Ever wonder where your brilliant and not so brilliant sentences come from? In this grand age of social media, more writers than ever have access to an audience, and vice versa. Writers are feeling the pressure to craft flawless sentences in order to gain prominence and, more importantly, avoid scrutiny. While many argue that certain insights, observations, emotions, and other right-brained qualities that an effective piece of writing requires cannot be taught, the other half of the art form—the actual act of ordering words—can be improved.
Don’t be this guy
A New York Times article from last week’s Sunday Review by Michael Erard speculates that our writing habits are determined by “structural priming.” He says, “Basically, earlier patterns in what you say or read or write ‘prime’ you to repeat them when you’re acting automatically. Our tendency to say the same sorts of sentences as those around us was first studied by someone looking at, of all things, walkie-talkie conversations between burglars.”
Looks like the coffee has worn off
Erard suggests shutting off the web while writing because specific styles from Facebook and Twitter can seep into your subconscious.Right before you start writing, he recommends reading Artful Sentences: Syntax as Style, by Virginia Tuftes, a “catalog of the flexibility of the English sentence.” He also suggests you “unprime,” by mimicking the style of a successful author as a warm-up exercise. Click here for the article in its entirety and happy writing! (I can’t count how many times I’ve read and used that last phrase.)
I finally have the hang of this!
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