There are enough articles out there that tell you how to write. Today, I’m going to tell you how NOT to write, especially how NOT to write something that is bound to frustrate the
shit out of the reader.
We’ll go through this in a series of points because I don’t have the patience (for obvious reasons) to give you an introduction on bad writing, you have enough examples – and if you’re around 20 years of age, you probably creating an example in an SMS message or a chat-window right now.
- Periods (“.”) are important because they end sentences. They provide an invaluable break in the flow of thought in what you’re writing. If you don’t use this particular little dot, what you’re writing looks like you’ve thrown it up – literally. Words don’t deserve that.
- An ellipsis is three dots in a row, one after another, without a space in between, like this: “…”. That wasn’t so hard, was it? Dot. Dot. Dot! It stands for either “to be continued” or “some text has been left out here because I think it’s unimportant”. Whenever you want to put that thought into the reader’s head, you use the ellipsis. You shouldn’t use it if the BOTH of us know what’s coming next NOR in the middle of a sentence.
- I’m not too particular about this one, but try capitalizing the first letters of your sentences and any names. The world’s not going to end if you don’t, but try it out, it could give what you’re writing a classy look, like you’re particular about things. I know, you’re going to be put down as an intellectual dweeb for that, but when it comes to writing, things work differently.
- I am QUITE sure none of you use Notepad or Wordpad to write these days. You either use MS WORD, that application that Mac users have or inside your browser, and I am QUITE sure that none of you still use IE6 – it’s either Firefox, Chrome or that browser Mac users have. All three of them, note, have an add-on for checking the spelling of what you’re putting down. In fact, they come with it when you install them. This is just to tell you that writing like that doesn’t make you… “cool”.
- Stop using the word “like”. Seriously. Use it only when you know what a simile is. A simile is like a metaphor.
- Commas are beyond this world in their purpose. Please feel free to use them abundantly. You know, when you’re writing to someone and you have no way of telling them when you’re pausing and when you’re not, a comma comes to the rescue, bold as it is. People will invoke a pause in what they’re reading when they come across a comma. It’s on my list of top 10 inventions of all time.
- When you’ve learned how to use a period, you might be interested in the return button on the keyboard. When you press it, you get a paragraph, just like that, right out of nowhere, and a paragraph represents a more significant break in the flow of what you’re reading. It’s like this: you’re organizing an event, and there are the lighting, sound and carpentry teams. It makes sense to have all the electricians in the lighting team and all the audio engineers in the sound team – all of them are humans like all of them are sentences, but the segregation is necessary to get the work done. It’s a hard life, but it’s better that way.
- Hyphens bring words together to create hyphenation. An en-dash, which is the width of the capitalized “N”, signifies a range (e.g., 6-10 horses); note: no spaces before or after. On modern keyboards, like the QWERTY and the Dvorak, the figure dash and en-dash are actuated by the same button, which is an outright tragedy, but let’s move on. The em-dash is as wide as the capitalized “M” and demarcates parenthetical thought (“… I’m sure you know – like everyone else does – that you’re a genius…”). It’s also used to signify interruption: “So, as I was saying, you need to- BAM! Oh my god, you killed him!”
There you have it: 8 simple rules to make your writing look good, at least better than it already is. Please use them and write like a normal person – and by normal, I mean what it represented in a time as recent as 1981. I don’t like the new definition.