Do you know why books such as the Harry Potter and Lords of the Rings series and Ishtiaq Ahmed’s Inspector Jamshed series in Urdu are popular among young readers? It is because they have a compelling storyline, and because of the writers’ appropriate use of words to construct sentences combined with the writers’ imagination.
Writing is all about how you express and present your innate thoughts, opinions and views to the readers. It is an art and skill that is both inborn and mastered through practice.
Students need to have a keen sense of writing when attempting examinations of their theory subjects and when writing essays in English. Moreover, knowing how to write letters and applications is imperative not only from the examination point of view, but also from a professional perspective.
examination point of view, but also from a professional perspective. Writing, therefore, is a skill we all must continue to learn. In this article, we will dwell on some important aspects of writing.
Parts of writing
Every type of writing has three parts: the beginning, the middle and the end. Whether it is an article, an essay, a letter or an application, all documents and pieces of writing must have these three parts.
This is where you introduce the topic, and briefly explain and define the purpose of what you are writing about. It is at this point that you need to establish the very reason for writing the piece and connect your thoughts with that of the readers.
The hook technique
One important aspect of writing is to use the hook technique to begin an article. You can begin the article with a quotation, a question, a fact, or with your opinion, which you can elaborate and prove afterward in the write-up.
During the middle part of the piece, you provide relevant information to your topic and explain the message with an in-depth analysis of your views, based on factual information.
The middle part of a piece takes up the most space in a write-up as you need to provide as much accurate and precise information necessary to make the piece a credible read. This is also the phase where you provide examples and views. In stories, this is where the plot reaches its climax.
Any piece of writing should not end abruptly. There should be one final message for the reader and the ending is where all that you have been talking about or have expressed gradually, takes its final shape. This is where you summarise your message backed with suggestions and recommendations. In other words, you provide clarification to your discussion and, in stories, this is where everything settles down.
The first step: prepare an outline
Once you have decided on a topic, you need to create an outline. An outline is a flow of how you will add information to your piece. For instance, an article on the benefits of exercise will have the following outline:
Importance of exercise,
Types of exercises,
Do’s and don’ts,
Diet intake before and after a workout,
Best time for a workout.
Based on the information and research material you have on your topic, you can add more to the outline. An outline gives you a path to follow before writing so you do not divert from the topic.
Length of a write-up
The length (word count) of a write-up depends on the requirements you have been given, whether it is a class assignment of specific length, or the word count set by the publication you are sending your write-up to. It also depends on the genre you are writing for.
For instance, the word count for an opinion piece for a daily newspaper usually ranges from 750 to 850 words. An article for a weekly magazine comprises 850 to 1100 words, short stories for weekly magazine range from 500 to 750 words, and reviews for books and movies are of 450 to 650 words. But these are rough estimates that I am giving on the basis of my personal experience.
Do your homework
You may develop a good write-up with a satisfactory beginning, middle and an end and may include facts along with your opinion to generate readers’ interest. However, you would still need to know which publication (newspapers and magazines) caters to what kinds/types of articles.
A daily newspaper’s opinion page may not include articles on technology while a children’s magazine will not publish a piece on geopolitics. This is why you should read the past issues (seven to 10) of the publication you are interested to contribute your articles to. You will get a fair idea of what genre, topic and subjects a publication caters to and can develop a write-up that will have a higher chance of being published.
When writing a piece, a writer’s most useful tool is the vocabulary. The kind of words you choose to construct your sentences make or break the readers’ interest.
Aspiring writers are advised to keep a thesaurus with them when writing or consult an online thesaurus to learn words with similar meaning to use in sentences. But always remember that including tough vocabulary to impress the editors will not gain you anything. It will only make the write-up more complicated for the readers and the easy flow of the sentences will be affected. And when depending too much on a thesaurus, one can make the common mistake of using unsuitable synonyms in a sentence where the original word would have been more effective.
The editors know which words are common and which are not, so don’t try too hard to impress and keep your vocabulary simple, which conveys your message or explains your topic clearly.
Crisp, clear and concise
The art of writing is to write sentences that are not too long-winded, and present messages that are clear, short and brief. Here is an example of how to write with crispness, clarity and concisely.
Sentence 1: Traffic congestion in Karachi can be reduced if people driving cars can avoid driving on the wrong side, if they park their cars at the right parking spots and if they drive in their own lanes. (36 words)
Sentence 2: Karachi can experience less traffic congestion if drivers keep to their own lanes and only park cars at designated places. (20 words)
You can see a marked difference in sentence 1 and 2. Both sentences present the same message but sentence 2 has fewer words with a clear and concise message.
Read, research and write
The best way to write effective articles is by doing your research. Read as much as you can about the topic of your choice to absorb all relevant information you can to reproduce when writing. The more you read, the closer you will be to the topic. The research will help you explore all there is to the topic. Research provides writers with the essential material and content to add value to their write-up.
But simply reproducing what you have read is not right and doesn’t produce a good article. You must analyses what you have read and researched, then present the topic from a point of view that is your own and different, so that your write-up stands out from the rest.
Every topic has been done to its limits, so you need to approach it from a fresh and different prospective to be able to come up with something commendable.
Know your topic
As an aspiring writer, you would need to write on topics that may not appeal to you much, but are important from a publication’s standpoint. Therefore, you need to develop the habit to learn more about all the topics that you come across, which will not only enhance your learning but provide you with a plethora of other topics to write on. The more topics you know of, the more exposure you will have as a published writer.
I hope these tips will provide you with the needed motivation to start reading and writing. Always remember, reading is the secret to writing well. So, start reading today to become a writer tomorrow.
Published in Dawn, Young World, May 18th, 2019