over again.

Well, if you yearn to become a better writer, we’ve pulled together this list of 17 blogs you should follow. We’ve located the top blogs to find the best on-topic, contemporary advice to hone your writing chops, find inspiration, market your wares and publish your work.

Freelance Writing

1. About Freelance Writing

With several decades of experience as a freelancer and ghostwriter, Anne Wayman answers questions on freelancing and provides tips and resources for finding paying gigs, increasing your rates and all things freelance. Learn her secrets to mastering how to write, rewrite, market and run your writing business.

2. Make Living Writing

Carol Tice’s success as a freelance writer makes her one of the premier freelancers online today. Drink deeply of Carol’s knowledge as she guides the new writer to the well of freelance success and prosperity – it’s her obsession to help new writers make money.

3. The Renegade Writer

Following on the success of her book The Renegade Writer with Diana Burrell, this blog by Linda Formichelli is an extension of the concept that freelance writing should be tailored to suit the writer, not vice versa. Plenty of solid tips on developing your style, overcoming fear, staying motivated and making money as a freelancer – and all designed to boost your career.

Blogging

4. Boost Blog Traffic

From the brilliant mind of Jon Morrow, expert advice on how to build a noteworthy blog is based on solid writing and marketing techniques, outstanding value and building relationships with the influencers in your niche.

5. Problogger

Darren Rowse started Problogger to record his efforts to monetize his blog, and to hook up with a community of like-minded bloggers. Learn best blogging practices and online writing methods as well as how to add income to your blog from one of the best. Check out Problogger’s job board for writers as well.

Writing Advice

6. Advice to Writers

This blog’s content is compiled by successful author Jon Winokur. His “writerly wisdom of the ages” comes to us via insightful and exclusive interviews with authors, an outstanding resource section, numerous articles and essays together with an inspirational quote of the day. Advice to Writers is a treasure trove for all aspiring writers and well worth following.

7. Writer Unboxed

Writer Unboxed comes to us from novelists Therese Walsh and Kathleen Bolton, who share the latest tips and techniques for successful writing career. With contributions from industry experts and bestselling authors, there’s a wealth of information and insights “about the craft and business of fiction.”

8. Dani Shapiro

Author of several novels and best selling memoirs, Dani Shapiro shares her insightful and poignant acumen on writing and life. This is an excellent site for artistic inspiration when you’re feeling shaky about writing. Or life.

9. Writers In The Storm

A collaborative effort from founding writers Laura Drake, Jenny Hansen, Orly Konig Lopez and Fae Rowan, Writers in The Storm focuses on the craft of writing and providing ongoing inspiration for all writers who must “weather the storm within”.

Copywriting

10. The CopyBot

Chief copywriter at Copyblogger Media, Demian Farnworth is on a mission to “write clear, concise and compelling copy” that’s pleasing to the search engine gods and that readers find captivating. The CopyBot gives us practical and insightful advice on how to create outstanding headlines, high-quality content and effective CTA’s.

Writers Communities

11. Writers-Network

Writers-Network is a free creative writing community where you can share your writing, get unlimited constructive feedback and connect with others. You can also organize your writing, create a portfolio and post unlimited stories and poems. A great site for support and a safe environment for building the thick skin needed to persevere through the hard times.

Dealing with Rejection

12. Literary Rejections on Display

The place to go to share your rejection misery, LROD is entertaining and light-hearted. A good place to visit whilst on the pity-pot, you can commiserate with all the other writers who’ve been through the pain of rejection.

Marketing and Promotion

13. Amp & Pivot

Founder Jules Taggart has started the BLAH Revolution. Her blog focuses on creating compelling copy to create an emotional connection with your reader or customer. Part copywriting and part inspiration with a good dose of marketing, Amp&pivot is a high-octane site for learning how to get noticed in the noisy world of online writing.

14. Writing Happiness

A website devoted to developing your online presence – Marya Jan dishes on how to optimize your website, overhaul content and build an email list to help reach your goals.

15. Seth’s Blog

Learn to master the art of self-promotion and marketing with the over 2,500 achieved posts packed with insight and humor from best-selling author and entrepreneur Seth Godin.

Publishing

16. Goins, Writer

Jeff Goins writes about both writing and getting published as he tracks down the answers to how writers make a living, what it really takes to get published and how to pursue passion. True to his belief that “generosity wins”, Jeff liberally shares his experience, knowledge and creativity with all who visit.

17. J.A. Konrath Blogspot

Mystery and thriller author J.A. Konrath’s no holds barred opinions and experiences in publishing, both traditional and self-publishing. With plenty of information about the resources and services he uses for self-publishing plus extensive material for mastering your genre.

And there you have 17 blogs writers should follow to answer just about every question you might have about how to be a successful writer. Enjoy!