Patricia Capracotta 53 articles

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How To Rewrite a Bad Article

Most bad articles happen because of the use of the passive voice, lack of conversational tone, and insufficient research on the topic. Determine whether you're writing in an active or a passive voice. Passive voice allows things to happen to your subject, while the active voice engages in the activity. Do your research, and then make sure you're speaking as conversationally as possible. 

While you definitely want to watch your grammar, spelling, and punctuation, you also want to sound conversational. One great way to hear whether your writing is flat or fabulous is to read it out loud. As you're reading notice the places where you need to stop and make sure you are using commas properly (and not over-using them). Listen for anything that sounds like it came out of your high school English teacher's mouth or that wouldn't be something you might say out loud if you were talking to someone else.

Although rewriting a bad article isn't the same as editing a good one, some of the practices carry-over well just the same. You can make the process of any rewrite smoother by giving yourself a little more information on your topic. Extra research can pay off big-time when you have an article that doesn't sound quite right. Sometimes the addition of a story or example, or a paragraph that relies heavily on facts or statistics can redeem an otherwise shabby piece.

One of my favorite books on the topic of writing is by William Zinsser. It's called “On Writing Well” and I highly recommend this book if you've never read it. The part of the book that jumps out the most at me is where he talks about clutter. I believe this is a life-long challenge for any writer – the decluttering process. It asks us to examine every word we write for its usefulness and to remove anything that does not uphold the ideals of economy and simplicity, or that speaks to beauty for beauty's sake, fads, or pretentiousness. Use this in the editing process for everything and you'll begin to see a marked improvement in your work.

You might not want to tell anyone else but, sometimes we can cut a deadline so close that we don't have the time to edit. Editing while you're writing can save time, but it can also leave you with a very mechanical sounding piece. Even if you're pressed for time, the read-aloud method shouldn't take you more than 5 to 10 minutes. This method seems to be one of the quickest ways to turn around an otherwise unusable article.

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