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Rhythm and writing that feels right

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While I don’t remember everything I’ve written throughout my career, I can recognise my own work by the rhythm of the prose. Can you?

When it comes to the written word we all express ourselves differently. Writing comes from the unconscious, and the way that a writer thinks, puts ideas into words and builds them into text is different for everyone. And how the writer works will make a difference to how the reader will read and receive the message.

Depending on the purpose of the work the flow of writing might be informal and chatty or it could flow like music or poetry to convey feelings or tell a story. Alternatively, it could be short and to the point to convey a very clear message with authority.

Some writers are generous with words and thoughts and use a greater vocabulary, streaming many ideas together to set a scene. If you read a Jane Austen novel you will notice that she can fill a whole page with one sentence that is carefully structured as a series of different phrases. Austen’s writing style is complicated by today’s standards.

By contrast, writers who use very few words and express their ideas in short, simple sentences can come across as cold, direct and authoritarian. This kind of writing works best when it’s used for instructions or directions and other situations where clarity and impact are needed.  Also, for practical reasons, short clear text works better on a smaller screen.

Technical people tend write briefly. What’s more, they often use inverted sentences like this one: “Inverted sentences are written by engineers because this style of writing is preferred for scientific and technical papers.” It’s generally better to avoid inverted sentences in journalistic writing.

If you look at the work of professional journalists, you will find many styles of writing in print and online but the tendency today is to use shorter, cleaner sentence constructions so that people and search engines can read them more easily.

In my own writing, I might change a four syllable word to a three syllable word to improve the flow of the language. Similarly, I could change a word with emphasis on the first syllable to one with the emphasis on the last to create a more comfortable rhythm. This is how I recognise my own work: I can recognise its rhythm.

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