Friday, January 15, 2010

Writing the wrong way is sometimes right.

In blogging, copywriting and just about any other medium of writing besides research papers, the most magnetic prose are not always the most correct. Captivating, readable writing depends on a conversational tone, a penchant for irony and a relaxed attitude – not necessarily avoiding sentences that end in prepositions. In school we learned so many rules to follow, and we shouldn’t ignore them. But to be better writers, we have to know how to appropriately break them. So get ready for detention because we’re going to share our secrets for bold writing… The Elements of [Rebellious] Style.

Punctuation. When you have something to say, punctuation can be one of the best ways to show inflection. We’ve often been told to avoid overusing exclamation marks, and in most cases that’s true. However, using them IRONICALLY can be funny. Think of it as being excessively dramatic for comic effect or using a funny voice when you’re speaking out loud. Punctuation can also help you pause (using an ellipses…) so your readers will hear the words as though they were intended. When you write, establish a voice and let the punctuation follow suit. EXCEPTION: Under no circumstances should you EVER end a sentence with more than one exclamation, especially if it is on a billboard or another printed piece. Blogs are a little more relaxed, but again this should only be practiced ironically.

Spelling. You should never misspell a word in a stupid way. Ever. It only makes YOU look stupid. But, sometimes manipulating words can give them more emphasis. For instance, if you were trying to convey a different accent, a drawn-out WHHAAAT? or an unusual pronunciation. TIP: Capitalizing the entire word can help with this practice too. Just please, use spellcheck on everything else. Please.
Paragraphs. You remember the rule – a paragraph should have 3-5 sentences… a main idea sentence followed by supporting sentences. That’s great for standardized tests in fourth grade, but it’s not the way you should be writing.

Break things up.

Again, this allows you to emphasize points and it keeps your readers engaged. Visually writing says to your audience, “This guy planned what he was going to say in a clever way.” And it makes your copy look less daunting. So don’t be afraid to have a lone sentence or even a lone word out there. If it’s intentional, then it’s driving home a message.

And that brings us to our last rule you should be breaking.

Write in complete sentences. You don’t speak in them, so why have to write in them? You don’t. Short one or two-word sentences can be very powerful when used correctly. Just because you’re lacking a complete subject or predicate doesn’t mean you can’t contribute to a thought or idea in a way that gets attention.

So go ahead. Break rules but be smart about it. Your writing will improve and your readership with flourish. And, if you’re interested in books that expound upon how to be a sassy writer, we recommend Spunk & Bite by Arthur Plotnik and Here’s the Kicker by Mike Saks. They’re funny too!

2 comments: Lindsey and Web Smith said...

I like this. It is very true and absolutely crucial to having a good blog.

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