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Old 07-31-12, 09:33 PM   #1
EthanYQX
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Writing

Im looking at a career in journalism, and I'd like to improve my writing a bit. I think I'm an ok writer, but I do fall down in places and lose the flow. Are there online courses you'd recommend? Any tricks I can use to work on it?

Thanks
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Old 07-31-12, 10:28 PM   #2
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Read...and read a lot. Don't read just for information. Pay attention the HOW the writer uses words and phrases. Read like it's art. Reading is to writers as famous musicians are to future famous musicians. Writing is an art, treat it as such. Take pride in creating a masterpiece, not just completing an assignment. NEVER speed read, you miss half of what's going on. When writing, if you find yourself blank, take a break and do something completely different. That would be a perfect time to go for a bike ride. Clear your head and then come back to it. If you ever write yourself into a corner (you get half way through a sentence and decide it's not great), try to figure out a way to make it work with out rewriting the whole sentence. It forces you to get creative. After you are done with whatever you are writing, put it down for a day and come back to it with a clear mind. You might surprise yourself with what you find. Don't stress over grammar and spelling on the first go. Just get it out and on to paper. Lastly, and I swear this works for me...write late at night. I don't know what happens, but my best stuff is done when I'm tired.
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Old 07-31-12, 10:44 PM   #3
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Read. Write. Then read what you write. You'll develop an eye & hear for what sounds right for you. Journalism? The five W's still hold. Who What When Where and hoW. You're not Tom Wolfe, Hunter S. Thompson, or George Plimpton. Don't imitate them. I hate to be the one to break it to you, but no one will care who you are or what you know until you earn the right.

Seriously, that's the two activities that are best. One reason I do online forums is to practice creating short articles to tell a story or state a position in a way that is defensible. It's helped- I was given the task of writing several long sales proposals at work. Often co-workers were sent to me for help due to the fact I could write a comprehensible set of paragraphs on a technical subject.

Avoid being overly clever. That gets annoying quickly.

Cliches are everywhere and new ones pop up all the time. You don't stand out by imitating. If you find yourself using a phrase that you read or heard elsewhere, think about it carefully.

Avoid using slang terms too much. This can undermine your credibility if you are writing on a serious subject.

Brevity & simplicity add to readability.

Pick up a copy of the latest edition of The Elements of Style. It's still the best guide to writing in the English language.

I've had friends that have joined writing classes and joined writing groups. Everything produced tended to sound like an imitation of all the other writers-to-be. Kurt Vonnegut said that the next generation of writers won't come out of the English department, they will come out of the Engineering department.
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Old 07-31-12, 10:50 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by EthanYQX View Post
...........but I do fall down in places and lose the flow...........

Thanks
I don't like to be a nit-picker, but there's two cliches that make your writing weak and lazy. Add the two misspelled words (Im for I'm and ok for OK) and the result is a post that looks like an afterthought.
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Old 07-31-12, 11:10 PM   #5
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I don't like to be a nit-picker, but there's two cliches that make your writing weak and lazy. Add the two misspelled words (Im for I'm and ok for OK) and the result is a post that looks like an afterthought.
Admittedly it is a bit picky, but for the OP, using comments on threads like these can be great practice,especially for writing carefully and concisely. Don't be afraid to go back and edit. I find I become blind to my own writing for at least 24 hours.

In addition, you might check with examiner.com and become a local reporter. Choose your subject. Or see if there is a local paper you can help. I have a bicycling column in a local alternative paper. It doesn't pay, but it did get me a free press pass to the International Space Development Conference.

And as others have said, study great writers and see how they compose. Try Herman Melville, Hunter S. Thompson, then ask yourself how would Melville write Fear and Loathing, how would Thompson write Moby Dick. Look at how they use their sentences, and how their styles differ.

Take an issue. Write arguments for both sides, make both persuasive. It worked for Benjamin Franklin.

