Category Archives: Writing and Editing

5 Tips for Writing Within Word Count Limits

Whoever said “If I had more time, I would have written less…” stuck a red pen through the hearts of writers for generations to come. So many words, so little time — and space!

Variations of the quote have been connected to John Locke, Benjamin Franklin, Henry David Thoreau and Mark Twain. The original, though, is thought to have been written by French mathematician/philosopher Blaise Pascal in a letter in 1657. Translated from French, it read:

“I have made this longer than usual because I have not had time to make it shorter.”*

Any writer who’s bumped up against a word count limit understands Pascal’s pain. But Pascal couldn’t imagine the challenges of today’s digital writers (nor that a computer programming language would be named after him in the late 1960s — but no room for that here).

Today’s writers must craft tight copy for webpages being viewed by people on smartphones. We’re communicating via brief Facebook updates and 140-character Tweets. Web articles must be chunked out for easy scanning across multiple pages. Case studies, white papers, appeal letters, essays — everything we write must be tight, to the point and persuasive. Continue reading

WELCOME to the Worry-Free Writing® Blog

What’s your greatest writing challenge?… Finding fresh ideas to write about? Outlining your projects? Landing good interviews with quotable sources? Editing your work, based on client feedback — or your own ruthless critique? I plan to cover these and other writerly topics here in the Worry-Free Writing® blog. I hope to nosh with my fellow writers (and reluctant writers!) on the craft of commercial writing…what keeps us up at night and gets us up in the morning, to write all over again. The blog is just starting to take shape… So please stay tuned for more. Thanks for stopping by!

 

Are Great Writers Made or Born that Way?

Does writing come naturally to you? Or is stringing words together a painful process, akin to a root canal or IRS audit? For some writers, the words seem to flow so easily. For others, the dance seems less like a waltz and more like a spin in the mosh pit.

Is the ability to write well something you’re born with? Or can we all learn to write better? How?

Our guest expert Tony Castagno shares his thoughts on the subject. Tony is an accomplished professional writer who teaches Communication Science at the University of Connecticut and heads high-tech business consultants The Rowe Group (more about Tony below).

Good writers … nature or nurture? Your gut reaction, please.

Tony Castagno: I think it’s a combination of the two. I do believe being a really good writer is a talent just like being a really good piano player is a talent. But even if you’re not a talented writer by nature, by practicing and practicing and practicing, you can become a pretty adept writer. There are people who decide to learn to play the piano, and while they might not become fantastic concert pianists — they become skilled enough to be able to get hired to play. The same goes for writers. The more you write, the more you practice writing, and the more you get critiqued — the better you become.

When a new group of students walks into your classroom, can you tell who has what it takes to become a professional writer?

TC: Actually, I can. On the first day of class, I ask students to write just a couple of paragraphs about something that happened in the last few weeks. That one short assignment tells me a lot. There are always a few people who are really outstanding in their writing. They all have the basics down. They have good grammar. They have good sentence structure. They can put together sentences that follow each other logically. And they pick an interesting topic to write about — or make their topic sound interesting. Those are all necessary skills in the communications world.

What are some of the traits of good writers?

TC: First off, when they write about something, they understand what they’re talking about before they start writing about it. They can conceptualize it, sketch out an outline, and then put it down on paper. Second, they can express concepts in a language that’s appropriate for their audience, so that they don’t speak above or below their audience. They have it properly targeted. Continue reading