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Monday, January 16, 2006

Keep It Fresh - Freelance Writing Tip #13

As a freelance writer, your words need to be fit for purpose. One of the ways you can ensure this is by doing adequate research into your target publication. What does the publication claim to be about? Who does it say it caters for? How many people does it reach? Those questions are a good starting point, but you should also ask a few more.

How old are the publication’s readers? What’s their education level? Are they mostly men, women or children? Most of this information can be obtained from the publication’s own website or via a bit of judicious googling.

Having found this information, you’ll then be in a position to write appropriately for your target audience. There are lots of people on this site giving good writing advice and I don’t propose to replicate that here. Some of the people I’ve been reading are:

  • TheScribe24
  • Ed Butts
  • Phantascene
  • red

    However, I will point you to advice given by David Randall (2000) in the Universal Journalist. This is a book I have recommended to all my students over the last five years, because it is easy to read and clearly written. Even students who speak English as a second language have found it accessible.

    Randall suggests that writers should have six aims to keep their writing lively and understandable. These are:

  • Clarity – the story should be clear in your mind (i.e. you should understand what you’re writing about) as well as the reader’s
  • Fresh language – don’t use the same old similes, metaphors and clich├ęs
  • Honesty – lose the hype and let the story stand on its own merits
  • Precision – be meticulous about names, dates, values and quantities
  • Suitability – make sure the style, tone and pace of the story are appropriate for the subject
  • matter (you’d write about a state funeral very differently from a surfing competition)
  • Efficiency – make every phrase count

    This advice from David Randall provides a useful checklist for making an honest assessment of your own writing. No-one gets it right every time (there are some cringe-worthy articles in my own past) but if you make the effort to apply these rules, you’ll be a better writer.

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