And very importantly, find people who will critique you and critique you hard.
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Last edited by Artkansas; 07-31-12 at 11:21 PM.
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Old 07-31-12, 11:16 PM   #6
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Herman Melville is one of my favorite writers of the English language. "Moby Dick" was a masterful combination of journalistic writing and stylistic prose, both used when appropriate. His short stories were written in a straightforward style for the times.
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Old 08-01-12, 03:58 AM   #7
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Here is an interesting article about journalism. Outsourcing Local Journalism
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I don't care if you are on a unicycle, as long as you're not using a motor to get places you get props from me. We're here to support each other. Share ideas, and motivate one another to actually keep doing it.
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Old 08-01-12, 04:12 AM   #8
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Start with a college Comp 50 textbook -- or any freshman first semester composition textbook.

This will teach you essay structure (how to organize your ideas before you start writing), paragraph structure, sentence structure, and how to use effective transitions between sentences and paragraphs.

Once you have mastered basic composition -- you are able to write simple declarative sentences (a lot of people have trouble with this), and you are able to organize your ideas into a graceful flow that leads your reader along -- you can apply that to anything you write.
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Old 08-01-12, 04:32 AM   #9
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I have heard of some sites, where you can earn money for writing little articles for the web, nothing big, not journalism, but some of that websites are "correcting" your writings, this means you get feedback of your grammar, style and punctuation. I think this would be the cheapest way to get a little knowledge of you own mistakes, and you can earn some money, enough to spend it on lotto, instead of spend it.
I think, knowing the right grammar and punctuation is the most important thing, before you start being a journalist.
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Old 08-01-12, 08:27 AM   #10
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Never use a semicolon. If you feel the need to use one, rewrite the whole sentence.
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Old 08-01-12, 01:30 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Flying Merkel View Post
I don't like to be a nit-picker, but there's two cliches that make your writing weak and lazy. Add the two misspelled words (Im for I'm and ok for OK) and the result is a post that looks like an afterthought.
It was an afterthought

But yes thanks for your input, nit picking does help.
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Old 08-01-12, 02:53 PM   #12
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Get used to being poor. And being rejected. And being rejected poorly.

Journalism sucks until you sacrifice your ideals. Then it still sucks, but it pays a little better. A little. Don't worry about facts, because they are no longer the basis for most journalism.
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Old 08-01-12, 03:24 PM   #13
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Search Foo for posts by jsharr. Read them all. Do not repeat any of my mistakes.
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Old 08-01-12, 04:23 PM   #14
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Use semicolons generously; better sentences are your reward.
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Old 08-01-12, 08:36 PM   #15
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Use your colon regularly: nothing semi about it.
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Old 08-01-12, 08:53 PM   #16
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Don't take any advice from the morons on BF.
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Old 08-01-12, 10:03 PM   #17
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Use your colon regularly: nothing semi about it.
Once a day is normally just fine. Sometimes twice. Any more than that and you might have a problem.
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Old 08-01-12, 10:41 PM   #18
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To really determine if your semicolon use is a problem you need a semicolonoscopy.
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Old 08-02-12, 03:28 AM   #19
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If you're tempted to use the ellipsis... don't do it. It probably doesn't mean what you think it means.
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Old 08-02-12, 07:20 AM   #20
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If you're tempted to use the ellipsis... don't do it. It probably doesn't mean what you think it means.
But in case you are wondering...
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I don't care if you are on a unicycle, as long as you're not using a motor to get places you get props from me. We're here to support each other. Share ideas, and motivate one another to actually keep doing it.
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Old 08-02-12, 08:32 AM   #21
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Don't take any advice from the morons on BF.
And while you're at it, OP, take the opposite of whatever patentcad says and you'll be right.
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Old 08-02-12, 02:10 PM   #22
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Another 19th Century author I like is Robert Louis Stevenson, Treasure Island. Great prose

For journalism, just answer the 6 questions, Who, What, Where, Why, When and How.
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I don't care if you are on a unicycle, as long as you're not using a motor to get places you get props from me. We're here to support each other. Share ideas, and motivate one another to actually keep doing it.
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Old 08-03-12, 01:08 PM   #23
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Here's a sentence you can start practicing on. It's from http://news.yahoo.com/vt-police-man-...093018626.html See if you can improve it.

"No one was injured. At least two deputies had gone inside a few moments before after washing their vehicles, officials said."
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I don't care if you are on a unicycle, as long as you're not using a motor to get places you get props from me. We're here to support each other. Share ideas, and motivate one another to actually keep doing it.
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