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Monday, November 5, 2007

Beacons of Excellent Writing

I was once an English substitute teacher for grades 6-12. During that time, I created several worksheets I could use as a lesson plans or give to problem students to complete. One of those worksheets--something I now keep next to my computer--contained Gary Provost's "Seven Beacons of Excellent Writing." Another list, I know, but I thought I'd share it with you today.

1. Brevity. Excellent writing should be tight. Every word should count. To that end, eliminate all unnecessary words and don't start your piece too early.
2. Clarity. Don't "hide" your meaning. Make it clear to the reader. \
3. Precision.This means, be more than clear--be precise, exact. Use the only noun or verb it should be. The perfect use for our Thesauruses.
4. Harmony. LIke music, writing should flow beautifully, without obscure or pretentious words and with varying sentence lengths and structures.
5. Humanity. Write about people, not things. Tell your story from the eyes of those involved, not the event itself.
6. Honesty. Be yourself in your writing. Don't try to impress people with words you don't know, just use the "right" words you already know. And make sure you write the truth, not some built-up, more exciting shadow of it.
7. Poetry. This one's hard to describe, but I think we all understand it on an instinctual level. For instance, there is one musical note in "Les Miserables," in the song, "Bring Him Home," that brings me to tears. Just one note. It touches my heart, inspires me, lingers inside my soul long after the song, even the play, is over. It's that experience, only through our writing, which Provost encourages writers to develop. In his words, "If you can turn an essay into a prayer, do it."

That is Provost's list, but I have added one more to it: Humor. I don't know anyone who doesn't like to laugh. And I don't know anyone who's ever hated competent writing that made them laugh. Have you?

With that said, do you have any beacons you'd like to add? If so, please do so in a comment.

6 comments:

Anne Bradshaw said...

That's a pretty comprehensive list. Only one other thing comes to mind, and that's Reality, but that could be covered by Truth. And Reality isn't necessary if the writing is Fantasy. Maybe Believable is a better word than Reality.

By the way, there's an early Christmas gift for you and everyone who wanders over to my blog today. Enjoy! :-)

April said...

That is a great list. Thank you. :-)

Dapoppins said...

No beacons to add, but I like the list. The last, Poetry, and your addition, humor, were my favorites.

Josi said...

Love the list, great things to keep in mind. Thanks Ronda.

Rebecca Talley said...

Thanks, Ronda. I like this list.

Julie Wright said...

love you list, but even more I love your addition to the list. I agree that humor is important. People always wave it away as fluffy or trite or whatever, but from experience . . . it is MUCH harder to be funny than it is to be angst ridden.