So, I'll admit I'm writing this for entirely selfish reasons. Lately, there have been quite a few posts being made that upset my sensibilities as an author, and as a reasonable human being.
I want to go over how to make a good post that quickly conveys a message in a way people will take seriously, and how not to say stupid stuff in said post. (Bonus points for fancy alliteration.)
Firstly, one of the most important parts of a good post is formatting—and there are some that falter on this most basic and humble of skills. You know them—the ones who post a wall of text, or do odd things to the layout of said text. Such things often turn people away from whatever you wish to convey in the post, or immediately have them dismiss you. After all, if the OP can't even spare the effort to make their post look good, why should anyone pay attention?
Trust me when I say there's an easy fix to such a problem. On your keyboard, there should be a key. That key should say "enter" on it. Amazingly, when you press that key, whatever you're writing drops down a line.
This can be useful for separating different points into an easy to read way, giving them clear boundaries while also introducing an artificial pause in the reading. Now, that pause can be very useful in some instances, where you want people to stop for a short second or two, or if you simply want things to look and sound pretty when people are reading the post over.
Like now. I had finished the points I wanted to make in the last paragraph, so I hit the enter key twice and dropped down to start a new one. It prevents the post from taking on a 'wall-of-text' feel, while also making it easier to understand and read.
And when you're done with an entire section of points which are related to each other, and need to move on to the next big idea, either drop down a bit further, or introduce a divider element to the post. For shorter posts, I'd recommend just dropping down two lines, but for something like this, it's helpful to visually divide one section from another. I accomplish that like this:
Now, onto my next topic!
I won't wax lyrical on why proper grammar is important, because I'm pretty sure everyone understands or at least has heard that speech before. Instead, I'll tell you what grammar can do for you!
First off, proper usage of grammar makes you sound good, and has people taking you seriously from the get-go. When I see a post missing capitalization, punctuation and such; I cringe a little. It immediately tells me that this person must have not put much thought, time, or effort into their post. Proper grammar will have people reading your post, and thinking about the points you make instead of "oh, there should be a comma there, oh, that's hideously misspelled, oh, that should be I, not i...." and so on, so on.
Really, proper grammar is proper etiquette. Just as poor manners at a black-tie event will get you called a bumpkin and lessen other's opinion of you, poor grammar will have your readers think lesser of you.
Now, how do you improve grammar? Well, there's no easy way about it. You have to read. *Gasps of horror*
No, really. Just read a book every now and then, and take note of how things are written. Then, whenever you find yourself writing something, take a step back and think about how it could be improved. Authors call this process editing, and pretty much all of them do it. I know that once I finish writing this helpful little guide, I'll go back over it—combing for grammatical errors, awkward turns of phrase, and the ever present spelling mistake. And it's even more likely that there will still be something wrong that I missed.
Word choice is an oft discounted, but extremely important part of writing. And there's only one thing I can say about it. As long as the words are not overtly inflammatory, nor vitriolic in nature, stick with what you know.
Too many times I've seen someone misuse a word pulled from a thesaurus in an attempt to sound smart. Hint: It doesn't work. If you can't think of a fitting word off the top of your head, use another. There's nothing saying that the vocabulary you have right now is inadequate. As long as you can articulate your message in an understandable way, everything is fine.
But for those who want to add that little extra something special, and brutalize others with a massive vocabulary, well. Read more. That's how you grow your vocabulary list. I'm sure you've noticed how many big and not-so-well-known words I've used while writing this. That's just down to years of devouring every book thrown my way.
So, in other words, don't use a thesaurus. Don't try to insert smart sounding words to sound smart. Instead, actually get smarter and learn while reading.
This is what I like to call "The Product".
It's what comes from the other three points discussed thus far. Formatting, grammar and word choice come together to form a writing style that distinguishes you in some way or another. A lot of writers are vaunted for their unique and different writing styles. However, that doesn't mean that you have to develop something which separates you from the crowd.
No, writing style is just the natural off-spring of everything else. It does have an impact on whatever you write though, in the same way your speech patterns change how you interact with people. Sometimes it can be antagonistic in nature, or humorous in other cases. My own writing style is a fine blend of pointed sarcasm, humor, and what I hope is intelligence.
If for any reason you find that people are responding badly to something you've written, ask yourself if it might be the writing style. If you write very aggressively, then people might respond by getting defensive. If you write poorly, people might not take you seriously. Just stuff like that.
Now, you can change your writing style. It's sometimes employed as a literary technique by authors to portray the different personalities of various characters, or changes in environment and setting.
Unfortunately, changing your writing style requires you to be as objective as possible, to not be biased towards your words. It might be helpful to get a second opinion on the initial style, and some advice as to how it might be changed in a different direction. As I'm not an expert in such things, I'll refrain from outlining exact ways of accomplishing it.
How to not be stupid.
Congratulations. You can now write a somewhat cohesive and good looking post. However, there might still be a problem.
It doesn't matter how good of a post you write, someone will think otherwise. To be human is to have opinions, and someone is certainly going to have one different from your own. I have my own opinions on right and wrong, and I occasionally blast someone I perceive for being a dummkopf.
Now, there are some rules to writing a post which will not end in a typed screaming match. At least, these are the rule I try to use. Generally, they've worked out well.
1. Think before posting— "Is this really a good idea?" "What's the popular response going to be?" "Have there been other threads like this?" "How did they end?" Just stuff like this. Consider deeply whether it's a good idea to hit that Post New Topic button.
2. Be understanding— If people are demonstrating an opinion different from your own, wonder why they have they opinion. Don't automatically think that you are in the right.
3. Be humble— Otherwise, be ready for others to take a dump all over your post. Nobody likes a braggart.
4. Research— If you aren't sure something's true, then it might not be. Make sure that you've researched all your content for consistency's sake.
5. Never assume— The snakes will come out of the woodworks to prove just how wrong you are.
6. Be patient— Really. Like, really really. Nothing is accomplished by going off the rails at someone, even if it feels good.
7. Be helpful— Ask yourself, "what does this post add to the community?" If you don't have an answer, don't post it.
These rules can also be applied to replies or comments after the initial post. In fact, they should be. You've all probably seen a thread that starts out well, then just implodes due to the things being said in the comments. Exercise these rules in that case. And whatever else you do, at least try to be nice, okay?
Otherwise, I will become cross, and annoyed River is not a happy River.
If you're reading this in order to better your writing skills, then I hope you've found this guide even the slightest bit helpful. If you're still struggling, I highly recommend checking out some of LittleWhiteMouse's ships reviews. Those are all great examples of a fantastic post, and demonstrates most of what I mentioned in the above post.
If you're reading this because it looked interesting and there was no other new topics, then I have an idea.
Post a link to this thread when you think someone else can benefit from it.
I would like to see this community become better writers, one and all.
TL;DR—Really? Put in a bit of effort man. Or watch this. It's what happens when you don't english right.
Credit to Macabe for suggesting it, and Weird Al for the OC.
Edited by RivertheRoyal, 07 March 2017 - 04:20 PM.