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Any Writing Tips?

for a beginner



5:32 pm on Dec 3, 2003 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

I have a decent site, maybe 250 articles, I am going to need 1000+ articles to cover the topics of my site.

Big Dream eh?

I was wondering if you have any general tips for writing content?

So far my major problem is grammer, I hate small grammer mistakes, they can ruin the legitimacy of an entire site, but for some reason no matter how hard I try they slip by.

I am now going to try to write an article a day, and then it sit for 3 days before grammer checking it and posting it. Hopefully this will stop me from overlooking mistakes like I have.


5:42 pm on Dec 3, 2003 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

The best policy is to never, ever, ever, edit your own copy. I know this is a problem, cause it is basically what happens in my company. The editorial dept. writes and edits its own work. Not good. No matter HOW many mistakes you can pick up on someone else's copy, you can never find them all within your own.


6:00 pm on Dec 3, 2003 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Although I agree in principle with A Wildman, you often find yourself in a situations where you have to edit your own copy.

It is a very good idea to put your copy to one side for a few days, I usually spot typos, mistakes etc. this way myself.

Another good trick is to read the text backwards. This way you'll really check the spelling.

Also check out the library of this forum.

I hate to point it out, but you've spelt a very important word wrong: It's 'grammar', not 'grammer' ;)


6:01 pm on Dec 3, 2003 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator rogerd is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

>>So far my major problem is grammer<<

Better check spelling, too, zulufox. ;) AWildman's advice about not trying to proof your own stuff is good. Some people can do that, but many can't. Letting it sit for a few days isn't a bad idea, though - a fresh look does often allow better editing.

Another idea: hire a college student or school teacher to edit & correct your stuff. I'll bet you can find such a person quite cheaply. Collect a batch of articles so that this person can operate efficiently.

<added>Oops, Ivana posted just before me. Didn't mean to "pile on" the spelling stuff... :)</added>


6:27 pm on Dec 3, 2003 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

I don't mean to say that you can't edit your own work after a few days, but no matter when you do it, you still know what you meant to write and its hard to get around that.
Perhaps having a checklist of common errors would help you spot some in your own work. My favorite poor grammar sentence: My dad and uncle went hunting quail with guns.

Really? I didn't know quail could get a gun license! :P

brotherhood of LAN

6:30 pm on Dec 3, 2003 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator brotherhood_of_lan is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

Surely no one likes proof reading...that's why I just scan what I've wrote instead of really seeing if there's a problem with grammar :)

But if you split your sentences into blocks of 2 or 3 and read them as such, you get an idea of where you sentences are going astray....

but if- if you- you split- split your....works for me anyway ;)


7:20 pm on Dec 3, 2003 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

This is why Engineering and QA are separate operations: those who write the software shouldn't be those who test it. The same goes for creating any content. Alternatively, test first and pair programming achieve a similar goal: that two eyes are better than one.

In employment I have peers informally review work, but if I'm writing my own work, I've used the following for years and it seems to work. It goes something like this, but not always the same.

1. using the computer, write the electronic copy;
2. using the computer, review and correct it;
3. print out a hard copy;
4. sit next to computer, read from the hard copy, yet correct the electronic copy;
5. potentially go back to any of steps 1-3;

6. do something else for a few hours;
7. print out a hard copy;
8. take it outside or over to the cafe (often having an afternoon coffee) with a pen and review and correct it in a different environment;
9. using the computer, amend electronic copy again, and go back to steps 1-3;

10. now I consider it good enough for someone else to review (if it's work related, etc); based on their corrections, I may go back to any of the earlier steps;
11. now this is my draft copy, so I leave it a couple of days, and then come back and read and review the hard copy again, possibly going back to any of the earlier steps;
12. now this is my final copy;

Works for me.


8:10 pm on Dec 3, 2003 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

Easiest way to spot errors? Publish it. ;)


8:37 pm on Dec 3, 2003 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

I also have heard the read it backwards one word at a time thing. Also, reading aloud is often recommended.

I like the idea of hiring a college student or even a high school student. Find the school newspaper's copy editor and offer them three bucks an hour. ;)
Actually, there are a lot of really good professional proofreaders around who are suffering terribly in this economy. The value of a good proofreader is beyond reckoning. I've read work by excellent copywriters that completely turned me off because of something-- obvious to me, but very subtle to them-- that a good proofreader would have caught. (For example-- "It peaked my interest." PIQUE! But a spellchecker wouldn't catch that.)

Alternately, look around for some kind of community of writers that could help. I know such things are common for fiction writers... maybe as the popularity of the web grows, and the importance of good content grows, they'll start springing up for nonfiction writers too. Make an arrangement with another person in a similar situation to you, that you'll read over his stuff if he reads over yours.
But I have no idea where one would look for such a thing. :/ Don't even know what keywords to try in Google. Maybe I'll start a Content Writer's Proofreading Circle or something.


8:56 pm on Dec 3, 2003 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Just make certain that whoever you hire/befriend to proofread submits a copy of his/her work prior to doing any editing. I worked for a college English professor who couldn't put a sentence together. Good thing I am a pretty good proofreader...when I need to be. Don't look through past posts here to find all my mistakes! :)


9:13 pm on Dec 3, 2003 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator rogerd is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

I'll second dragonlady's comment about a good proofreader. Proofing is tough, even for excellent spellers/grammarians - your brain tends to unconsciously correct what it sees, and it's easy to miss errors. A month or two ago, a paragraph of text was making its way around the web - it had the vowels removed and other characters substituted randomly in the middle of words. Amazingly, it was perfectly readable - a good illustration of why proofreading is difficult.

