I'm guessing that a lot of us blog just because we like to write. Some of us have to write. Either way, we each expect that our writing skills improve with regular practise.
Though at some point our skills reach a plateau and advance no further without the guidance of a coach, a mentor, or in the case of writers, an editor. As Yukon Jen recently said of editors, "Find a good one. Work with them. You will become a better writer."
Sadly, I can't afford an editor. Sadder still, I funded my beer fridge as an editor of academic papers in my university days. I mercilessly hacked away at run-on sentences, weak-kneed arguments, uncited assertions, and the mystifying allure of the word "thus." One of my clients made it into Osgoode Law on the strength of his essays, so I figure I once knew something of the art.
Even for a former amateur editor, self-editing is difficult. After searching for the perfect turn of phrase for half-an-hour, how many of us are willing to strike it from the screen for the trifling reason that it doesn't add any meaning to the text? A wasted thirty minutes is damned meaningful to the writer, far less so to the editor, and not a bit to the reader.
I reckon the next best thing is to acknowledge my own writing mistakes, especially the mistakes that I make over and over again, despite knowing that they're mistakes. Those are the ones my inner editor must attack first. Looking through the past few years of blog posts, I've collected the following reasons why I'm not a better writer.
Translation: using big words just to sound impressive.
This has to be my worst writing sin. The odd thing is that the biggest words appear in my first draft. If I keep working at it, the words eventually shrink.
But I’m not yet prepared to stipulate browser fungibility.
However, in the ongoing matter of Want v. Need, the two parties will stipulate the following: what we don’t want, and what we certainly don’t need, are any more vapid mouth-breathers clogging our sidewalks and stairways while thumbing obliviously on their hand-held "smart" devices.
What exactly is the attraction of the word "stipulate"?
Here's a doozy from a technical article I wrote years ago.
You will understand the negative implications of dual interfaces much more clearly at the precise moment that you attempt to return a reference to an object’s non-default interface when calling from a late-bound client across apartment boundaries.
Put. Down. The. Thesaurus.
A Little Allotment of Alliteration is Actually A Lot
Number two on the hit list has to be sequences of words that sound alike.
Were I from the East, yesterday would’ve been my Oriental-Oriented Orienteering Orientation …but I’m not, and unfortunately, "Occidental-oriented" is an ornamented accident.
How is any of that necessary?
Maybe it's Possible that There Are Some Less Than Completely Assertive Statements
I must eliminate "I think", "it seems", and "likely" from my vocabulary. Out timid statements! Begone!
Cromulent Cultural References
I tend to slip in obscure references to pop culture far too often. For example, here's a reference to the Burns Verkaufen der Kraftwerk episode of The Simpsons:
Of course, Chrome is not all smiles und sunshine.
You'd have to undertake many years of Simpsons-study to spot that one.
Inconsistents Verb Tensed
This is something I do all the time, but I can't find any examples of it because I'm completely blind to inconsistent verb tenses: past, present, and future all combined in the same paragraph. I've probably made the same mistake in this very paragraph.
Here's a good one. I invented at least one word and used another that belongs to, and should be left in, the nineteenth century:
So, when faced with five-hundred pages of verbiose flapdoodle, I look for any procrastiphilic diversion at my disposal.
I wonder if I misspelled "verbose" or instead invented a concatenation of "verbose" and "grandiose."
Just how far can you take this sort of thing?
Answer: too far.
And Starting Sentences with Conjunctions
At some point in grade school, we learn the rule that you mustn't start a sentence with "but" or "and." Later on, we learn that the rule can occasionally be broken for effect. The key word is "occasionally," as I seem to do it all the time.
Freewheeling, yet Rule-bound: Punctuation!
I checked the database. Fully 101 of my 180 blog postings contain semicolons, and 103 include dashes.
I think my over-use of punctuation stems from my computer programmer training, a discipline that scatters punctuation marks like droplets in a hurricane.
I thought about leaving this section out, but that would've just made the point all the more emphatically. Despite having written much about myself on this blog, little of it reveals my inner thoughts and feelings. Heck, I used a five-word bullet point to announce my wedding, and that was a couple of weeks after the fact. You can't be a good writer unless you're willing to write honestly about your experiences and emotions.
* * *
So there we have it. A starting point on the path to better writing. Now that I've recognized many of my faults, I have hope that I can correct them. That last one will be the most difficult to conquer.
And don't succumb to the urge to point out the many errors that I've made in this posting. I'm not a better writer yet.