From: "Marc Carlson" <>
To:; Ansteorra@Ansteorra.Org, Northkeeo@Ansteorra.Org
Subject: Rant on writing (crossposted)
Date: Thu Aug 18, 2005  12:46 pm

OK, there are a number of side-effects to the perception that I am really well-informed on topics. One of these side-effects is that people will occasionally send me things to, and check for factual accuracy. I donít mind them doing this. More often than not, what they send is generally correct, and may only need the smallest of tweaks to fix.

Unfortunately, there is often a correspondent drawback to this, and itís the frustration that I get from this drawback which has prompted me to write this message. That drawback has to do with writing style. Now, please donít get me wrong, Iím not *that* fussy a reader. I also realize that not everyone is comfortable writing; they often get self-conscious, they were mauled in an unfortunate high school writing accident, they just donít think they are that educated Ė whatever the reason, I do understand this. I even sympathize. As people who have read messages from me over the years may have figured out, Iím actually somewhat dyslexic, and have to work to write clearly (when Iím tired or in a hurry my spelling and style are the first things to go). And, if you are writing email, or even a letter to a friend, clarity is not crucial. Itís nice if you can manage it, but if not, you arenít likely to lose your reader..

However, if you are writing a research document, an article, a webpage, a business letter, or whatnot, you want to be taken seriously. You arenít going to be taken seriously if your writing style is awkward, haphazard or careless..

In my experience, people who arenít comfortable writing tend to fall at one end or the other of a spectrum. Either they try to write as they think an ďeducatedĒ person would, or they try to write like they think they talk.

Unfortunately, failure to achieve either goal is very common, and their friends arenít likely to tell them that their writing style sounds a little off. Iím not inclined to tell them myself, since that usually isnít what they asked me to; and frankly, when I *do* mention it, someone winds up getting their feelings hurt.

Therefore, please let me make a few suggestions, just to get them off my chest.


1.  If you arenít comfortable writing, then write more. Email is an excellent place to practice writing, particularly if you make the effort work on your style and presentation in your writing. Write your emails as though you were writing articles. You donít have to do it all the time, but it IS good practice, and you will eventually learn to be more comfortable.

2. When you do write, find an editor who can help improve your writing. I can not stress this enough. To provide an example of the difference between edited and unedited writing, I am included URLS to scans of the first draft of this message, after the person who does my formal editing for me got done with it. These can be found at


3. If you are unwilling to use an editor, for whatever reason, at the very least read what youíve written aloud to someone else. Better still, have someone who is unfamiliar with the topic read it aloud to you. If there is any confusion in what they are reading, thereís a problem on the page. If you have to explain anything to them, thereís a problem on the page. If it sounds stupid to you, itís probably going to sound that way to me too. These are *opportunities* to improve your writing and make your writing more clear.

3. You might even want to consider a basic writing course. Barring that, there are a number of books out there on how to write. For example, I am told that the _English Grammer for Dummies_ is excellent. If you canít find one that looks interesting to you, put it down and try another Ė there are plenty out there. Note: I have a friend who tells me that these books are a waste of time, and that either you can write or you canít. Talent alone will carry you though. This is balderdash. Writing is a craft, like knitting or fighting. Certainly some folks can do it better than others, but that doesnít mean anyone canít learn to do it.

Thank you for your time, Iím done now.