Do you blog? Are you a student who is faced with essays that make you cringe? Are you an educator that is trying to find a way to improve your student’s writing performance? Or are you a novice freelance writer looking to increase the quality of the content you provide?
These questions can be answered, surprisingly by some, by hanging out on social media. Professor A. Hall, of Cheyney University of Pennsylvania, wanting to engage her students through writing challenges, decided to start the process by using something many parents and educators wish their children would put down, Twitter.
What Prof. Hall realized was that with the limited number of characters afforded by the app Twitter, students were forced to become more brief and clear in their posts. She came up with a plan to have all her students create an account on Twitter and engage each other, and then each student was required to critique each other’s posts.
This was just the beginning of getting them to write copy that was publicly seen by their peers and others. It is hard enough for a seasoned writer to get their copy out there into the hands of critical eyes, but getting the novice writer to do so is harder. “However, this type of small writing builds confidence for bigger assignments.”, says Prof. Hall
Any blogger that is worth their voice will tell you that their main goal is to have their message read, liked, and shared. Whether their goal is political, commercial, or of the human nature, if the writing style is not favorable to the reader, today’s social media surfer will click and keep moving on until they find the information they are looking for.
Social media is a bloggers paradise. It is filled with content that they can look to for ideas on how to develop, and structure their own informative blogs. When surfing the internet, you as the blogger are doing your homework. Reading other bloggers, especially ones that are engaging and personable, is your way of improving on you own style.
Some of the points that you should be taking in are:
- Length- This will determine what you should or could do with your content. For instance, Facebook and some other sites give you more characters than Twitter but then your message may be truncated, that is when you see the words read more, and then your message is cut off.
Writing within the limits provided takes skill. You learn to eliminate unnecessary words, and get to the point. I have opened the words read more, and have seen so much copy that I decided not to go on.
- Audience- Check the audience that the writer is trying to reach, notice the tone of voice used in the writing style. Here is where the writer is projecting his/her brand. Social media teaches you to speak to your audience about what keeps your brand relevant. If your writing voice sounds insincere, your brand will go in the trash.
- Personable- When writing essays in college, many students are told to get away from using pronouns, but today’s social media is getting away from that type of collegiate writing, but staying professional. When developing content for the web, reach out to your audience with I, me, you, and we. They will lean in to the info with more interest.
What you are going to notice as you do your “homework”, is that all writers have their own style, and no matter how many rules there are in the English language each of the writers you read will articulate their message in their own quirky way.
You too must find your own voice. At first your voice will sound like some of the writers that you are following, but that is okay, as you grow, you will change and your own voice will come through.
Important Exercise Writers Forget to do
When I was in my undergraduate classes, I was told by my Creative Writing Professor to never be afraid to kill my little darlings, a saying that is attributed to many famous writers. What it means is to get rid of some of your writing to make room for the best of your writing.
Edit, edit, edit! Yes, many times I too even forget to go back and check on my copy, and the result when I finally read a piece that has not been edited, is total embarrassment that I let it hit the Internet in that condition.
Do this- find a Twitter member to follow for a few days. Pick someone that you are interested in and read their tweets. Read them out loud, then rewrite the words that they are putting out in the universe in your own words. Now read what you wrote out loud.
Some of the problems of college students when it comes to writing is not editing their content. When you read your content aloud, and get others involved in reading what you have written, you become a better writer.
Starting a writing group on a social media outlet can do wonders for your writing. If you are in school, gather 5-6 members of your English class, before a paper is due, and create a place within one of the top social media outlets. Google+ is a good one for this.
Name your group and choose a theme to write about. Choose a word limit and time frame to complete a piece on the suggested theme. For this project, you will then critique each other’s work like this-
- Sentence structure- note if there are run on sentences, comma splices, or any other things you notice on your classmates writing.
- Grammar- watch the spelling and punctuation, be honest about your critique, you classmate will appreciate this.
- Flow- is the content making sense from one sentence to the next? Is there a beginning, middle and end? Was there a main point that was given full attention throughout the piece?
For those of you who are not in school, but are working on your writing skills to develop a blog, do the same above with some of your writing colleague. Start a writing group that meets once a month. Bring your stories and critique them.
Some writers sit on their writing and don’t want anyone to see what they are working on, and that is their right, but I personally find that writing workshops open the door for creativity beyond compare.
There is help in numbers, and when there is another eye, a writer’s eye to look at your work it will make you grow. Sure, get your friends to read it too, but a writer will always be able to tell you things that a non-writer won’t look for.
Whether you use Twitter, Google+, or Facebook at the social media outlet to practice with your group, commit to doing it with a group. Google+ has so many writing groups to join, and there are also writing services that can help you find resources to critique your writing, good luck and write On!