To help focus your writing, it’s helpful to clearly identify your audience. A good way to do this is to develop a reader profile.
Storytelling for fiction is pretty obvious. There’s a beginning, a middle, and an end. There’s some kind of narrative, and a plot line involving a cast of characters. Storytelling has been around for a long time. It predates writing, and has been used in mythology, fables, fairy tales, sagas, etc. In more contemporary forms, it shows up in novels, mysteries and the like.
But many people don’t associate storytelling with non-fiction. And in fact, that would be accurate for such works as reference books. However, storytelling does happen in such non-fiction works as autobiographies, personal stories or adventures, the telling of history, how-to and self-help books, etc.
So, if you’re writing non-fiction, are you presenting a collection of facts or are you telling a story?
Clutter is the disease of American writing. We are a society strangling in unnecessary words, circular construction, pompous frills and meaningless jargon.
But the secret of good writing is to strip every sentence to its cleanest components. Every word that serves no function, every long word that could be a short word, every adverb that carries the same meaning that’s already in the verb, every passive construction that leaves the reader unsure of who is doing what — these are the thousand and one adulterants that weaken the strength of a sentence. And they usually occur, ironically, in proportion to education and rank.
~ William Zinsser, On Writing Well, New York, Harper, 1998
The current disrespect for American English is very sad. First of all, it’s a language that prides itself in having rules of structure and pronunciation that are often broken. This makes it one of the hardest-to-learn languages in the world. One reason is that American English uses constructions and words borrowed from many sources. Beyond that, younger Americans seem to ignore any prior form of language discipline (vocabulary, grammar and punctuation). And the number of abbreviations and acronyms that have been created must completely bewilder foreigners trying to understand us.
Why is abbreviation such a long word?
Periods in abbreviations can be a controversial subject. There are no hard and fast rules, and often the style manual used by the editor or publisher will prevail, so know your audience. Following are some general guidelines.
It’s often difficult to decide when to use a hyphen or dash, and whether to use a long (em) dash or a short (en) dash. The letters ‘m’ and ‘n’ are used to describe the length of the dash as the same as the matching letter.
This grammatical bugaboo has been plaguing writers for hundreds of years. In spite of rules to the contrary, there are times when a writer can “get away with it”. But how are you to know? The following guidelines will, hopefully, provide some answers.
The apostrophe mark (‘) has two major uses in English. Usage 1: the apostrophe signifies that one or more letters in a word have been left out. So, for example, in poetry we have o’er for over; in contractions we have can’t for cannot and she’s for she is; and in abbreviations we have dep’t. for department. Usage 2: the apostrophe indicates a possessive noun (Terry’s house).
Which way to publish? This can be a challenging question for an author. There are so many options. You can go the traditional printed book route — hardback or paperback. You can save your book as a .pdf (portable document format), then print it on paper or sell it electronically from your website. (Note: pdf documents can be read on many e-readers). Or you can create an electronic book (e-book), which can be read on a variety of electronic readers (e-readers) and sold from your website or through a number of online book sellers (e.g., Amazon, Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, etc.).
When you give an elevator speech, you’re briefly telling someone what you do or provide. If done right, you’ll spark someone’s interest by explaining the value to them of what you or your product is about, and to stimulate further action. It’s not, repeat NOT, a sales pitch.
The term “elevator speech” derives from the idea that one should be able to share the most essential information in the time it takes an elevator to go from, say, the ground floor in a tall building to a high-numbered floor (e.g.,10-30 seconds). If your overview is intriguing, the recipient may be persuaded to ask for more information or ask you for your business card.
A redundant word is one that’s not necessary for the transmission of a thought, which is the purpose of effective communication.