Most of my formal writing experience has been just that–formal. My ‘career’ in writing started in university and that means academic writing, which equals a formal style the average reader falls asleep to. Now, I must say, I did attempt to make my essays sound at least a little humorous where appropriate (one of my professors commented that he actually enjoyed reading them), but for the most part, university essays can be pretty dry.
Don’t get me wrong. I do enjoy (yes, enjoy) writing formal essays. So what’s my problem? It’s hard sometimes to write in an informal voice for magazine articles. I go along nicely for a while, but lapse back into formal mode. I’m reading, On Writing Well, by William Zinsser, in it he talks about writing with warmth and in a human voice. For some topics, this can be a challenge. Zinsser suggests writing in the first person narrative to overcome cold, technical writing. Then, if necessary, simply re-write in third person. It will definitely become a part of my writing practice.
Speaking of, On Writing Well, it’s been a great help to me in other areas of writing, including ending an article well. Zinsser says, when you feel like you’ve said everything you want, stop writing. “Wrap it up without summarizing too much.” Just the opposite of what the university courses taught me. Hmm. Guess I’ll have to unlearn some basic university writing principles.