Coursera online course on clear and effective writing

Currently I'm taking several online courses at Coursera, related with my multi-faceted interests (i.e.: indecisive complex). While some are related more with my other interest of User Experience Design, there is one I found quite related with my food blogging hobby too: "Writing in The Sciences". This course itself is brought by the Stanford University.

Though the course title might looks a bit heavy for a blogger, but nevertheless bloggers facing a similar problem every writers everywhere have: how to write a good piece of writing. And this course provides good information about the subject of writing in general, including assignments and exercises to better understand about the subject.

But science is scary...

Should the word "Sciences" freaks you, as it is to those without a background in science, well it's intention is not to shoo non-scientific people away, but to address the specific challenges and needs of a scientific writing: "Communicates an idea clearly and effectively". As science naturally involves a lot of jargon and complex thoughts, therefore the need of clarity and effectiveness is paramount.

While presenting complex formulas and theory might not be a challenge bloggers might face daily, but the de-cluttering skill itself is applicable to any of non-fiction writing subjects, including blogging.

Course Materials 

In this course, the participants will learn the basics about:
  1. What makes good writing?
  2. What makes a good writer?
  3. Steps to becoming a better writer
Participants will also learn about how to:
  1. Communicates an idea clearly and effectively
  2. Develop an elegance and stylish writing
  3. Cut the clutters and bloats from a writing
  4. Writing effectively
Among the basic writing tenets that surprisingly many writers forgets:
  1. To become a good writer you must first read, pay attention, and imitate
  2. Write regularly in a journal (or blog) as exercise
  3. Write to engage your readers -- try not to bore them!
  4. Stop waiting for "inspiration"
  5. Accept that writing is hard for everyone, even for professionals!
  6. Revise, nobody gets it perfect on the first try
  7. Learn how to cut (editing) ruthlessly, never become to attached to your words
  8. Find a good editor!
  9. Take risks, get out of your box and get your own voice (writing style)

Is effective equal with boring?

A question might immediately arise from the bloggers though: "How could we create engaging writing with very minimum word plays?", would effective writing equals with boring? 

Well there's a saying that "designers aiming for usable is like a chef aiming for edible", and I think it fits to answer that question as well. While it's true that a writing sometimes benefited from stylizing, we shouldn't focus our effort into superficial decorating of our work, but on perfecting the other elements of writing instead: like the plot, the pace, the mood play, and inclusion of interesting/entertaining/surprising facts about the writing's subject. 

It should be like learning a recipe's basic then improves it with your own touch of creativity and imagination, instead of mere imitating the recipe then works only on decorating it; or worse, thoughtlessly throwing some stuffs together and label it "le' new interpretation." 

Even Pablo Picasso the famous cubism painter was once a very good portrait painter, before he went wild and inventing his own style of abstract painting -- after a long study of tribal art in the Africa. To get good in any arts, you have to master the basics first. 

Oh and did I mention that the course is free? For the list of available courses at Coursera, please click on this link. (byms)


ellynatjohnardi said...

I have been wondering how to improve my writings as well and voila, your tips are such a life saver. Many many thanks for sharing, Bayu!

bayuamus said...

You're welcome Ellyna. I'll be sharing future findings from this course as well so stay tuned ;-)

Unknown said...

Well, is there anyways that i can know about a non-fiction writing (if) coursera offers? for searching through the link you have mentioned does not show any results.