A couple of weeks ago I visited a meeting of the seminar to offer some thoughts on my experiences in writing. That appearance was recorded, and if you really want to see it, my bet is that if you contact the director of the Writing Center, he'll find a way to make it available to you. I haven't seen it, and I'm scared to look at it, both because I don't like the way I look and sound when I'm recorded, and because I confessed to some writing aspirations and habits that were a bit embarrassing to admit.1
I will share one observation I've made. It's not original, and I've realized it for so long that I can't remember where I first learned that someone else had made it.
You can't write clearly if you haven't thought clearly. Fuzzy thoughts make fuzzy words, and fuzzy words almost always mean the thoughts are fuzzy.For me, that has a corollary:
Pay very close attention to which words you use and to how you construct sentences and paragraphs. Your writing should do more than get the gist of your idea across. It should communicate your idea so clearly that a reader can explain it to someone else.That means, among other things, picking exactly the write word to convey what you're trying to say. It also means using words correctly. Taylor Houston recently compiled a list of 10 words you may be using wrong. Read it, remember it, and don't use those words wrong again.
Then get yourself a good dictionary and consult it frequently. When in doubt about whether the word you've chosen is right - Is ad "affect" or "effect" in this sentence? - pull that dictionary off the shelf and check.
And read books, newspapers, and magazines that are edited well. I recommend The New York Times,2 The Washington Post, The Economist, and The New Yorker, but there are many others.