Writing on h2g2

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Writing for the Guide

If you're here reading this, you must care about your writing.

That's good!

That's the first, and most important step in making your writing better, and ultimately getting it accepted into the Edited Guide.

First, some background about me. I have been writing since I was five (30 years ago). I love the written word, but more than that, I love the writing process. I have a bachelor's degree in journalism and have taken graduate coursework in journalism. I have worked for newspapers for nearly a decade. I now work in the public relations office of my local school consortium.

I am also a Sub-editor and a Scout here at h2g2. That means I read a lot of the entries that get submitted for inclusion into the Edited Guide. I don't get paid for this privilege, but I get to see a lot of the community's writing (and much of it is very good). I want to make my job as Sub-editor easier, so I can read more entries and help build the Guide. The best way to do this is to try to help individuals with their writing.

But before we get too in-depth here, I would suggest you read the Writing for the Edited Guide page. Then, when you're through with that, check out The Subbing Process so you know what will happen next. If you would read over the English Usage in the Edited Guide and the Using Approved GuideML in the Edited Guide it would make the Sub-editor who receives your entry a lot happier. We really don't get our rocks off by changing somebody else's prose - it's something we've been asked to do to maintain the style of the Edited Guide.

Now that you've read what we're looking for and you understand the process a bit better, I would ask you to consider if this entry is something that belongs in the Guide. You do not have to submit your entry to Peer Review after you finish writing it. Everything you write is a part of the Guide, submitting an entry to Peer Review only means that it may become an Edited Entry.

If you still want to submit your entry I would suggest that you get some feedback on it first. That can best be achieved by participating in the Writing Workshop. The Workshop allows other members of the community to read and review your entry. Often, the suggestions you receive in the workshop are just the sort of thing to make your writing better.

One more thing, you could check out my Edited Guide Greatest Hits page which is a collection of some of my favourite Edited Guide entries. One of the best ways to improve your writing is to read other people's good writing.

OK, you've done all that but you've still got concerns about your writing. Here are a few tips that I've always found helpful:

  • Be yourself. This can't be stressed enough. Write the way you talk. It is the voice you're most comfortable using and will sound less stilted than if you try to write very formally or try to be cute.

  • Find a topic you know. Don't try to write the entry on chocolate if you don't know a lot about the topic other than the fact that you like to eat it. Write an entry about your hometown, your favourite pub or tavern, your favourite hobby. Something that interests you will inject a similar level of interest in your writing.

  • Use proper spelling, grammar and word usage. If you are unsure, there are plenty of resources you can check out. Some of my personal favourites are:

    1. 'The Elements of Style'
    2. 'The Slot'
    3. 'Merriam-Webster Dictionary'
    4. Altavista's Babel Fish
    5. BBC's Get Writing

    If you've got other questions, please feel free to drop me a line in the forums below.

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