Righting Your Writing

Like a firm handshake, good writing gives people a lasting impression. No matter what the intention, medium, or technology — how and what you write needs to be clear, easy to read, and effective.

In his book On Writing Well, William Zinsser says, “We are a society struggling in unnecessary words, circular constructions, pompous frills and meaningless jargon.” If what you’re trying to communicate is hiding in that kind of clutter, it’s likely your readers will not hear what you’re trying to say.

“Writing is hard work.” Zinsser explains. Good writing takes time and attention. Here are some suggestions for righting what you write:

Start with an Outline. Jot down the points you want to make. Collect and organize your thoughts before you write them.

Stick to the Point. Don’t waste words telling people what they already know or don’t need to know.

Avoid Jargon. Don’t use words that people outside your line of work won’t understand. Find another way to say it.

Use Familiar Combinations of Words. “Everything that coruscates with effulgence is not ipso facto aurous,” works a lot more effectively as “All that glitters is not gold.”

Use “First-degree” Words. Words that create an immediate image will get the point across quicker. For example, use object instead of manifestation, or face instead of visage.

Avoid “Windy Phrases.” Is there a shorter way to say something? Say it that way. “The secret of good writing,” says Zinsser, “is to strip every sentence to its cleanest components.”

Read it out loud. Better yet, ask someone else to read it back to you. Do you pay attention? Is your message clear? Do you understand yourself?

“Good writing doesn’t come naturally,” explains Zinsser. But good writing is essential if you want to communicate effectively with your audience.

(Need help? Visit our sister website Words by Jen for information on our copy writing and editing services.)

It’s Time For NaPoWriMo!

In celebration of National Poetry Month in April, poets near and far are gearing up for NaPoWriMo, challenging themselves to write 30 poems in 30 days.It sounds daunting, but it’s actually a lot of fun! In a weird, geeky poet sort of way.

Visit the NaPoWriMo website for more information, check out participating poets’ sites, and/or submit your own site so folks can follow along!

Then, visit our sister site, Random Acts of Writing, to follow this poet’s progress.

BOOK REVIEW: Convenience Store Woman

CONVENIENCE STORE WOMAN
Written by Sayaka Murata

The English-language debut of one of Japan’s most talented contemporary writers, selling over 650,000 copies there, Convenience Store Woman is the heartwarming and surprising story of thirty-six-year-old Tokyo resident Keiko Furukura. Keiko has never fit in, neither in her family, nor in school, but when at the age of eighteen she begins working at the Hiiromachi branch of “Smile Mart,” she finds peace and purpose in her life. In the store, unlike anywhere else, she understands the rules of social interaction―many are laid out line by line in the store’s manual―and she does her best to copy the dress, mannerisms, and speech of her colleagues, playing the part of a “normal” person excellently, more or less. Managers come and go, but Keiko stays at the store for eighteen years. It’s almost hard to tell where the store ends and she begins. Keiko is very happy, but the people close to her, from her family to her coworkers, increasingly pressure her to find a husband, and to start a proper career, prompting her to take desperate action…

A brilliant depiction of an unusual psyche and a world hidden from view, Convenience Store Woman is an ironic and sharp-eyed look at contemporary work culture and the pressures to conform, as well as a charming and completely fresh portrait of an unforgettable heroine.


As a former “convenience store woman” myself (college days), I easily stepped into the world of Keiko Furukura. It was very familiar — perhaps in too many ways. Who hasn’t felt a little off-center from the rest of the world sometimes? Hooray! for Keiko to figure out a work-around that brings her peace and fulfillment. And Bravo! the reader who can welcome Keiko into her/his heart…she is sweet and funny and sad, and living life on her own terms. Happily. — Jen Payne

Thursday TED Talk: Author Casey Gerald

EMBRACE YOUR RAW, STRANGE MAGIC

The way we’re taught to live has got to change, says author Casey Gerald. Too often, we hide parts of ourselves in order to fit in, win praise, be accepted. But at what cost? In this inspiring talk, Gerald shares the personal sacrifices he made to attain success in the upper echelons of American society — and shows why it’s time for us to have the courage to live in the raw, strange magic of ourselves.