Author Philippa Gregory on Writing

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What Is Writing Style?

We often hear of the term ‘writing style’ – the ‘writing style’ of this writer is good, but the ‘style’ of that writer is not. What is this ‘style’ that we talk about?

‘Writing style’ refers to the manner in which writers express themselves. This manner is based on the choices they make in selecting their syntactical structures, diction, and figures of speech. It is these unique and personal choices that give identity to a writer. Generally style evolves from two things – naturally over a period of time; and the choices a writer makes consciously keeping in mind the audience and the purpose of writing.

If you are a new writer and would like to develop a style of your own, keep these points in mind:

1. Read. Read voraciously and broadly. The more you read on a wide range of topics by a variety of writers, the better you’ll be able to understand what style is, and as a result, the better your own style will evolve into.

2. Write. Write as much as possible on as many topics as possible. Don’t worry about whether it’s good or bad… just write. Before long you’ll see your style evolving.

3. Choose words wisely. Select your words judiciously. Don’t try to use difficult words just to impress your readers. Trying to use difficult words just to sound intelligent only leads to their wrong use, and as a result spoiling your whole piece of writing. If you’re stuck on the right choice of words, use a good thesaurus.

4. Keep your sentences and paragraphs short. Say what you have to say clearly and precisely in as few words as possible. Writing long sentences and paragraphs can lead to writing irrelevant things and as a result moving away from your main topic.

5. Get acquainted with figures of speech. Don’t use figures of speech – like metaphors, similes, clichés, and so on – unless you know them well, and know when and how to use or not use them. Not understanding them fully, can lead to their wrong use, and as a result making your writing sound awkward.

6. Be clear. Write whatever you write with clarity and as simply and logically as possible. The important thing here is to get your point across in a way that anyone who reads it – not just a few – can easily understand it.

7. Be yourself. Try and do all the above in your own way and as naturally as possible. Any deliberate attempt can make your writing sound fake and stilted.

These points are just a guide to developing your own writing style – a style which reflects your own individual personality.

Have I mentioned all the points or do you think something else should (or should not) be done to develop a writing style?

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Inspiring Authors

Writing tips from authors. An extremely inspiring video.

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Freelance Writers and Time Management

Generally when you tell people that someone’s a freelance writer, the first reaction is, “Aah, so he is doing nothing”. Others, who do realize that freelance writing is actually work, think that it’s easy working from home. While the fact is that working from home is much harder than working outside your home. When you go out to an office as an employee, your timings are set. You work a certain number of hours in an environment of work and bring home a check of a set amount. But when you’re a freelance writer, things work differently. You have to set your own working time in an environment that has many distractions. Work is deadline-based; and if you don’t hand in your projects on time, you lose your clients and your work.

The most important thing in a freelance writer’s job is time. Quality work has to be handed in on time if a writer wants to keep receiving assignments. In order for this to happen, proper time management is essential. Here are a few time management tips that I personally have found to be very useful:

1.   Organize a working environment. This is very important in order to be more productive and efficient. Set up a room or a corner of your house as your working space. Besides your computer and internet access, keep all your printed references and writing materials in that place. Your project records, bills and other papers should also be in place properly filed. This not only creates a productive environment, but also keeps you in one place without having to search for things all over the house.

2.   Set writing time. Working from home has many distractions, so it’s very important to set aside time for writing. Allocate a certain number of hours every day for writing – no watching TV, talking to friends over the phone, or doing grocery during those hours. Only writing. How many hours to set aside depends on the project you’re working on. Some projects require more working hours, others less. So, you can either vary your writing hours from project to project, or you can keep the same number of hours, depending on which works better for you. Establishing a regular writing routine increases both productivity and quality.

3.  Plan ahead. Planning ahead always saves time. You know the deadline – so, schedule time for research, writing, and the revision and proofreading. Always keep an extra day or two free before the deadline – this gives you some extra time for improving your work, as well as give you some leeway in case time has been lost due to an unforeseen distraction or emergency.

All freelance writers know how important it is to maintain a reputation of efficiency and reliability if they want assignments to keep coming in. And this is only possible if quality work is handed in on time. Hence, the importance of time management.

