Tips and Resources

How to say it

The duty of writers is… to be interesting and intelligent but never wilfully obscure; to write with the average reader in mind; to be in good taste. Above all, the modern writer has a duty to entertain.                                                                                                                                                               Zadie Smith

What am I trying to say? What words will express it? What image or idiom  will make it clearer? Is this image fresh enough to have an effect? Could I put it more shortly?                        George Orwell    

When in doubt, tell a story.                                                                                                                                           Gilda Williams

A cure for writer’s block 

Think of someone you love to talk to – someone who makes you sparkle with wit or who simply understands you and likes you just as you are. As you sit down to write, imagine that person is your reader.  (The edit and polish can come later!)

The beautiful semi-colon

The semi-colon has several precise functions. One is to subtly indicate a relationship between two ideas. Acting as a kind of elegant, pregnant pause, it invites the reader to infer the connection between the ideas without an explicit linking word such as ‘but’ or ‘so’ or ‘although’. For example:                 

You always remind me to take my keys; I always forget to take them.                   

Outside, dark clouds were gathering in the sky; I fetched my umbrella from the closet.

The difference between it’s and its

It’s  is the short form of it is as in:     It’s raining outside.                                                                 

Its  means ‘belonging to it’ as in:     Its lid was painted gold.

Recommended Reading

Dance lessons for Writers by Zadie Smith.

Why I Write by George Orwell (Penguin Great Ideas, 2004)

How to Write About Contemporary Art by Gilda Williams. (Thames and Hudson, 2014). A wise, down-to-earth guide to writing clearly and engagingly about visual art.

Writing Tips for Students by Julia Copus. (Palgrave Macmillan, 2009). A neat little pocket book covering all aspects of writing with clear, simple explanations and examples.

Eat Shoots and Leaves by Lynn Truss (Profile Books Ltd, 2003). Punchy little book about punctuation and why it is so important.