Hello friends! Welcome to the work week. I’ve got a serious case of the Mondays over here. Thankfully, Tuesday is just around the bend, so I’ve got nowhere to go but up ;)
Today’s post is a little off the beaten path from my usual content. Yes, no food or workouts to torture you with ;)
As many of you know, I was a reporter in a former life. I have a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism & Communications and worked full-time as a radio reporter before moving to Toronto.
Photo courtesy Charles Leblanc
During my 5+ years in the world of journalism, I did a lot of writing. A typical day had me writing two versions of five different stories. I wrote for newspapers, magazines, radio and even television. When people ask me how I find the time and motivation to blog, I just tell them that writing is a second nature to me. Even though writing no longer pays my bills, it’s something that I continue to live, breathe, and obsess over on a daily basis.
So today my bloggie friends, I am sharing my top tips to good writing.
Find your hook and lead with it.
Don’t just ramble for days and days, broaching several topics at once. Pick one thing that really stands out and address it in the beginning. Shape the main focus of what you’re writing about and let your readers know what it is!
Write about the things that affect people.
There’s no doubt bloggers love to yammer about themselves, but try to talk about things that affect other people too. Reviewing a brand of sneaker, sharing a recipe, providing motivation tips, these all help people in some way. Find topics that people will relate to. Write about something that will resonate with those other than yourself.
Read anything and everything.
The best way to learn about manipulating language is to soak in as much as you can by reading it. Don’t just read other blogs, take in some newspapers, novels, fiction, non-fiction. Find writers that inspire you, figure out what it is you like, and create a style that’s all your own.
Keep your paragraphs short.
Long blocks of text make my eyes glaze over. Write your 3-5 sentences, then move on.
Don’t give it up all at once.
Contradicts my first point, about giving up your hook at the beginning. But always keep a little back to keep your reader enticed. This can be as small as revealing a secret ingredient at the end of a post, giving a piece of surprise news, or breaking your information up into separate posts.
Using passive voice makes your writing sound long-winded and boring. Active voice is a lot more exciting. Active voice is when your subject is the doer of an action. Passive voice is when the subject undergoes the action. The best example of this is one I used a lot in journalism:
Active: “The government announced a new spending program today.”
Passive: “A new spending program was announced by the government today.”
Split it in two.
Sometimes we drag out sentences by using commas and the word “and.” Most of the time, they can be divided into two, cleaner, easier to read sentences.
Use brackets sparingly.
Brackets are confusing, why would you want to break up the flow of a sentence with extra thoughts? Most of the time what you want to say in a set of brackets can be worked into the normal paragraph structure. Re-think what you’re trying to say and say it without the use of brackets.
Keep it literary.
Blogging is very colloquial by nature. That’s part of the reason why people love to read blogs. But reading something that’s written in the manner of direct speech is torturous. Anyone who’s ever had to transcribe something will know this. It’s okay to keep your writing casual, but remember that writing and speaking are two different languages.
Include a picture.
Like I said, too much text is boring. Break it up with something that’s nice (or delicious) to look at! :)
If you’re going to take any of these tips to heart, pleasepleaseplease use this one. I want you to delete at least one word from every paragraph from now on. Do you really need to say “that” in every other sentence? What about the words “pretty,” “some,” “about,” “also?” When I re-read my blog posts before publishing, I go through and delete at least 10 erroneous words, as well as 5 erroneous exclamation marks and smiley faces. When it doubt, chop it out.
Question of the Day: What are your favourite writing tips?
Four months ago, on January 4th, I started a brand new job. People start new jobs all the time, but I like to think I’ve become a bit of an expert in my 24 years.
My first job was as a cashier at Zellers when I was in grade 11. I lasted the month of December, then politely left the second the holidays were over.
My second job came the summer after grade 11, when I was 17. I was hired on as a barista at a Starbucks in a book store because I used words like “youthful” and “bright” to describe the taste of coffee.
My first day there was probably one of the most nerve wracking experiences of my life. But that job pulled me out of my teenage shell. I’d gone from agoraphobic to a Chatty Cathy in a green apron in just one year. The last day on that job was more bitter than sweet. But high school was over and I was on to, erm, “other” things.
By other things, I mean another Starbucks in a city 90 minutes away.
I stayed at that Starbucks for two years before I quit to focus on school. Those two years were just as good, if not better, than my previous year as a barista. I met my best friends at that store, had a blast, and made some pretty good drinks!
I ended up returning to that store when I started to miss the money, and social aspect. However, I ended up leaving after another year, when I scored a job as a radio reporter and broadcaster.
I read the weekend news, working a few extra coffee shop jobs on the side. I became a full-time reporter there once I finished university. I was at the radio station for two years all together, and again learned more about myself than I could have ever predicted. I thought I was doing the right thing by forcing myself even more out of my shell everyday as a reporter. But I guess I have my limits. And this was it.
I was not reporter material, but I will always look back on my days in the radio biz with fondness. There is a certain old romance about radio that you just don’t get with any other medium. I’ll hold on to this old mike sock forever.