Easiest way to spot errors? Publish it.

I used to be in the catalog business, and we printed hundreds of thousands of each run. We had a page headline that was supposed to read "Public Domain Software". This catalog went through three full revisions and reprintings over many months before someone noticed the "l" in "Public" was missing. ;)


12:50 am on Dec 5, 2003 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

As a proofreader (trained in the old-fashioned publishing world), my tip would be to print out hard copy, as has been recommended above, and then take a ruler or any straight-edge and read one line at a time. That way your eye can't 'jump' to other words and you see more clearly the words in a single line.

But is it grammar or spelling that is getting you down?


1:00 am on Dec 5, 2003 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Its not really spelling or grammer, its more that I tend to leave out "s" and small letters/words.. so

"He says what he feels and Jason felt bad."


"He say what he feels and Jason felt bad."

But even that small error just ruins the article and makes it look so childish.


1:09 am on Dec 5, 2003 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

That can happen with a person bad a typing -- I'm a 'two finger typist' myself and I'm always missing keys in my flurry of getting my hands around the keyboard.

The necessary toil is to stop every paragraph or so as you are typing and slowly read back to yourself what you've written. That catches a lot. But it's hard to proofread on screen, which is why I and others have recommended that you print off your finished article and then read through in a controlled way.

The price of good, clean, correct copy is eternal vigilance.


2:24 pm on Dec 5, 2003 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

I'd suggest sketching out your content ideas beforehand to make sure you don't have too much overlap.

If you truly need 1000+ articles to cover your topic, I'm betting there's going to be some overlap ... the easiest way to make each piece of content unique and necessary is to make a list of all of the topics (I like to do article titles - they tend to be descriptive and set the tone for the pieces). Then show the list to someone and let them have at it. They'll likely combine a few, delete a few, and add a bunch.

It always helps me to get a second person involved in some of the brainstorming activities.

As for while you're writing - I'd make sure to have a few reference guides handy. A thesaurus [thesaurus.reference.com], a dictionary [dictionary.reference.com], the Chicago Manual of Style [press.uchicago.edu], Strunk and White's Elements of Style [ablongman.com], and any product manuals, trade publications or other inspiration for your particular subject area(s) you think would be important to have around.

Then have at it. When you're starting out, try not to let writer's block bother you too much. Just start typing and the content should come. It is easier for most people to go back and edit than it is to go back and add more content (this is the the sword is mightier than the pen rule) - so write, write, write, and then worry about editing.

Try to have fun while you're writing - or at least, try to enjoy it somewhat. It's really surprising how much your attitude will reflect in what you're writing. (If you think you're writing about the most boring subject on the planet, chances are, your readers will know you think it's the most boring subject on the planet, and they'll start to think so, too!)

Take lots of breaks. Don't torture yourself. Don't be hard on yourself. And take pride in your work. You're about to accomplish amazing things.


8:35 am on Dec 6, 2003 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

(If you think you're writing about the most boring subject on the planet, chances are, your readers will know you think it's the most boring subject on the planet, and they'll start to think so, too!)

Very well said! Your attitude and frame of mind really affect your writing! So make sure you are happy about what you are about to do and do it with everything you've got! Chances are that you will be amazed at what you've written.

As far as proof reading is concerned, if it's a lot of writeup that needs to be corrected and checked out...hire someone to do it..it really speeds things up!


6:27 pm on Dec 11, 2003 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Sorry this is a couple of days late.

One trick I use when writing is to read the content out loud, either to myself or to someone else.

It gives me a chance to hear the inflection in my writing, and helps me find grammatical mistakes. I also find places where better punctuation or restructuring a sentance makes the content more readable.


4:13 am on Dec 12, 2003 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

for me the best thing to do is read the text aloud AND slowly making sure to lock my eyes on each word as I read.

Its slow going but so far its been good in finding extra "s" or missing "'" etc... etc..


8:25 pm on Dec 17, 2003 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

How about reading aloud and tape recording it, then playing it back to yourself? I wonder if that would work. I have to proof read my own writing, too. I'm constantly finding mistakes days, weeks, even months later.


10:13 pm on Dec 17, 2003 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator rogerd is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

Mona, I think I'd find listening to a tape very time-consuming, and it wouldn't help with typos and other common errors. It might help with macro-type issues, though, like confusing flow of ideas or major phrasing problems.

Here's a rather exhaustive review of proofing strategies: http*//cal.bemidji.msus.edu/WRC/Handouts/ProofAndEdit.html


7:18 am on Dec 19, 2003 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Mate there are 100's of other technicalities that you may miss. If your site is entirely based on pure grammer ethics than better hire a pro. YOu need a good writer that can bend himself to write for any relative subject. Than perhaps u need a proofereader - who solves the problem small gramatical nuisance that you are so afraid of.

BUt searching for your answers on a forum of time-passers is wasted effort. You need accurate manuals and guidelines books. I wonder whether you are also passing your time here.....................?


7:54 am on Dec 19, 2003 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

Have the computer read it to you. The voice may be a little mechanical, but you'll hear it with fresh ears.


4:53 pm on Dec 19, 2003 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

when typing informally (like this) i don't really mind if my lack of proofing shows. for professional writing i keep several 'bibles' close at hand at all times.

harbrace college handbook - 557 pages of english writing etiquette. its an oldie, 1984, but remains extremely useful. i'm sure there is an updated version by now :)

a standard dictionary and standard thesaurus.

webster's instant word guide - lists the correct spelling for over 35,000 words.

(i tend to use dictionary.reference.com a lot in place of the last two while online.)


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