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Hints for writing
PLEASE, write about ONE AND ONLY ONE company at a time. If you have two company names in your article, you may have two separate articles. Please separate them.
How to write articles. The thought of writing intimidates many people, maybe the majority. I will not try to fool you; writing is NOT AS EASY as it looks.
Fortunately, there are tricks.
Trick 1: Divide the task into logical parts. Do one - and only one - task at a time.
Your tasks are:
It is crucial that you do NOT combine steps.
Step 1. Research. Research is, of course, critical. You cannot write factual articles unless you know the facts. Never ever trust your memory.
Step 2. Organize. It should be obvious that you need to organize your thoughts before writing. It is especially necessary when writing non-fiction. Fortunately, when writing short articles about history, telling the story in a time-wise fashion makes the most sense. You don't need to make an outline to be organized, but you need to know which facts come first.
Step 3. Write. The better organized you are, the more your story will write itself. And, make sure you are telling a story. Facts are dry. On the other hand, if you tell a story, people will read all the way to the end.
Try to use active sentence construction. Active sentences are simple and powerful. They tell the story like this: "Investors organized the company in 1880."
On the other hand, a passive sentence looks like this: "The company was organized in 1880." Passive sentences are unavoidable, but they are weak. Readers see the same information, but they are left to wonder who organized the company. Sooner or later, (usually, very soon) passive sentences put people to sleep.
Save space by using complete company names only once. From then on, use typical company abbreviations.
Trick 2: NEVER, NEVER, NEVER edit yourself while writing. Just write. Turn your spell-checker off. Turn your grammar-checker off. Some people even turn their monitors off! If you are correcting yourself while you are writing, then you are not telling a story. You are editing. Don't do that!
Step 4. Edit. Editing is the most important part of writing. Editing is actually more important than writing.
Editing is a separate step, quite distinct from writing. In fact, you actually use different parts of your brain! Writing is a creative effort. Editing is a technical process. The two tasks do not mix.
Trick 3: Put time between writing and editing. The more time, the better. Unless you are in a time-crunch, wait at least two or three days before editing. Once you try this, you will learn why this is such a dramatic trick.
Trick 4: Read out loud. Reading out loud makes editing easier. Yes, you will feel stupid the first time you do this. (Do it when no one else is in the house or you will really feel like a dork!) But, do it anyway. If your writing does not sound good to your ear, it does not work in print.
Trick 5: During editing, throw stuff out. Many of your words will not actually advance your story. Over-writing is inevitable. You will seldom go wrong by removing text. Remove words and sentences. Then go back and remove more. In most cases, you should be able to remove 10% to 20% of your original text. Never be afraid to delete.
Recommended length. For small companies or companies that only lasted a short while, a single paragraph is adequate. Two at most. For very major companies (Union Pacific, BNSF, New York Central), two to four paragraphs are okay. For companies between these extremes, no more than three paragraphs. The goal is to summarize a company, not to write a definitive history.
References. I require references, no matter how short your article. You need to let people know where you found your information. Interested readers must be able to cover the same ground that you did. I make exceptions for direct, personal knowledge.
I ask that all your references be published in hard form such as books, magazines, newspapers, encyclopedias. With rare exceptions, web references are not acceptable.
Because facts discovered from web references are, quite literally, ONE CLICK away from disappearing.
As good as they are, web sources are ephemeral. A week, a month, or a year from now, your web references will change. Many references disappear. Even the best sources can "go dark" for any of a thousand reasons.
My rules, only a couple:
Save your file in usable form. Handwritten or typewritten text is fine for people without computers. If you write on a computer, then save as a text file or a Word document. PC format only! If you write on a Mac, then please send your article as either a plain text file or as an Acrobat file (PDF.) There is no need to zip (compress) your files.
How to send. Email is the easiest way to send your articles.
Of course, you can always mail written pages or CDs. Send by regular mail to
4891 Independence St, Suite 190
Wheat Ridge, CO 80033
I will edit your article as little as possible to correct spelling, grammar, and consistency. Don't be afraid to make mistakes. I am here to help.
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