How can you analyse your own writing?

Writing tipsThe hardest thing for writers is to read our own work and gauge how it comes across. One effective way is to examine the first sentences of your paragraphs. Are they mostly descriptive? Do they often start with someone else’s idea, or perhaps an accumulator such as ‘furthermore’ or ‘also’; or do they contain an argument or a pivot, such as ‘however’, ‘on the other hand’, and so on?

Writing with mainly descriptive openings can read like a list, while too many accumulators suggests a lack of nuance. Too much use of others’ work sounds derivative and too many in-your-face arguments turn your piece into a polemic, or a rant. Often, the very best writing starts with an argument, followed by evidence, followed by scrutiny and doubt; then affirmation by another source, then significance. Those rules work well within paragraphs; they also work well on a larger scale, so that groups of paragraphs follow those structural rules too. And it’s easy to see how your writing comes across if you analyse those first lines: they are a dead giveaway to your writing behaviour.

Max Adams
27 July 2016