Pyramids, Commas, Synonyms and Sizzle: Halp Me!
The creative freedom and flexible lifestyle that come with writing content for your livelihood can be exhilarating! But the seemingly bottomless pit of minutia governing the written word can be overwhelming, especially in the beginning. Use these resources to get your freelance writer’s legs solidly planted underneath you.
Upside down pyramids and the press
You’ll often find clients who request “AP style and inverted pyramid, please.” Journalists use Associated Press style when writing news, but many other institutions adhere to the guidelines. Every spring, The AP Stylebook is updated to reflect the rules governing punctuation, hyphenation, capitalization, abbreviation, and word and numeral usage. Grab the paperback or an individual online subscription. It more than pays for itself when you aren’t sure if “antibacterial” needs a hyphen or “health care” is one word or two.
The inverted, or upside-down, pyramid format requires that you lead off your article with the most interesting and pertinent information. Structure your writing so that the content tapers down in importance, with the least substantial material at the end.
You’ve probably noticed that some clients, writing platforms, and editors have very strong preferences when it comes to the serial comma, aka Oxford comma. Some forbid it, others insist upon it. This is the comma placed (or omitted) before the coordinating conjunction (and, or, nor) in a series of three or more words. It can be challenging to retrain yourself in comma usage, but once you integrate the style guide requirements of your various writing venues, switching back and forth will come naturally.
Commas are tricky little buggers with an absurd number of rules. If you’re the tactile type who feels secure with quick reference at your elbows when writing content, this comprehensive Self-Teaching Unit: Major Comma Uses from Townson University is a fabulous resource.
When you can’t use “elegant” for the third time
Nothing is more frustrating when writing content on a daily basis than finding yourself adjective-constipated! If you spend more than a few seconds mentally groping for a fresh option for a word you’ve overused in your blog post, keep thesaurus.com open in a tab.
Jump on over and plug in your abused descriptor, and instead of an elegant home you’ll discuss an opulent home. An attractive office desk chair becomes a handsome seat offering stately comfort.
Chumming for fresh ideas
Many clients will require a pitch from you. They want you to come up with the idea for your own article. Some writers love this; others don’t have the time or energy for it. Here’s a fun resource guaranteed to help you write kick-ass blog titles and headlines today! Print it out and flip through it when your idea generator engine stalls out.
Work with an editor — or 500
One of the most helpful things you can do to get up to speed with the proper grammar, punctuation, spelling, and construction required when writing content for money is to align yourself with good editors. As you search around the web for the content platforms that best fit your needs, you’re going to find several that require constant interface with an editorial division. Yes, it can be exasperating — and very humbling — but ultimately it will serve you well. One day you’ll realize how much you’ve learned about the mechanics of great writing, and that frees you up to be even more creative. Which is why you write content in the first place, right?
Writer Bio: Laura W is a freelance writer available for projects at WriterAccess.