Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Remember your reader

I'm still clipping right along with my novel. Thankfully, there's not much new to blog about it. I continue to be in an up phase--enjoying the process as well as that sense of peace I wrote about in my last two entries.

But I do have a writing-related thought to share.

One of the most important lessons I learned from Words Fail Me: What Everyone Who Writes Should Know about Writing is to always write with the reader in mind. You want to make it as easy as possible for the people reading your writing to understand your meaning. If your language is unclear or distracting, whether too flowery and jam-packed with impressive vocabulary words, or peppered with misspellings and bad grammar, your reader is going to focus too much on the words themselves and not the meaning behind them. My goal when I write is for the language to be invisible--for the readers to be so engrossed in the story, they don't pay any attention to how it's being told.

So even though I keep a list of new-to-me vocabulary words, I rarely use such imposing language in my writing. I also try very hard not to use words incorrectly. I want to make things as effortless as I can for the reader.

For example, take the word "anyways". It's an informal term, and some might argue, an incorrect version of "anyway". That doesn't mean, however, there aren't times where it might be perfectly appropriate. If you are writing a scene and one of the characters is a teenager, or someone without much education, the person might utter a phrase like, "What does it matter anyways?" In that case, the usage of informal, nonstandard english makes sense.

But when someone is trying to make a criticism, using an informal, arguably incorrect word like "anyways", is distracting. It makes the reader focus on the writer's weak language-skills, and ignore the substance of the writing.

Keep the reader in mind and use language that's understandable and appropriate. If you do, your readers are much more likely to give credence to what you're trying to say.


gayle said...


signingout said...

Renee - I am sorry, I didn't even have time tonight to read this entry, but I saw your picture from a comment you made on another blog and have to ask if you used to post on a forum in eDiets??? I think I recognize your picture and we may have been in the same group!!


Renée said...

Thanks, Gayle! :o)

Renée said...

Hi Nancy!

Nope, I've never posted on eDiets. I do post on Tracker occasionally, but my Tracker profile picture is not the one I have here.

Maybe I have a long-lost twin somewhere! Scary thought! ;o)