On my recent posting “Blogs: opinion pieces or news reports?” one person left a comment and made reference to teaching them how to write in the style I use. I thought about that for about thirty seconds. I didn’t want to spend more time analyzing it lest I become the centipede. You know the story of the centipede, don’t you? You don’t? Well, I’ll tell you then.
One day a tiny ant was watching a centipede pass by, legs all moving with military precision, not tripping over its feet or kicking the leg in front of it. The ant stopped the centipede and asked how he managed to keep everything so well organized. Having never thought about it, the centipede had to admit he didn’t know. After the ant went his way, the centipede sat and thought about the question and tried to analyze his actions. Not finding an answer he liked, he gave up and decided to carry on to wherever he had been going. That was when he discovered that in his attempts to figure out just how he did it, he’d managed to lose the ability to co-ordinate his legs and he kept tripping. I didn’t want to spend time analyzing how and why I write as I do for fear I’d end up like that centipede and forget how to write.
But, a few things from that thirty seconds may be worth repeating. First, write the way you speak. That’s the best advice I was ever given. If you don’t use “ten dollar words” in your everyday speech, don’t get all fancy when you’re writing, even if you can get those words in a “two for one” sale”. If you try to use words you’re unfamiliar with, you will probably use them in the wrong context, so my advice on that matter is simple: Don’t do it. The way I write is the way I speak. I know that people are told “write what you know”. Well yes, it is always good to have some knowledge of your topic before you put a single word on paper (or screen – I still prefer to write in longhand) especially if you’re writing an instructional piece.
In addition to “write what you know” I would add “write what you feel strongly about”, be that the antics of your local politicians or something else. If you want to write an opinion piece, write it with passion. If you feel strongly enough about something that you want to voice your opinion, let that fire show through in your writing. My personal view where it relates to opinion pieces is that if I’ve upset someone, then I’ve done my job properly. Of course that attitude is probably helped by being 68 and not really caring what others think of my opinions.
There you have it – Writing 101 by Cat. I hope I’ve offered some suggestions you may not have considered.
To my followers and readers, enjoy the rest of your week and remember to hug an artist – we need love too.