Writing tips: How to make paragraphs

Long ago, at school, there was an English lesson about how and where to break text into paragraphs.

As I remember it, we were taught that that one thought or subject should be contained within the same paragraph.

The wonderful Grammar Girl agrees. She says:

Paragraphs represent ideas, and ideas come in many sizes. The most important point should be at the beginning of a paragraph — often, that point is called a topic sentence — and you use the rest of the paragraph to develop the point further.

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Word’s Track Changes – what writers need to know

Microsoft’s Word package is part of its Office 365 suite – which is used by over a million companies worldwide, according to Statista. That means that there are millions of people wondering what the hell Track Changes is.

I have no statistical basis for that of course. I just know that in five years of freelance editing, only a handful of writers have known how to use it. Many are not really sure what it’s for, or what they are supposed to do about it.

I’m here to help.
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When to use the word alleged? Some simple rules

One of the most difficult things to get right in news journalism is the correct use of the word alleged.

An example from an article on the Facebook page of a radio station illustrates the point:

“A shocking video has emerged online of an alleged taxi driver hitting a woman in a taxi at a CBD rank.”

See that alleged?
It’s in the wrong place (and is not even really needed) – and the sentence is just clumsy. Here’s what I would have done: Continue reading

Simple HTML for content creators

No one becomes a journalist or a writer because they are interesting in coding.*

And yet, here we all are producing content for websites – which means that the text we produce will inevitably be underpinned by code.

For all the everyday things that we do to text for the web, the underlying language is something called HTML (or hypertext mark-up language).
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Everyone is a writer. Everyone is an editor

I know, I know. A writer is someone who writes books. An editor does something important at a newspaper. That’s not you, right?

But every time you write an email, or post something on Facebook, you are writing.

Every time you go to the local print shop and organise a card or a flyer for your business, you are writing.
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Blogging 101: Just make a content plan

Example of a content plan

My content plan for 2019.

It is now three and half months since I last wrote a blog post.

In spite of my undoubted time management skills and all I have learned about being a freelancer, it seems I still have a long way to go.

Essentially, I took on a lot of work. And tried to have a holiday – and then was still doing the work that I took on in 2018.

I have been doing ten, eleven hour days and ditching everything that seems non-essential – including my commitment to write something every week.

None of this is complaining, dear reader: I am glad of the work, and glad to be busy -but work-life balance has been out of whack.

There is now a little gap before the next round of proofing comes along (the biggest bit of work I am doing is project managing and proofreading a book for a local publisher – that double whammy is something I won’t be doing again) and so I sat down to see if I could write something, anything to get things going again.

My blog is not the most widely read of productions, and I don’t imagine people have been sitting around wondering what happened to me – rather, the weekly discipline of sitting down to write, and the accompanying reflection and research, are what I have been missing.

The other thing I have been putting off is a content plan for the year – and that’s another reason I haven’t been writing regularly.

I teach a workshop on writing engaging content for the web at a local high school, and one of the things I talk about is the importance of a content plan. The idea is to sit down and make a spreadsheet with the weeks (or months – whatever your schedule is) of the year and try to fill each week with an idea for something to write. These can be tied to external events (on National Cat Day, write something about cats for instance) or they can be internally generated (one of my areas of focus is editing, so I will devote the month of May to posts about editing, for instance). Or a mix of both.

However it is created, a content plan is a godsend for that day when you have no ideas and no momentum and no time to think: you just sit down and start doing what the list says.

So – a content plan, and a post for next week. I had best get on with it.

Main Picture: Andrew Neel, Unsplash