If you read my piece on the Turf Show Times staff the other day, you'd have seen the long list of great writers for this site. What you may not know is the the vast majority of them came from the ranks of Fan Post-ers here at TST. It's where Ryan found me too. If some of you aspire to make the next step up to our ever growing staff, there's a few things to consider.
You already have the a passion to write. You grab ideas, let them simmer in your minds and dash off short pieces. It can't stop there, because just as important is having the drive to improve HOW you write. Don't take this as a slam at what you guys write. I love reading your Fan Posts, and if you ask around TST, you'll find I'm incredibly protective of "my" fan post guys. While time has been at a premium for me during the 2012 season, I must admit I haven't spent as much time as I have in the past in this important part of TST.
Improving your writing isn't hard. For the most part, it comes down to two key areas: Know your writing venue (website, essay for school, work place memo, etc...) and editing. With Turf Show Times as the venue, realize that to convey information in a casual website environment means shifting from formal writing to a first, or second person observational voice. Today we'll take a look at the simplest of way to help your writing here grow: Use idioms and contractions.
An idiom is combining words into a figurative meaning. "He's jerking my chain.." is an idiom that has nothing to do with a person pulling on a chain. Inside all the different languages (especially English!), there are countless idiomatic phrases to convey "off hand" thoughts. Slang comes into play too, but be very careful how you use it. Slang has a tendency to insult when used improperly, and can cause the reader to make a judgement about the writer. NEVER use slang in an opening sentence. Yes, it can catch a reader's attention, but as a writer you have to take a broader view of your audience. If you start a story with "Chicks are so...", you could be insulting women with your very first words. People inherently rush to judge and label. Rene Descartes' "If you label me, you negate me..." holds invariably true for a writer. Many readers stop trying to appreciate what you have to say if you hit a verbal nerve.
Idioms in sports are great, but use them sparingly. Avoid the most used or "Cliche" idiomatic phrases. What's great about your writing is that it's YOURS. Make up your own versions of widely used idioms. An example would be the word "Beast", and how it's widely applied to any number of players. Use it by all means, but try to make up your own alternative. What's cool about creating your own version of commonly used idioms or slang references is that they catch a reader's eye. Build up to them so a reader knows who or what you're referring too, and it'll give your article a bit of spice.
Contractions are a key when transforming your writing style from formal (learned in school) to informal (real world observational writing). "It is.." is formal. "It's" is informal. When you write, think about how you'd say something out loud. Think about how an English butler would speak? That's formal, right? Far too often a writer will forget their audience isn't a cluster of English teachers ready to grade their papers. Want a list of contractions? Go here.
When you write informally, you can create flow. Easing the reader's mind into a conversational mode enables easy access to your subject. Every Fan Post-er here at TST does this to an extent, but if you go back and look at your own work, you'll see you shift from formal to informal in the same article quite a few times. Be consistent! A letter to the Editor of the NY Times is formal. An article that's meant to speak to like-minded readers on a certain subject should be informal. Use contractions whenever you can.
If anyone has read this thinking I'm banging on you're writing, think again. I'll be offering these kinds of suggestive/learning posts from time to time. Use them or don't, it's up to you. If anyone here would like my help with anything you've written, send me an e-mail with "For Edit" in the subject line. Every member of the staff is here to help you too. In fact,
DC, I mean, Brandon Bate will be writing a post on the preposition "That" very soon. He'll be explaining why removing this over used, ill advised and improperly placed preposition is the road to hell.
First time Fan Post writer? Let me help you past the "fear of being read by others" phobia that can be keeping us from reading your views. Don't worry about spelling or grammatical miscues. In fact, I've left a few in this post. Can you find them?