Thursday, 27 February 2014

What Makes A Good Writer?


Language: 'An instinctive tendency to acquire an art' (Charles Darwin)


The masterclass started with a spelling test that majority of the participants would have barely passed had a grading system been applied. I take pride in my ability to spell, but on that night, I realised I was just as bad as those who rely on a spellcheck function. 


My spelling test. My seatmate was kind enough to remove 'ed' from fine-tooth to give me a score of 5. Only one in class got 9 correct answers. The rest, including myself, slid lower in our seats. Some didn't even manage to get at least 1 right. By the way, the first entry should be abattoir, and not abatoir. I'm very pleased to  have my deserts right though!


I thought it was a clever tactic by the speaker to remind me that I have to brush up on my technical writing skills. I believe that being overly technical gets in the way of creativity, but it always helps to review our knowledge as the English language keeps evolving.

I signed up for the Guardian's masterclass called 'How to Use Grammar' recently in my bid to be more confident about my usage, syntax, and punctuation. 

It was conducted by David Marsh, production editor of the Guardian. He edits the Guardian style guide; the Guardian's Mind your language blog; and the @guardianstyle Twitter feed. The veteran journalist--nearly 40 years in the business--is an external examiner at Sheffield University, where he also runs a masterclass in subediting for students of MA Print Journalism course. His book, 'For Who the Bell Tolls: One Man's Quest for Grammatical Perfection', was recently released. I bought one of course and had it signed by him.


I won't go on and on about the details of his talk; instead, I will share with you the highlight of what I learned on the night. Some of you may have known it for awhile; some of you may not. One thing is guaranteed though: all of us will learn or relearn a thing or two.

During the customary Q&A, a participant asked: what makes a good writer?

Mr Marsh pointed out the sheet of paper included in our information pack. It is entitled '10 tips for clear communication', which according to him, where all good writing starts from. Go on, go through it and pin it at your work station.




Let's all do our best to mind our grammar.

Happy blogging, writing, and reading everyone!


8 comments:

  1. I'd love to do that class. I delude myself that I'm a good speller, but in reality, a lot of my spelling brain has decayed! I taught academic writing and EFl for almost two decades, so I can spot poor writing if it's not my own. It's far harder when it's your own work. The other day I spotted an 'it's' for a possessive plural in a University course outline. Not cool. I emailed the colleague to let him know before it was published!

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    1. Oh wow, thanks for sharing that info about you Ruth :) I agree with you, I can spot mistakes in other people's work, but I'm not very good in spotting mine. But that's why we have editors for writers. Mr Marsh said they do a great deal of editing some of the Guardian journalists as their spelling, punctuation, and syntax are sometimes poor.

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  2. that sownds like a amasing clas. id of luvved to atend it. ill be onest my gramar isnt grate, but im kwite prowd of my speling. Thats enuff.......hee hee

    Working in the weight loss industry, I often see loose and lose being used incorrectly - it makes me chuckle. I always catch myself out with grammar, in fact there are a few grammatical errors I fall in to the trap with and I actually don't know how to put them right, but I'm just too embarrassed to ask for guidance eeek! Have a lovely weekend xx

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    1. Hahahha...you mades me laughing hardened. Hhahaaha...I do love murdering the English language. I know, it's so easy to misspell (did I spell that right?) loose for lose and mean it the other way around. I don't use spell check, but I do check my spelling separately. That's why I did bad in the spelling test. I couldn't check a dictionary on my phone :D x

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  3. I am familiar with most of them but this is a good reminder. It must have been a very interesting talk.

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    1. I don't like too much rules, but I think these are helpful tips. I'm sure well-known writers and authors love breaking them.

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  4. I like the last tip, reading out loud, who would've thought!! But don't even start with me about spelling, I suck so bad at it I need a new word for it.:D And I studied English, mind you. In one of my papers during my first year at university, I wrote 'shit' of paper instead of 'sheet'. Let's say my professor wasn't impressed.:D Anyhow, that's a cool (master)class, I'm kind of jealous, I wanna (and need to:)) attend that too! (Yes, I'm using ! and I'm not 13, sue me.:))

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    1. Oh sheet Pet. Hahaha. !!!!! Let's make a pact: let's master the rules......and break 'em. How 'bout that? xx

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