With the ever growing popularity of blogs and social networking sites, fi nding a platform for aspiring writers and journalists to express their views is easier than ever before. If writing is your passion, be it current affairs, fiction, or even your everyday musings, you now have many outlets to let yourself be heard. But while publishing your writing online is easy, being able to draw readers in and make them want to continue reading your work is considerably harder. If you want to be taken seriously, regardless of what you write, sound grammar is of utmost importance. Writing well doesn’t require a vast vocabulary. Using small words and a conversational style go a long way towards engaging your reader. This is well demonstrated at LousyWriter.com (‘www.lousywriter.com’), a website that lays an emphasis on good writing without the need for unnecessary jargon and metaphors. The site has several articles that walk you through the basics of grammar, common mistakes you should avoid, and guides on how to write better. The site also off ers a selection of podcasts and free e-books for your reference.
Even the most experienced writers tend to make mistakes, and Paul Brian’s onlinerepository (‘http://www.wsu.edu/~brians/errors/errors.html’) is a great searchable collection of common English errors many writers are guilty of. All of the world’s top publishing houses have detailed style guides to which their writers must adhere, and reading through these style guides is also a great way to help you improve your writing. The Economist’s style guide (‘http://www.economist.com/research/styleGuide/’) is a simple yet comprehensive guide on the dos and don’ts of journalism.
From avoiding clichéd ‘Journalese’ phrases to trimming away unnecessary words, it will help you write more crisp and engaging copy. Make sure you download BBC’s style guide PDF (‘http://www.bbctraining.com/pdfs/newsstyleguide.pdf’) and keep it accessible for frequent reference. Besides everything you would find in The Economist’s guide, the BBC guide also covers writing for television and radio, such as writing cues for news broadcasts. This guide also lays a heavy emphasis on tone of writing, and sensitivity towards the subject matter and audience. Each topic is suitably supplemented with examples on the right and wrong way to go about your writing.
Once you do get your writing up to scratch and decide that you’d like to pursue a career in a particular form of writing, there are specialist sites that will help you excel in your chosen fi eld. These sites conduct online courses, seminars, and workshops to teach you the nuances of your profession. Here’s a look at a couple of great online resources for specialized writing:
JOURNALISM: The Poynter Institute The Poynter Institute (‘poynter.org’) hosts a wealth of information in free and paid form, from self-directed courses, online group seminars and Webinars to online chats, podcasts and video tutorials. A collection of blog posts cover tips and how-to guides on traditional, electronic and digital journalism. At any given time, there are several online seminars and courses available for you to enroll for. Over the course of 2011, Poynter will conduct online seminars on topics such as Becoming a More Eff ective Editor, Elements of Design, Writing Better Headlines, etc, targeting both students as well as experienced journalists. While these comprehensive seminars cost up to $400, the site also carries self-directed courses on more elementary topics such as Understanding Media and How To Be a Smarter Viewer, which will appeal to non-journalists as well. If you’re looking for a specifi c form of training, you can browse by topic under Ethics and Diversity, Reporting, Writing and Editing, TV and Radio, Visual Journalism, etc.
SCREENWRITING: SydField.com If your passion is writing for television and fi lm, SydField.com (‘www.sydfi eld.com’) is a site you must not miss. Syd Field is considered by many in Hollywood to be the leading authority in the art of screenwriting, and his website contains courses and tips to help you become a better screenplay writer. You’ll fi nd an array of articles from Field that have been featured in various publications. These vary from writing guides to his analysis of various films. On the blog, you’ll fi nd several useful posts on the tricks of the trade as well as insightful podcasts and brief movie reviews. All of Fields’ books on screenplay writing are also available for purchase via the website.
The ‘Getting Started’ online course is the perfect entry point for aspiring writers into the world of screenwriting. The five-week course covers the basics of screenwriting, from the idea and structure to the characters. The course material is made available weekly through MP3 fi les that you can carry around with you on your iPod. Soon, the site will begin accepting registrations for upcoming courses, such as ‘Writing Act 1’, which covers, amongst other topics, writing the fi rst ten pages of a script.