This blog reflects on life at work at comments on the latest news that shapes my 9-5 working day in a Corporate Communications consultancy.

About Me

I am a born and bred South African who has always loved to read and write. As a child my mother used to read to me and my siblings, from classics like the “Lord of the Rings” but later also from her own stories. She would write children’s stories and then use us as her test audience, but I loved to hear what she had written long after my siblings had tired of it. So I grew up in an environment of reading and writing, which inspired my love of these things. I hope to write a great book some day, and have learnt first hand the determination and will that it takes. My love of English inspired me to continue my study of it at university. I majored in Law and English in a BA degree at UCT where I found that I took to English much more than law. I enjoyed learning about South Africa’s history and the development of our liberal Constitution, which increasingly made me committed to the hope this country has for the future. Ideally, I’d like to find myself in a job where I am able to write; that allows a good mix of time spent with people and being able to work on my own.

Thursday, 07 June 2007

Books for writing advice

During WOW Bruce asked me to suggest some books with writing tips. I thought I’d share two that have helped me. One is “The Elements of Style” by E. B White and William Strunk. This is probably one of the most famous books on writing, and it’s been going since the 1920s when William Strunk first wrote it. He based it on a writing course he taught at university, and E. B White (of “Charlotte’s Web” fame) was one of his students. Years later, he was asked to update the work, and in his edited edition you’ll find a forward where he remembers his eccentric Professor Strunk, whose favourite trick was to repeat things three times for emphasis. (“Omit needless words! Omit needless words! Omit needless words!”, White recalls him saying, and banging on his desk as he did so. This is one of the writing tips given in the book). It is written in a list form, and has tips on style as well as commonly misused words and grammar. It’s a very thin book, small enough to carry around with you. The advice is simple, direct and very useful.

The other book is “On Writing” by Stephen King. This is more of an enjoyable book to read, as it is as much the story of King’s life and how he wrote his way to success as it is about his writing tips. His style is very conversational and the book is very easy to read. One of the most memorable things for me that he advised was “Write the first draft with the door closed; write the second draft with the door open”. The first bits you write down are just for you, but after that you need to pay attention to other people’s feedback. For example, you may love your dog character, but if all your readers tell you they don’t understand why the dog is in the story in the first place, the dog either needs to go or you need to carefully re-write his part. Our comments on each other’s blogs were a great place to give and receive feedback, which is a really important part of the writing process.

“On Writing” is available in the Wits Education library, and the Cullen library has several copies of “The Elements of Style”.


Valentin said...

Dear Susan, it is really nice that you share your impression of how to write better and on different writing tips.
I particularly like the part that you mention about the dog character and the author's position on that after various feedbacks that he (she) has received.
And certainly, blogging has helped us a lot to improve our writing and make it more accessible and understandable to others.

Adam N. Mukendi said...

Hi Sue,
I did not finish yet to read the book but I am enjoying it already.
I will have more iinput once I am done.