Organizing Information Appropriately

Organization is critical. Sentences may be crafted perfectly on an individual level, but if they are ordered in a way that is confusing or inconsistent, the will not convey their messages clearly.

The following example presents a passage that is muddled and out of sequence. The fact that it isn’t impossible to follow is due mostly to the fact that it’s short. On a larger scale, poor organization can cause a piece of writing to be unintelligible.

EXAMPLE

    When you prepare a research article for publication, set it aside and read it again after a day or two. Does it say what you intended? Try to get a peer review. A fresher or sharper eye may spot areas of weakness, omissions and other problems in the manuscript that were hidden to you. Does the title accurately describe what the article is about? The discussion should stick to the topic and not ramble. Ensure that you have followed the authors’ guidelines provided by the journal. Finally, be sure to run spell-check before you print out the copy that will go to the publisher.

This information comes through as somewhat scattered, for several reasons.First, the opening two sentences tell the writer what he or she should do personally (look over the article and see if it’s saying what it should); the next two deal with getting someone else to give some feedback; then the passage goes back to things that the writer should do. The first category should be complete before the second is begun.

Second, sentence 4 is closely related to sentence 3, in that it expounds on why it is important to get a peer review. This relationship will be made more obvious if the two sentences are run together.

Third, two of the aspects that the writer is advised to check for are presented as questions, and two are presented as statements. Apart from the faulty parallelism (information on equivalent matters should be presented in an equivalent way, to make the relationship more obvious), this structure almost makes it look as though the text following each question is providing an answer to that question.

Better

    When you prepare a research article for publication, set it aside and read it again after a day or two. Does it say what you intended? Does its title accurately describe what it is about? Does the discussion stick to the topic and not ramble? Have you followed the authors’ guidelines provided by the journal? Try to get a peer review–a fresher eye may spot areas of weakness, omissions and other problems in the manuscript that were hidden to you. Finally, be sure to run a spell-check before you print out the copy that will go to the publisher.

Note that the final sentence has been left where it was, even though it’s in the category of things to do oneself. This is because it is sated to be the last step in the process.

Paraphrased from Grammatically Correct by Anne Stilman ISBN 0-89879-776-4

Capturing Accents and Speech Patterns Appropriately

In fiction writing, capturing colloquial accents can add color–although note that overdoing it might make things a bit challenging for the reader, if the dialect is a strong one.

I departed to renew my search its result was disappointment, and Joseph’s quest ended in the same.

“Yon lon gets was un’ war! observed he on re-entering. “He’s left th’ yate at t’ full swing, and miss’s pony has trodden dahn two rigs o’ corn, and plottered through, raight o’er into t’ meadow! Hahnsome-diver, t’ maister ‘ull play t’ devil to-morn, ad he’ll do weel. He’s patience itsseln wi’ sich careless, off craters–patience itsseln he is! Bud he’ll not be soa allus–yah’s see, all on ye! Yah mun’n’t drive him out of his heead for nowt!” –Emily Bront’, Wuthering Heights

However, if you are creating characters whose first language is not English, don’t go overboard in spelling their words as you thing they would sound. The effect may come through as ridiculing of the group the character represents, as well as making the dialogue difficult to read. This isn’t to say you shouldn’t convey foreign accents at all; just use moderation. A dropped letter here and a misused word there will usually be effective enough.

If you are quoting a real-life individual who happens to have an accent, either foreign or colloquial, it is better not to try to reproduce the accent phonetically at all, unless it has some direct relevance to the story. Direct quotes must include the exact words used, but you do not have to carry this to the extent of reproducing intonations.

With regard to style of speech, it is important to make your fiction characters talk realistically. You should have a firm handle on the rules of grammar, but you obviously don’t want to put perfect diction into the mouths of characters who are meant to be uneducated or rustic.

Every night now I used to slip ashore toward ten o’ clock at some little village, and buy ten or fifteen cents’ worth of meal or bacon or other stuff to eat; and sometimes I lifted a chicken that warn’t roosting comfortable, and took him along. Pap always said, take a chicken when you get a chance, because if you don’t want him yourself you can easy find somebody that does, and a good deed ain’t ever forgot. I never see pap when he didn’t want the chicken himself, but that is what he use to say, anyway. –Mark Twain, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

Do not, however, carry rustic dialect to the point of parody.

Taken from Grammatically Correct by Anne Stilman ISBN 0-89879-776-4

http://www.amazon.com/Grammatically-Correct-Anne-Stilman/dp/0898797764/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1346249413&sr=1-2&keywords=gramatically+correct

Book Review: Manuscript Makeover: Revision Techniques No Fiction Writer Can Afford to Ignore

I have read a number of books, most of them quite helpful, on the subject of fiction writing and editing. This book is the best I’ve read to date. The author breaks down the daunting editorial tasks all writers face, pre-submission, into simple and manageable steps easy for writers at all levels to implement. Before you submit your work, read this book.

http://www.amazon.com/Manuscript-Makeover-Revision-Techniques-Fiction/dp/0399533958/ref=cm_rdp_product_img