Saturday, February 25, 2017
Keeping Your Writing Style Up to Date
Writing changes about every five years. While most people don’t notice these subtle changes, they’re there, nonetheless. Sometimes, it’s a change in the way people use punctuation while for others these changes may manifest themselves in certain forms of sentence structure.
Probably the way writers use punctuation has changed the most. Take semicolons, for instance. Back when teachers taught that writing was a more formal affair, people used semicolons extensively. Today, many writers use them rarely, as they tend to slow the reading down. Instead, they substitute a period for the semicolon and begin a separate but related sentence immediately following it. Are you one of those who’s still using semicolons?
Another form of punctuation that has seen more frequent use is the dash or more specifically the “em dash,” the longer of the two forms of dashes. This form of punctuation creates a visual separation that readers can easily see at a glance. Also, today’s writers are using commas less frequently.
Lots of things influence changes in writing style, but none more so than the creation and appearance of electronic text, both on the Internet and in E-mail. Instead of writing in a longer, more formal style, writers today use a more concise approach. Writing is tighter and less flowery with fewer longer, more sophisticated words that many readers may not know.
There are lots of ways to keep your writing style up to date. The easiest method is to read more contemporary writing—writing done yesterday not even 10 years ago. And if you really want to improve your writing style, avoid most literature, except the modern variety written after 1930 or so.
You can also enroll in writing classes. Professional dancers constantly take classes to improve their technique and writers should, too. You don't have to enroll in college-level writing courses. These can be expensive and more time consuming than you need. However, many colleges offer continuing education courses that are just right. Most of these target a particular kind of writing—novels, short stories, articles, etc. They usually last only a few weeks and don’t have the added pressure of grades that you’ll find with credit courses.
Another alternative is to attend a writing conference. Here, classes are short and intense, usually lasting only one to three days. These conferences also offer you a chance to learn from other professionals who are experts in their fields. Do a search for "writing conferences and your area" to find one near you.
Whatever you choose to do, improving your skills will give your writing a boost.