Write … to the Point

– writing tips and tricks

Archive for the month “February, 2016”

The one thing you can do to make you a better writer

Become a better writer

Most writers struggle with their writing sometimes. Whether it be writer’s block, or working out the best angle your article should take, some days this writing business is hard work.

Have you ever noticed though, that once you get away from your desk and go for a walk, or engage in some exercise, the floodgates open, and all of a sudden, you know exactly how to tackle your story?

That’s because regular exercise has proven benefits for brain function.

The reason you often come up with ideas for your story while walking is because walking can boost creativity by up to 60 per cent. [i] If you engage in an aerobic workout, your creativity levels are boosted for up to two hours! [ii]


All exercise benefits your brain

But don’t worry: You don’t have to don the lycra and head out the door to your local aerobics class prior to every writing session. Just incorporating regular exercise into your routine will help those brain cells function better. Numerous studies have proven it.

For example:

  • regular exercise increases memory and the ability to learn new things [iii]great if you are tackling new subject matter!
  • regular aerobic exercise changes the brain to improve memory and thinking skills [iv]definitely handy if you have to interview someone and think of really cool questions to ask.
  • just 20 minutes of exercise, facilitates information processing and memory functions [v]even writers can find 20 minutes to spare!
  • exercise increases levels of brain-derived proteins (known as BDNF) which are believed to help with decision making, higher thinking and learning [vi]definitely things that help with writing.
  • cardiovascular exercise improves overall brain performance by creating new brain cells [vii]who doesn’t want new brain cells?
  • people who exercise on a regular basis are more productive than those who do not engage in regular activity [viii]that means less time behind the keyboard, and more time for other fun stuff. Not that writing isn’t fun…


Tips for more exercise….and better writing

Now you know that exercising regularly will help your writing, how do you go about fitting it in? Well, there are many ways to go about it. If you are a freelancer or work from home, you have even more flexibility when it comes to physical activity.

You could:

  • commit to a regular exercise class at a time of day that suits you
  • go for a quick walk when writer’s block sets in (or check out these tips to beat writer’s block)
  • take regular breaks from your workstation, even if it is just to use the bathroom or make a coffee
  • perform regular stretches
  • walk around while you are on the phone
  • suggest a ‘walking meeting’ rather than one behind desks
  • walk to the café for your morning coffee….and your afternoon one!
  • incorporate more movement into your day (e.g. physically get up to talk to a colleague instead of emailing them, or take the stairs instead of the lift)
  • cycle on the weekends
  • take up a team sport.

If you’re the kind of writer who likes to sit at your computer for hours on end, drinking bottomless cups of coffee, getting into the habit of exercise may be tricky. But the benefits are worth it. You’ll increase your creativity, your productivity and may even improve your career prospects as a writer.

Why wouldn’t you want that?

Until next time.



PS. Here are the references if you’re keen to read further.

[i] Journal of Experimental Psychology: Give your ideas some legs: The positive effect of walking on creative thinking, Oppezzo, Marily, Scwartz, L Daniel, July 2014 Vol 40. No 4, pp1142-52,  http://psycnet.apa.org/psycinfo/2014-14435-001/

[ii] British Journal of Sports Medicine, Exercise enhances creativity independently of mood, H Steinberg, EA Sykes, T Moss, S Lowery, N LeBoutillier, A Dewey. September 1997, Volume 31 no. 3 pp240-45, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1332529/

[iii] Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Exercise training increases size of hippocampus and improves memory, KI Erickson, MW Voss, RS Prakash, C Basak, A Szabo, L Chaddock, JS Kim, S Heo, H Alves, SM White, TR Wojcicki, E Mailey. VJ Vieira, SA Martin, BD Pence, JA Woods, E McAuley, AF Kramer. 15 February 2011; Vol 108 no. 7; pp-3017-22 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21282661

[iv] British Journal of Sports Medicine, Aerobic exercise increases hippocampal volume in older women with probably mild cognitive impaiarment: a 6-month randomised controlled trial, L F  en Brinke, N Bolandzadeh, LS Nagamatsu, CL Hsu, JC Davis, K Miran-Khan, T Liu-Ambrose, 7 April, 2014 (online) http://bjsm.bmj.com/content/early/2014/03/04/bjsports-2013-093184.abstract?sid=ecff0a48-d4fd-4a9d-b34a-156ca915a79e

Brain HQ, Physical Exercise for Brain Health, http://www.brainhq.com/brain-resources/everyday-brain-fitness/physical-exercise

New York Times, Want to be More Creative? Take a Walk.; published 30 April 2014, http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/04/30/want-to-be-more-creative-take-a-walk/?_r=0

