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If I waited for perfection, I would never write a word. -- Attributed to Margaret Atwood on Goodreads
 
 
 
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Issue 2, July 2016
Nitpick
Nifty tips on how to write and speak more effectively
 
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Five fixes for writer’s block
 
After writing professionally for more than two 
decades, I still get writer’s block. I stare at my blank screen, waiting to hammer out a riveting
first sentence. Then I remind myself that perfection too easily gets in the way of good enough, and I get on with it.

But I’ve also developed some handy strategies to help me kick-start my writing. Next time you sit down to write, ask yourself the following:

1. Who will be reading this? It’s important to identify your target audience. Are you speaking to a broad audience or to people you know? What will readers find interesting? Once you’ve answered these questions, you’ll find it easier to decide what to include and how formal or informal a tone to use.

2. What is my key message? What do you want readers to think, do or feel after they’ve read your piece? Write down your key message in one sentence at the top of your screen.

3. How can I humanize my writing? People are typically interested in other people. You’ll capture attention more quickly when readers have an opportunity to identify with real people in real situations.

4. How would I explain this to a child? If you’re worried that your subject matter is too technical or abstract, think about how you would go about explaining it to a child. Would a simple analogy work? And remember, short words are often more effective than long ones.

5. Can I hear my opening sentence? Over the years, I’ve learned to step away from my desk when I’m stuck for an opening. I’ll go for a walk or busy myself with something mindless, such as making my lunch. More often than not, I’ll soon hear a great lead sentence in my head.
 
Happy belated?

Thanks to Miles Durrie, a Calgary-based editor, who shared a grating grammar gaffe with Nitpick last month.

Durrie noted that a couple of his friends recently had birthdays and that their Facebook pages were full of messages that read “Happy belated birthday.”

“I know the sentiment is sincere,” says Durrie,“but come on, it’s not the birthday that’s belated, it’s your greeting!”


He offered the following grammatically correct alternatives: 
  • A belated happy birthday
  • Belated happy birthday wishes
  • I’d like to belatedly wish you a happy birthday.
 
 

 
 
 
Sara Bedal is a writer, editor and plain-language specialist. She helps organizations tell their stories clearly, creatively and concisely.
Photo: Angela Durante Dukát, DUKÁT PHOTOS
 
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Sara Bedal · 175 Stone Road · Aurora, On L4G 6Y9 · Canada

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