Just Write: A College Degree is Not Required to Have A Successful Career in Writing

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I visited a writing forum and one of the members said something that concerned me: She said that she wished that she had went to school to learn how to write. She had received several harsh and negative comments and criticism on her writing skills.

 
Well, my stance on her sentiment is that you don’t need to go to college and earn a degree in writing in order to master the craft of writing. If she continues on her present path, then she will eventually improve her writing skills, without investing thousands of dollars into a potentially worthless college degree.

 
People have a misconception that a formal education is required in order to become a professional writer. A formal education where the writer has receive extensive training in writing is very helpful, but it is definitely not requisite. There is no such thing as perfection in writing. What is required most is competence and an audience.

 

How to improve your writing:

Get started with writing. Purchase some pens and a couple of durable wire bound notebooks and just start free writing anything that comes to your mind. Even if your writing does not make sense in the beginning, that’s fine. The idea is to get something down on paper in rough draft form. You can always go back and build upon your original ideas and then revise and edit as needed.

 
Keep writing. Set aside a time during the day, specifically for the purpose of writing. Do it at a time when you are well rested and have some peace and quiet. I find that I am the most creative when I wake up in the morning. So, I freshen up and have a cup of coffee and sit down with notebook and jot down my ideas. Sometimes my initial ideas are very fragmented and written in stream-of-consciousness style. I do this for a few hours every day.

 
Set a writing goal. Determine what your objectives are. What type of writing are you most interested in? How long do you want your pieces to be? My personal goal is to write at least 1000 words per day for either my blogs or other writing platforms.

 
Edit and Proofread. Keep a dictionary and thesaurus handy as you write. There are free resources available on the internet to help you check for misspellings, word contexts and synonyms. When you are ready, type up your writings into word processing software. Don’t forget to use the spellchecking features of any word processing software that you use. You should also proofread your writing to ensure that it makes sense and properly conveys your message. Have a friend or colleague proofread your writing. Another person may catch the mistakes that you overlook.

 
Read other authors’ works. This will give you inspiration and ideas on what to write about. You don’t want to simply mimic other people’s writings, as this is plagiarism. Read from the perspective of learning what you can take from their writings, to help you develop your own voice and style of writing. Reading will also help you to improve your vocabulary and expand your knowledge.

 
Join a writing group or take writing workshops or webinars. The leader and members of the group will give your writing constructive criticism and feedback. Successful and published authors may attend writing workshops and can provide valuable insights and tips into the world of publishing and writing. This is also an opportunity to network with like-minded individuals and professionals.

 
Use style guides. These are reference books which provide guidelines on the acceptable grammar usage, syntax, format, citation and styles of writing in different genres. The type of style guide that you need will depend on the type of writing that you pursue. Many style guides are revised annually. Each publishing company or organization has its own standard and rules for editing and writing. Webmasters make their rules available for internet copy writers and editors to familiarize themselves with them.

Free writing resources available on the internet:

www.dictionary.com
www.thesaurus.com

Grammar Girl
http://www.quickanddirtytips.com/grammar-girl

Infoplease
http://www.infoplease.com/homework/writingskills1.html

Writersdigest
http://www.writersdigest.com/

 

Examples of Style Guides:


The Elements of Style, Fourth Edition: This is a well-known, concise, general writing guide. It can be purchased on Amazon.com or read for free over the internet at Bartelby.com.

 

The Chicago Manual of Style, 16th Edition
:
It is a reference manual used in social sciences, humanities, and general writing.

 

The Associated Press Stylebook 2013 (Associated Press Stylebook and Briefing on Media Law)
:
The Associated Press Stylebook and Briefing on Media Law is produced by the Associated Press and is used mainly in journalism and public relations.

 

You can read a free, truncated version of the AP Stylebook here:

https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/735/02/

Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, 6th Edition
:The American Psychological Style Manual is used mainly for social science research paper writing.

 

MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers, 7th Edition
: This reference is geared towards writers of academic research papers and scholarly works in the humanities.

 

© Copyright 2014  Susan Broadbelt