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Writing Habits I Have Learned over the Years

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by Debater Slayer, Sep 17, 2019.

  1. Debater Slayer

    Debater Slayer Born-again Glompist
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    Ever since I started using RF eight years ago, my writing in English has significantly changed, not just due to gaining a lot of vocabulary but also because of other writing habits that I will share in this thread.

    My main hope with this thread is for anyone--especially fellow non-native writers of English-- to find it helpful, even if in minor ways. Since English is my second language, some of the things I'm sharing here are the result of several years of revising and continually trying to improve my language skills. So natives may find a lot of it redundant. Privileged rascals! :p

    These are, in no particular order, the main habits I often follow when posting or writing anything in English now:

    - Paragraphing: As a rule of thumb, if whatever you're writing exceeds two or three lines at most without a break, it's time to create a new paragraph and structure your sentences accordingly.

    Nobody likes broken thoughts that are scrambled over multiple short paragraphs, but nobody likes squinting through a wall of text either.

    - If you find that there is a big gap between one dependent clause and another, try to shorten said gap. I actually picked this one up from a book about Arabic grammar a few years ago, where it advised against "filler sentences" that split apart dependent clauses too much.

    For example:

    "If you troll me every time we talk like you did the last ten times and I said nothing about it because I'm too nice and you're not at all, I will put you on my ignore list."

    As you can see, the first dependent clause is pretty long, so by the time one gets to the second clause, the flow of thought in the sentence may become disjointed. Instead, I try to switch the second clause with the first:

    "I will put you on my ignore list if [and now this clause can be long without being a pain to read and follow]."

    - Repetition of the same word within the same sentence or paragraph can make a lot of things tedious to read. This is where the many synonyms that exist in English can come in handy--a thesaurus can turn a bland sentence into a much smoother-looking one. :D

    - This is largely a personal preference, but I avoid using abbreviations of full expressions as much as I can in forum posts. If you have to explain what "IMHO" or "WDYM" stands for to someone, it both defeats the purpose of an abbreviation (faster/handier writing) and makes the sentence look a bit harder on the eyes.

    As I said, though, that one is just a personal preference. Your mileage may vary (or YMMV, I guess? :D).

    I hope this is useful to anyone. :)

    (If not, oh well. I tried! I ain't charging for it anyway. Not yet.)
     
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  2. Audie

    Audie Veteran Member

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    "I hope this will be helpful to someone" :D
     
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  3. Debater Slayer

    Debater Slayer Born-again Glompist
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    That was a free tip, right? I won't use it if I have to pay you $0.5 for each instance.
     
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  4. Audie

    Audie Veteran Member

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    It is free. My Mom studied at Edinburgh
    and taught English lit. at a college in
    Hong Kong.

    Consequently I was, ah, coached a lot!

    Guess where I got the habit of coaching
    others.
     
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  5. Debater Slayer

    Debater Slayer Born-again Glompist
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    That's wonderful!

    I can relate, too, because if my mom (who also majored in English literature) hadn't taught me to use the dictionary when I was 10, my English would have probably never gotten past a basic level.

    Three cheers and a toast for English-teaching moms. :D
     
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  6. Vinayaka

    Vinayaka devotee
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    DS you is I think good riter?
     
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  7. Debater Slayer

    Debater Slayer Born-again Glompist
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    you good reader. i don't know what is riting.
     
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  8. Landon Caeli

    Landon Caeli What's your stoyle?

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    I would have never guessed that English is your second language. I'm very impressed.
     
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  9. Audie

    Audie Veteran Member

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    You write better than the average
    American does.
     
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  10. beenherebeforeagain

    beenherebeforeagain Rogue Animist
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    Yes, you do write better than many of the students that I taught...and many of the professionals I worked with, too...
     
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  11. Geoff-Allen

    Geoff-Allen Resident megalomaniac

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    If anyone wants a huge collection of tips on the topic of writing, you could spend a LOT of time at this site - It has over 100 pieces of advice from various published authors. May be a little overkill - I have only clicked on a couple so far ...

    Timeless Advice on Writing: The Collected Wisdom of Great Writers

    All the best!
     
  12. Heyo

    Heyo Active Member

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    Your tips are good for almost any kind of literature - except forum posts.
    Online communication has its own, historically grown set of rules. Some things (like putting dependant clauses into brackets) are permissible here but not in other settings. E.g.:
    The use of abbreviations had 2 reasons: 1. it saved bandwidth. In the age of acoustic couplers that was a real concern. 2. creating a slang, an "in-group" language. The extreme of that trend was "1337 speak". Today, using usenet typical language only serves to date you but it is also a nod to the glorious beginnings of online culture. Lastly ...
    Again, good advice for literary writing, but dangerous or outright wrong in formal philosophical arguments. Synonyms often aren't and you may be accused of equivocation. Philosophical arguments are not meant to be easily read but to be as precise as possible.

    Conclusion
    I agree with your advice but wanted to point out that a forum post is its own literary genre that doesn't always adhere to the lessons of an English literature teacher.
     
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  13. Eddi

    Eddi Mark 5:9

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    My writing style has also changed since I started posting here

    (hopefully for the better)

    I'm a big fan of George Orwell and these are his tips for being a good writer, from his essay Politics And The English Language:
    1. Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
    2. Never use a long word where a short one will do.
    3. If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
    4. Never use the passive where you can use the active.
    5. Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
    6. Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.
     
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  14. icehorse

    icehorse Well-Known Member
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    Good stuff. I can't help but reiterate some debating advice, I know it's a bit of a tangent:

    - avoid putting words in other poster's mouths, instead, ask for clarification.
    - we RFers disagree a lot, but avoid slurring other posters.
     
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  15. Debater Slayer

    Debater Slayer Born-again Glompist
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    Thanks! Took years to master, but it's worth it... especially for the movies and songs. :D
     
  16. Debater Slayer

    Debater Slayer Born-again Glompist
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    It's a personal preference, as I mentioned. I'd probably be understood by at least 90% of people online if I used common Internet abbrevations or "textspeak," but I just prefer to use the full counterparts.

    I think synonym usage can be skipped if it affects precision, which it rarely does, in my opinion. Plus forums provide the luxury of being able to revise or add to one's points in later posts if need be, so clarity usually isn't hard to achieve.

    I agree that forum posts are different from other forms of writing, of course. I view a lot of them as the written equivalent of a conversation in a big coffee shop. :D
     
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  17. Hockeycowboy

    Hockeycowboy Well-Known Member
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    How nice of you!

    My wife is German, and she loves it when I teach her different English words, including aspects of English syntax and punctuation.
     
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  18. Hockeycowboy

    Hockeycowboy Well-Known Member
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    Just curious, what is your Mother tongue?
     
  19. Debater Slayer

    Debater Slayer Born-again Glompist
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    Arabic.
     
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  20. Hockeycowboy

    Hockeycowboy Well-Known Member
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    Wow! Completely awesome! Not just having to learn new words, but an entirely different alphabet!!
     
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