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Write From Home
Kim Wilson
P.O. Box 4145
Hamilton, NJ 08610

E-mail: kim @ writefromhome.com

Off the Page...

Write Light
by Tama Westman

"Lighten up," my kids will say, whenever I start talking from my parent pedestal. And while I won't admit to always...usually, they're right. It's a good reminder that no one wants to be preached to, shouted at or told what to do, whether in voice or print. Lightening the tone and delivery of your nonfiction writing can make your topic more approachable and your audience more receptive.

Pushy pitfalls
You should always avoid imperative sentences that begin with "you," "you must," "you should," and "you ought." You must never use all-encompassing comments such as always and never. You ought to know better than to use absolute statements and sweeping assertions that include everybody, no one or all. And the very worst thing you can do is to delineate with exaggerated comparatives such as best, most, and worst. Catch my drift?

Personal pages
I started publishing more successfully after I took myself off my self-ordained pedestal, stopped pretending to be the perfect writer and all-knowing authority, and instead, simply wrote from my experience, good and bad. Certainly, I still needed to do my homework and present provable copy to the editor and readership, but learning to relax and lighten up created content that was more widely read.

It was as simple as learning to write as though I was chatting with a friend over a cup of coffee. First, I became comfortable with a more conversational writing style. Second, I took a backseat when it came to telling or instructing. Third, I learned to leave list-making to teachers. Ah, see how I've fallen from grace yet again.

Pop, pop, pop!
If the reader becomes your companion as you journey together, laughs when you laugh, even if at your own stupidity, then you are right on target. When your mission becomes to gently lead, to point and show through suggestion, based on your own personal experience or research, then your nonfiction writing will pop.

It is basically the old line of leading by example...even if that example is as blatant as this article alone...it gets the job done. Many articles and stories passed under my pen before I learned to write with confidence, not arrogance, and listen to the tune of my writing and ensure it was a melody worth repeating. Dear writers, write on!

Tama Westman writes the Off the Page column for Write From Home. An award-winning journalist, she teaches creative writing and poetry with the AHEAD program (Achieving Higher Education and Dreams) at Metropolitan State University, mentors high school journalism students, and speaks at writers conferences throughout the country. Married twenty-four years, and mother of two grown children, she lives in Minnesota. She loves to hear from other writers. Feel free to contact her at tama@tamawestman.com. For more, please visit http://www.tamawestman.com










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