When to Italicize

It often confuses new writers as to when to italicize words and when not to. This is natural because there are no set rules for this and much depends on the writer’s own discretion. However, there are certain guidelines that tell you what needs to be italicized. Here they are:

1. Emphasis. When you want to put an emphasis, or want a word or phrase to stand out from the rest.  For example:

You mean to say you wrote this?

Do not write on the wall.

2. Words as separate words. When words in a sentence are used as separate words. For example:

Don’t forget to italicize the word hope.

Committee is a word that is often misspelled.

3. Letters as words. When letters of the alphabet are used as words in a sentence. For example:

Put an X on the spot that needs to be fixed.

Don’t forget to cross your t’s.

4. Reproduced sounds as words.  Sometimes sounds are reproduced to bring effect to the writing. For example:

Thud, the parcel fell on the ground.

Bzzzzzz … the bee buzzed.

5. Foreign words. Foreign words and phrases that are unfamiliar to most readers. For example:

The lawyer says it’s a prima facie case.

Namaste,” the Indian man folded his hands in greeting.

6. Titles. Titles of books, plays, magazines, newspapers, movies, television shows etc. (Holy Books like the Bible, Koran, and others are not italicized.) For example:

Seinfeld is a popular TV program.

He reads the New York Times every morning.

7. Names of vehicles. Names of spaceships, boats, trains etc. that are proper names. For example:

The Titanic sank after hitting an iceberg.

The Orient Express is a fast train.

Keep these points in mind and you will know when to italicize words. If you’re still in doubt, just use standard font.

I hope this has been of help to you. If not, what else would you like to know about italics?

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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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Writing Effective Titles for the Web

Writing titles and headlines for the web is much different than writing them for print. When readers take a print newspaper or magazine in their hands, they know what they wants to read and know that they’ll find it there. But with the web, readers generally search for articles to read or to find information.  They go to search engines to search for what they want, or to websites that have been recommended to them. They scan and skim the sources looking at all the different headlines searching for what they want, and then click on the title that they think will contain their information.

So, what does this mean? This means that your title or headline should be such that it immediately catches the attention of the searcher. In order to prevent your title from going unnoticed, just follow these simple rules. They will make your content more visible on the web:

1. Keep your title short. The ideal length is between three to six words, and never more than ten.  This is because most search engines usually pick only a few sets of words.

2. Keep the most relevant words in the beginning. The most relevant words should also be the keywords of your content. But be careful – don’t overstuff the title with keywords, otherwise it will not only sound irritating but will also be ignored by the search engines.

3. Make your title the “summary” of your article. In other words, the title should clearly say what your article is about. This increases the possibility of the searcher clicking on your article.

4. Be sure to keep it honest. It is very important that your title is exactly what it says. Don’t let it be just something to attract readers. If your readers are attracted by the title but find something different in your article, they’ll never return. Your reputation as a writer will be affected. This is why honesty and truthfulness is of prime importance.

It’s really not very difficult keeping these points in mind. It only takes a little care and practice. Just remember this – your title is what defines the success of your article.

What do you think – does the title of this post have all the points given above?

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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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What is Confident Writing?

We often hear the term ‘confident writing’. What is confident writing? Don’t we all write confidently? Well, this depends – depends on how we write.  First let us define ‘confident writing’, then we’ll go on to the ‘how’.

Confident writing is when we have full faith in ourselves as writers. We write because we want to write and not because we want to please others. In other words, we don’t try to impress our readers by using fancy words or phrases. Instead, we write with the words that come naturally to us, just like in speech. In short, we are just us, no one else.

So, how can you tell if a writing is confident? Here are the tell-tale signs of confident writing:

1. The language is simple and direct. That is, the words flow as naturally as in speech. If long and hard words have been used and the language is too formal, it is obvious that a lot of effort has been put in to impress the reader. And if effort has been put in, then naturally the writer has no confidence in his natural words and style. So, what does this mean? That the writing is not confident.

If for some reason you find yourself struggling with words or ways to say things, change the topic. Write about something that you feel at ease with, something that you feel strongly about, or have personally experienced. If it’s creative writing and you’re describing a scene, think of a scene that you have personally seen and describe that. This will bring confidence in your writing.

2. There is conviction in what is being said.  Whatever the topic, it should show the writer’s conviction and confidence in it. If references have been used – like “according to experts” if it’s non-fiction, and “it seemed like” in fiction – it shows that the writer is not sure of what he/she is writing so is shifting the responsibility elsewhere. Shifting responsibilities is a sign of no confidence.

Again, if you find yourself unsure of your topic, change it to something that you’re sure of. If you want to keep to the same topic, research well before embarking on your project. Write only after you know the topic well, and can write without words like “probably”, “usually”, or “very often”.

3. A point is being made. Everything that is written should make a point. There should be proper evidence, explanation, and description of whatever is being said. Writing without a point is aimless writing, and aimless writing shows lack of confidence.

Before you start writing, make sure that you know what point you’re going to make. Do you have enough evidence to prove your point? If not, do some studying and gather enough information. Then write with confidence and be prepared to be accountable for what you say.

These three points constitute confident writing. Or have I missed a point? What else do you think constitutes confident writing?

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Writing Prompts of the Week – 8

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

1. What are the things that make you very happy?

2. You are a witness to a murder. What do you do?

3. Will you raise your child the way you were brought up by your parents? Why or why not?

4. If you were to find out that the person you considered to be your best friend actually hates you, what would you do?

5. What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you see this picture?

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