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Writing Prompts of the Week – 3

Create stories, articles, or poems  from the following prompts:

1. Write about emotions and what they mean to you.

2. Write something beginning with – “I used to think………………”

3. Write a story woven around the words – ‘crumpled paper’, ‘pavement’, ‘surprise’, ‘news’, ‘boy’.  

4. Take a magazine, flip through the pages with closed eyes, stop, and write about whatever’s on the page you stopped.

5. Write about the first thing that comes to your mind when you see this picture –



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Talking or Speaking?

“I think we should talk about this”. “I think we should speak about this”. Do these two sentences mean the same thing? Some of you may say yes, because I have often seen “talk” written where “speak” should have been written, and “speak” used where it should have been “talk”. We should be careful about when to use what, as the two are two distinct activities. In fact, they are so different that people may be talking without actually speaking!

“Talking” is what we do all the time – the informal exchange of words. It’s the kind of communication that we do without giving much thought to it. “Speaking”, on the other hand, is the expression of thoughts or opinions through the medium of words. In other words, it is meaningful talking that is done after giving some thought to it. So, when we say “we should talk about this”, we mean just the exchange of words; but when we say “let’s speak about this”, we mean to have a meaningful talk, or an exchange of views and opinions.

Ben Jonson, one of the greatest writers of all times, explained the difference so well – “A fool may talk, but a wise man speaks”.

So, what do you think I was just doing? Was I talking, or was I speaking?


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Ray Bradbury on Writing Persistently


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A Trait or a Coincidence?

I noticed something interesting. I don’t know whether it’s just a coincidence, or has something to do with nationality. On my website I have a section on Research Papers where scholars post their papers for sale. Till a few years ago, there were quite a few buyers, but now – for two and a half years to be precise – there hasn’t been a single request for a paper. So, after a lot of thought, we decided to do away with the section altogether.  Since the scholars are also involved, we thought it only fair to ask them for their views. All of them said that if there weren’t any buyers, there was no point in having them up on the site, and it was best that we remove them. There were just two who had a different answer – they said that their research was for the good of society at large and that we could leave them up on the site. The best part was – and a very generous one at that – these two persons did not want any money. They said to leave them up and to give them for free to anyone who wanted them. Now we all know how much time and effort goes into writing research papers, and here were two persons who were willing to offer them for free because their belief is that knowledge should be imparted for free so it could benefit all. And you know what the interesting part is? Both these scholars are Indians; the others are of various other nationalities.

What I was thinking – does this desire to offer knowledge for free an Indian trait? Or is it just a coincidence? What do you think? I’d really like some views on this.


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Writing for the Web

When I started writing for the web a few years ago, I had no idea that web writing was much different than print writing. There weren’t blogs then, neither so many websites giving tips on how to write for the web. Since my writing experience had only been with print, I wrote similarly for the web. But with time I learnt that web writing was not the same, it had its own peculiarities.


web writingThe differences arise mainly from the readers. Readers read differently on the web than they do on print. Whereas they read word for word on print, they tend to scan on the web. They look for immediate information, skimming through the text ignoring the details. So, to give the readers what they want, web writing has been made non-linear. This means that content is written in bits of information in a non-chronological manner, so when readers look for information, they can find it in one glance. The main object of web writing is to hold the attention of the reader rather than grab it.


When writing for the web, these points have to be kept in mind:

  • Use universal language. Web content is read by people from all over the world. So, care should be taken to write in a language that can easily be understood by all. Use simple and clear language, avoid too many adjectives and adverbs, and above all, avoid clichés.
  • Use strong headings and sub-heads to attract readers and capture their attention. Highlight keywords and phrases, so readers can immediately see what they want.  The web is full of websites with similar content, if readers do not see the information they want at one glance, they will move on to elsewhere (remember, web readers have short attention spans).   
  • Keep it brief and concise. Web readers are nearly always impatient and tend to ignore lengthy articles. So, write your information in as few words as possible. Ideally, web copy should be 50% of print copy.
  • Keep important parts in the beginning of your article. Remember, web readers don’t read, they scan. In 50% of the cases, they leave the page after reading only part of the article. So, keeping the important pieces of information in the beginning is essential.
  • Check for the accuracy of your information. You wouldn’t want to give wrong information and lose credibility. If you want readers to come to you for information, build a reputation for being an authoritative source.

Writing effective web content is challenging to even the most experienced writer. What do think? What have your your experiences been?


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Webster’s Third Dictionary

An interesting article on Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary.


Webster’s Third Dictionary


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On Writing Characters – Joyce Carol Oates

Critically acclaimed author Joyce Carol Oates discusses how a writer develops realistic characters.



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