I’d started back at Starbucks before I even left my radio gig in December. I’d taken up the role of supervisor to get me through the in-between period of getting my personal training certification and figuring out what the hell I wanted to do with my life.
A shot in the dark. An old professor of mine e-mailed me on my old student account three days before Christmas. I got a pull to check that neglected account before leaving for home for the holidays. This professor also happens to be the communications director of my alma matter. A job in the department opened up and he thought of me. Days after leaving what should have been the perfect job, a new one fell into my lap.
And I loved it.
The university campus is beautiful, the people are wonderful, the work is fun and challenging in all the right ways. I was filling in for someone due back in May. So the short-term position worked perfectly in my “what the hell am I going to do with my life?” plan.
Today, four months after starting, I said goodbye to my first ever desk.
In four short months, I learned even more at that job. Not that I had to force myself out of my shell, or put on a veil, or be a certain someone. But rather, I learned to just be. I learned to be myself, to be honest, to be open. I learned happiness is possible no matter where or what I’m doing. Happiness can be where I least expect it, so I better not push it away before I have the chance to experience it. I learned it’s possible to look forward to a job everyday, and feel comfortable in your work environment.
I also learned just how very important note taking is. And how impossibly disorganized I really am.
They will be placed in the shoebox with my mike sock and green apron. Maybe I’ll pull some of them out again one day, but I fully expect to keep adding to that box as the years go on…
For the first time since I was 17, I do not have another job lined up. I don’t have a plan. It is strange beyond explanation. I feel like a stranger in my own life. But I am excited to finally be taking this jump. Because this month, I learned happiness is possible anywhere. Even though everything from here on out is completely unknown, I’m confident I can be happy wherever I end up.
“The time has come,” the Walrus said,
“To talk of many things:
Of shoes—and ships—and sealing-wax—
Of cabbages—and kings—
And why the sea is boiling hot—
And whether pigs have wings.”
- Lewis Carrol, Through the Looking-Glass, “The Walrus and the Carpenter”
Ch-ch-check out the sweet headband I got from Matt at No Meat Athlete. Thanks Matt! You’ve just helped me plump up my future personal trainer wardrobe ;)
Okay, honestly, I had no idea how to start this post, but at least I now have your attention :)
Totally loved hearing all the personal items y’all need with you at work. Hand cream and chapstick were definitely the most popular, with pictures and post-its slightly behind. Although Emily has rubber bands in the shape of zoo animals and Janetha suggested a day-by-day calendar. I was actually quite entertained by the responses!!
In other news, I was up at 5:30 am for spin class today. It was stellar as per usual. I’m actually starting to get to know some of the faces in the class. Not to mention, I feel hardcore in the bike jersey Chris got me for Christmas.
Came back home after to shower and celebrate Waffle Wednesday.
Work eats look disgusting, but I promise they were fantastic.
Morning snack was yogurt mixed with vanilla protein powder and strawberries. For lunch I had leftovers a la Leah! I have a fridge next to my office, and I’ve been eating in a cafeteria with a microwave. It feels like such a luxury to have a hot lunch! (how sad is that?). Anyways, it was Indian Cauliflower Stew with added shrimp. Afternoon snack attack was two carrot cake protein squares and a cheese string.
Nothing exciting to report from work. I ran into an old colleague at the drug store after, and he was asking me all about switching from journalism to communications. Or as reporters call it – “going to the dark side.” PR work is a whole different ball game. Totally different than journalism work. I feel like I have so much to re-learn (and forget!).
I bought a can of baked beans a while back after seeing them on Caitlin’s blog so frequently. I suddenly had a hankering for them and eggs for dinner.
Breakfast supper of champions.
With an egg scramble. Various veggies from the fridge with cottage cheese and laughing cow cheese. What really made it was the green olives I added. Green olives and eggs are such a fantastic flavour duo!
My three addictions wrapped into one. Date + PB + M&Ms. Times two.
So a while back, I was a recipient of a Beautiful Blogger Award by Averie – a beautiful blogger herself ;) It’s about time I display it proudly!!
- I don’t like wine. I’ve tried, numerous times. But I just never developed the palette for it.
- Babies scare me. They’re cute to look at, but please don’t ask me to hold or interact with one.
- I refuse to have the colour pink anywhere on my road bike.
- A childhood friend died downhill skiing when I was 10 years old. I’ve since developed a fear of ski hills and have only ever done cross-country.
- I only own two exercise bras. Instead of doing laundry every day, I often hand wash them in my sink between washes.
- The Beatles are my favourite band of all time. You will be “shushed” if one of their songs comes on the radio.
- I’m still wearing that headband. It’s keeping my forehead warm!
I must pass this on to seven other bloggers. In order to keep this fair, I randomly picked seven people who commented on my last post. Kinda like a giveaway, except it’s a jpeg and not something you can eat ;)
Wow, random.org is pretty smart. All totally deserving and beautiful bloggers in my opinion!!
Speaking of smart websites, I urge you to go check out www.cleverbot.com. Ask it something, although the responses aren’t always that clever..
Okee, bedtime! See ya tomorrow!