So you want to write? - part 4 of 1 2 3 4 5 6 7

Published 01/11/2007

The first mistake that many aspiring freelances make is to take pictures or write articles on subjects that interest them, and only then look round for a suitable market. That's the wrong way to go about it. Your first objective is to find the market. Your second objective is to discover the sort of material that market uses. Your third objective is to find material of your own that fits their style.

Find a magazine for which you would like to work. Buy it and I study it in depth in the manner described in the earlier lesson on market analysis. Find out what sort of articles they use. Discover which of these are obviously written by staff writers and which come from outside contributors. Count the number of words and pictures used in an average article. Study the style, whether the writers use a simple or complicated method to put ideas across. When you have discovered all these things, make sure that your proposed article and pictures comply in every way.

You begin with an idea. You go on to research it and you finish by writing it. Contrary to the belief of many nonwriters, ideas for articles do not just come out of the blue; they have to be found...

Professional Advice

by Shirley Lamb of EverythingWrite

The quality of an organisation's written material speaks volumes - if it is careless with its written material then one wonders if it is similarly careless in its approach to manufacturing or providing a service to the public. This applies to marketing literature, letters, emails and website copy. In particular, the quality of language used in websites is generally poor and error rates are extremely high. When one thinks that this is an organisation's window to the world then surely every effort should be made to ensure that, in addition to the clever, eyecatching design features in the site, the grammar, spelling and punctuation are faultless.

The quality of written work hinges on three key elements: - command of the English language - spelling, punctuation and grammar; - attention to detail; and - subject-matter knowledge.

One would assume an author to have the required level of subject-matter knowledge to pen an article but not everyone has an adequate command of English or a sharp eye for detail. That is why it is so important to have your output checked before releasing it to the public. It could be that you simply pass the copy to a colleague to check, as a fresh pair of eyes may pick up something that has slipped through. Alternatively, you may prefer to send your copy to a proofreader to check.

Language does evolve and one needs to keep pace with change. For example, many words that used to be hyphenated are no longer or are now shown as one word; many words that were spelt one way can now be spelt differently. We also need to be guarded against the spelling abbreviations that are used in texts and emails - it's not the first time I've seen them in a piece of 'formal' writing.

One also needs to be aware of house style, that is, the way in which an organisation wants certain terms to appear. As Professional Imagemaker's proofreader, I have built a style guide for the publication over the years to ensure that it is consistent throughout. The guide is a living document that develops with each publication as new terms arise and is invaluable not only to me but also to Mike as editor. Perhaps this is something you may wish to consider for your own organisation?

From experience, I find that the most common problem is the use of apostrophes, particularly with its/it's and where possession is implied. Many people don't realise, for example, that the apostrophe is required for expressions of time. Take the example of the movie Two Weeks' Time - all the advertising material was printed without an apostrophe and the promotional team was pilloried for it in the press - and quite rightly so!

Well, there you have it, now you all know I'm a sad wee soul with no life who gets hung up about apostrophes and the like!

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1st Published 01/11/2007
last update 07/02/2018 11:58:24

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