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Feed Your Head

Posting Date: September 03, 2010

For those of us who want to perfect our writing, here’s some advice from Richard Lauchman, author of Punctuation at Work:

Read well-written stuff, and you’ll absorb a sense of how punctuation works and what it can accomplish. And even if these usages smolder somewhere in your subconscious, they surface in your writing, and ultimately they become habit. Your grasp of all language conventions improves when you read such periodicals as Scientific American, Time, National Geographic, or a big-city newspaper. It’s essential that you read good writing and not confine your reading to the stuff you’re forced to consume at work.

You can pick up some very bad habits from the reports, analyses, memos, and policies that lurch and stagger down the corridors of the workplace, unchanged over the years. I encourage you to bring fresh genes into the gene pool of your writing. If you don’t, your style will become inbred, as it were, with particular usages (not always practical ones) seeming “right” only because they are routine. Your alternatives will shrink, your options will narrow, and in the end you will wonder why your writing seems so tedious and dull.