Harvard Medical School, Regular exercise changes the brain to improve memory, thinking skills; published 9 April, 2014, http://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/regular-exercise-changes-brain-improve-memory-thinking-skills-201404097110

[v] Science Direct, Effects of acute bouts of exercise on cognition, Phillip D. Tomoporowski, published 4 December 2002;  http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0001691802001348

[vi] Physiology and Behaviour, Aerobic exercise improves hippocampal function and increases BDNF in the serum of young adult males, EW Griffin, S Mullally, C Foley, SA WArmington, SM O’Mara, AM Kelly, 24 October 2011; 104 (5) pp934-41 http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S003193841100308

[vii] Neuroscience, Aerobic exercise is the critical variable in an enriched environment that increases hippocampa neurogenesis and water maze learning in male C57BL/6J mice, ML Mustroph, S Chen, SC Desai, EB Cay, EK De Young, JS Rhodes, 6 September, 2012, 219: pp62-71 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22698691

[viii] Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Employee self-rated productivity and objective organizational production levels: effects of worksite health interventions involving reduced work hours and physical exercise, U von Thiele Schwartz, U Hasson, August 1011, Volume 52 no. 8 pp 838-44 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21785369



Writing with numbers

Writing with numbers

Did you know there are rules and conventions surrounding the use of numbers when you write?

Many people don’t.

While rules surrounding the use of numbers and numerals in writing aren’t as strict as those that apply to spelling and grammar, proper use of them, or sticking to an agreed Style Guide can make your writing much easier to read.

Here are some basic rules to make your use of numbers more consistent.

Know when to spell them out
Generally speaking, numbers from one to nine, should be spelled and numbers 10 and above can be written using numerals.

Money talks
When discussing the subject of money, stick to numerals. It is much easier to read. When talking about cents, either write it in full (e.g. “sixty cents” or “60 cents”). Avoid “$0.60”.

To avoid any confusion, use numerals when writing out decimals. (e.g. “1.5 per cent”, NOT “one point five per cent”).

Use a comma
Commas should be used in numbers of four or more digits to separate hundreds, thousands and millions, etc. (e.g. 1,500; 100,000, etc.)

Start sentences with words, not numbers
Avoid beginning sentences with numbers. Where possible, re-write the sentence. Where it’s not possible, then spell out the word. (e.g. “Twenty thousand people” instead of 20,000 people). In the case of spelling out compound numbers, use a dash (e.g. “forty-five people”, rather than “forty five people”).

When writing speeds, it’s preferable to use numerals, simply because that’s what most people read when they drive. So, the speed limit is “60km per hour”, not “sixty km per hour”.

Years, decades and centuries
You should write the year using numerals (e.g. 2016). However, when it comes to decades or centuries, a spelled out version is preferable (e.g. “the nineties” or “seventeenth century”).

When referring to time, keep it simple and use numerals when referring to time (e.g. “5.15am”, instead of “five-fifteen in the morning”).

Percentages can be tricky
Ultimately, it will come down to the style guide of the organisation you are writing for. If you work for a scientific or medical industry, it may be preferable to express percentage with the symbol ‘%’. However, in more formal writing it is preferable to use ‘percentage’ or ‘per cent’ instead.

Fractions should be expressed in a format that is easy to read. That means the top figure in superscript, followed by a slash and the second number in subscript (e.g. “1/8”). Do not use the form “one eighth”.

When writing about degrees, always use numerals. For example, 9 degrees, NOT nine degrees. You may also wish to use the symbol “°”. However, remember that there should be no space between the numeral and the symbol. (e.g. 35°C).

What about recipes?
Recipes are less formal and need to be easy to read and understand. For this reason, express measurements in numeral form. (e.g. “2 tablespoons”, “1 ½ cups”, etc.).

Large numbers
Sometimes large numbers are best rounded up or down, and expressed as a combination of written word and numerals. For example, “200 million” is easier to read than “200,000,000”. However, if you need to write an exact number, use the numeral format (e.g. “200, 186, 348”).

Numbers close together
Every now and then, you will come across two different numbers written next to each other. For example, “we surveyed 12 45-year-olds”. In this case, spell out one of the numbers (usually the lowest number), so it looks like this “we surveyed twelve 45-year-olds”.

Depending upon the genre of your writing and who your audience is, you may find you need to bend some of the above rules a little bit. That’s fine. Just make sure that however you write, you are consistent across the board.

The best way to do this is to develop your own in-house Style Guide.

If you would like help developing a Style Guide for your business, or need help with your writing needs, please contact us. We would love to work with you.



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