How do you manage your time? I’d love to hear from other freelance writers.

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Important Latin Words and Terms

Yesterday we talked about the value of the study of Latin. Today we give below some of the many Latin words and terms that all writers should know. These words and terms are seen written all around the world in almost all languages in all academic fields. Therefore, it’s important that all writers know them. They needn’t be learnt by heart, but it is a good idea to get familiarized with them as they are often seen written in different contexts in various media.

Most commonly used Latin words and expressions:

Ad hoc: to this. Something created for a specific purpose. Like an ad hoc committee.

Ad valorem: to the value. Something related to the value of another thing. For example, an ad valorem tax.

Affidavit: a sworn written statement. A legal statement.

Alibi: elsewhere. If a person has an alibi, it means he can prove he was elsewhere.

Bona fide: good faith. This mainly refers to contracts. To respect the contract, one must act in good faith.

De facto: common in practice. Something which is not established by law but is common in practice.  Like a de facto official language.

In toto: completely. Refers to something that is taken in its entirety. For example, taking a project in toto.

Modus operandi: a way of doing things. Mainly used when referring to a person’s way of doing things. Like  a thief’s modus operandi; that is, the way he goes about stealing.

Per se: by itself. When something is taken per se, it is taken by itself, without considering the external factors.

Prima facie: by first instance. This is used mainly in legal cases. If a case is prima facie, it means there is enough evidence to go forward with the indictment.

Pro bono: for the public good. If, for example, a lawyer works on a case pro bono, he works for the public good. In other words, he works for free.

Sic: thus. Sic is usually placed within brackets in front of incorrect word or words indicating that the words are not the writer’s.

Terra firma: solid earth. Being on terra firma refers to be being on firm ground rather than on sea.

Vice versa: the other way around. For example, if you say “he likes her and vice versa”, it means that she too likes him.

Vox populi: voice of the people. Refers to the general public, or the voice of the common man.

Which other Latin word or term do you think should also have been included here?

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The Value of the Study of Latin

When I had taken Latin as one of my subjects in high school, I hadn’t realized how helpful it would turn out to be. To be very honest, I didn’t really want to take it, but the only reason I studied it was because my English teacher had asked me to. She had explained the importance of Latin not only for the study of English, but for practically all fields of study. Today I am happy that I listened to her advice and can proudly say that I have had the privilege of studying Latin and have found the language to be of enduring value. What is this value?

They say Latin is a dead language, but if you ask me, it is an immortal language. It may not be spoken anywhere in the world, but it is still studied all over the world. Why? Because –

1. Latin is the root of most modern European languages, including English. Its study helps in the study of the English language. Generally, when we study English, we do so without really understanding the whys of the grammar. We speak and write English the way we do because we are told that this is the way we should, because that is the correct way. But why is it the correct way? This is what Latin teaches us – the rules and the reasons of grammar. Once we learn these, we get a better understanding of the English Language. Humorist Stephen Leacock once said, “People learn to write good English by writing bad Latin”.

2. Most English words have Latin derivatives. Therefore, the study of Latin gives us a better understanding of words, their meanings and uses. As a result of this better understanding, we acquire a wider vocabulary and can use the right word in the right manner.

3. In all fields of study and professions – whether science, law, or humanities – the technical words are in Latin. A good understanding of Latin gives us a better understanding of the technical terms. We, therefore, don’t have to struggle with the meanings of the terms and their uses.

4. It may easily be argued by some that if one is not going to enter a professional career, Latin is of no use. But here these people are wrong. According to experts, the discipline involved in the study of Latin is excellent mental exercise. It develops the human brain, and consequently increases the intelligence level in a person.

So, we can see how important the study of Latin is. It gives us a better understanding of all aspects of the English language, and as a result makes us better writers.

I’d love to hear from people who have studied Latin. How has it helped them get a better understanding of the English language? Has it helped them become better writers?

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Julia Quinn on Writing Humorous Dialogue

Author Julia Quinn talks about writing humorous dialogue.

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