Here’s another post from back when I began blogging. Sometimes I need reminding myself.
Since taking to the keyboard, I’ve found that basics I thought mastered at school have deserted me. In some cases, practice has changed noticeably.
But researching the changes is easier now. While I still don’t have all the answers, they are out there somewhere in cyberspace… along with a lot of misinformation. Here are some things to keep in mind while you’re searching.
Seek a second opinion – or three.
Some pundits lay down the law; others admit alternatives. For every warning about adverbs and cliches, another writer will encourage you to flout the rules.
The choice is yours. But you need to know what the conventions are – and why – before you can defy them with confidence.
Even where gurus agree, one article will speak to you more directly than the others. Maybe it offers more straighforward examples or invokes memorable images. We all have different ways of making sense of information.
It’s worth taking time to seek out different points of view.
Check the origin of your information.
Is the article written by a journalist, novelist, scriptwriter, copy-writer, editor or used car salesman? Whichever it is doesn’t make it less valid, but each may emphasise different aspects.
Why are they posting the information? Is it as academic support, part of online discussion, or are they trying to sell you something? (It may be a product, or a belief.)
Be aware of the origin of the information you’ve found. American and British-based websites might disagree about style, punctuation, formatting, crochet patterns… If it’s writing or grammar you are researching, remember that UK English differs from American English in more than just spelling, although the best websites will outline the differences.
Your memory may not be as good as you think.
I may be convinced I’ll remember that handy tip for differentiating licence and license. But when I need it again, I guarantee I’ll have forgotten. So will you.
It’s so easy to delete a redundant bookmark, or unsubscribe from a blog that has nothing else to say to you, but it isn’t so easy to find that useful website six months later when Google has moved on.
Make a record of your findings, and be consistent about where you put it. You may find your computer harder to search than the internet.
What tips do you have for sorting the online jewels from the pebbles?
Copyright © 2023 cathy-cade.com – All rights reserved.
4 thoughts on “Looking for Clues”
This is great food for thought! There’s so much here I agree with. The first point you make is excellent. I take it to mean that before you can go off script and be more creative, you first have to learn the rules.
A great example I always like to use is this:
Before you can create your own sonatas, you have to learn all the notes while learning how to play the piano. After you’ve mastered it, you can create your own masterpieces to your heart’s content.
If I want to learn how to write effectively, I’m going to need to learn the basic rules of grammar and style before I even think of getting all fancy with my sentence structure. Once I get the basics down I can feel confident in experimenting with various styles.
I think of Mark Twain and his unique way of writing and expressing himself. He couldn’t have done that without first learning the basics. Writing in the unique American Southern slang he wrote in doesn’t go over too well unless you know what you’re doing. He did it very effectively. It also gave his writings a unique flavor.
I also think of Stephen King. He’ll tell you to avoid adverbs like the plague, but he even admits that he breaks his own rules at times. Adverbs are not the enemy that most writers like to think they are. While it’s true, adverbs tell more often than show, there are times when telling is perfectly acceptable.
Always check and recheck your sources. You don’t want to run the risk of being laughed at, or worse, sued. Research can be tedious, but it’s necessary.
Crochet patterns?? 🤣
I’m not too worried about that since I don’t crochet, but punctuation, especially commas, is the biggest thorn in my side. I constantly have to check that my commas are in their rightful places. Having had my speech pattern messed up from the multiple concussions I’ve incurred means I halt a lot in my speech and end up transferring it into my writing. so it can be a real problem for me.
I try to stay away from colons and semi-colons as much as possible because they can appear too haughty.
Good advice on not being too quick to delete a link to a website that could very well have many helpful resources.
Here is my advice regarding dialogue.
When I first started writing my memoir I didn’t have a computer. I only had my Android phone. I am a fast typist, but there was no way I could type that fast on the minuscule keyboard of my phone. So, I used the mic and talked into it. I wrote like this for over a year. This forced my dialogue to sound more natural; not forced. I was even told that my narrative has a natural flow to it. Every time I hear this, I’m so glad I spent over a year ‘talking’ instead of ‘writing’.
I’m always advising writers who complain that their dialogue sounds choppy and stiff, to stop writing and start talking. It’s true that we speak differently than how we write, but if you want to engage the reader, you don’t want to sound like a business geek at a bored meeting. No, that’s not a typo. 😎
Another great way to sound more natural when writing dialogue is to use more contractions. We have so many contractions that it seriously intimidates a foreigner when learning the language. The only times I will NOT use contractions in my speech or writing is when I’m stressing an important point. Now, I’m cursing myself for mentioning contractions because now I’m going to go back and put in the contractions I missed. 😁
Great article, Cathy.
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I wish I could talk to my computer and have it type for me, but whenever I try, I get a jumble of ‘err’s and ‘umm’s and a lot of, ‘no, scrap that; start again’s.
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That happens to me on occasion too. There are times I’ll talk into my phone and this strange language from the planet Jupiter pops up out of nowhere.
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One of our writing group members is profoundly deaf and lipreads. She also uses an app on her phone that transcribes the discussion for her, but – of course – it’s subject to the same vagaries as autofill!!