Monday, May 10, 2010

Tips from an editor

Here's a tip that may help your child's writing.

Half of me (professionally) is a writer, and the other half is an editor.

I edit books, articles and speeches; I've been doing it about 20 years or so, and over the years I've discovered some common traps people get into with writing.

I was thinking that some of this insider knowledge may help kids who are struggling with an essay or a book report. When writing is easier, it's more enjoyable and they'll do it more often.

So here's my first tip:

If your child is working on a sentence that doesn't sound right and she's tried it several ways and it still doesn't sound right... bail! Delete it. Start the whole sentence over. It will be faster, and it will sound better.

It seems obvious, but the next time it happens, you'll be surprised. We write a sentence that doesn't sound quite right, and so we rework it. And rework it and rework it. Frustration builds, and the sentence never ends up sounding right.

If you can catch yourself doing this early on, you can really save time by just stopping, deleting, and rewording the whole thing.

Here's an example:
"Being discouraged is a fact of life. But giving up is not the right answer."

The first part doesn't sound quite right. So you can try:
*Becoming discouraged is a fact of life.
*Being discouraged is a fact, in life.
*It's a fact that everyone becomes discouraged.

Instead, delete the whole thing and start over:
*We all get discouraged sometimes. But giving up is not the right answer.

It says the same thing, but you've taken yourself out of that frustrating idiom maze that can drive you crazy. The end result is faster and clearer.

If you see your child struggling to perfect a sentence that just doesn't sound right... tell her to bail. And come at it from a new angle.

I'll try and remember some more tips that have helped me out over the years. Anything to get those kids writing!

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