How to Write a Poem

by Tanner Tait

Writing poetry is rad, yo. Here are some tips on making it radder. (Step 1: make up your own words in poetry, but not for papers.)

2. Don’t use the word “very.” “Very” is rarely useful and it just fills up space, essentially blunting the sharpness of your other words.
Ex: Her smile was very beautiful and I was very much in love with her.
Fix: Her smile was beautiful and I was in love with her.
By leaving out “very,” the essentials remain. Conciseness is not always the name of the game in writing poetry, but adding unnecessary words certainly weakens the overall result.

3. Make sure you use colorful language that expresses your inner emotions, as well as the metaphors you are trying to paint for the reader.
Ex: I could not look away from the niceness of her hair. It was so nice.
Fix: I could not look away from the radiance of her hair. It was brilliant.
“Nice” is an okay word, but there are certainly more apposite words to use in describing someone beautiful. Try to capture the essence of your feelings and/or the subject. Does “nice” really fit the bill of your true love’s hair? Or is it radiant, like the sun? What? Similes! That’s right.

4. But be warned: a colorful vocabulary is beneficial, but using an antiquated lexicon is sometimes detrimental. Translation: words that are “long and foreign-sounding,” do not always improve your writing. Take from this ancient adage: Don’t use a five-dollar word when a fifty-cent word will do.
Ex: His puissant forearms, pushed twixt two planks.
Fix: His burly arms, pushed between two mahogany planks.
If you use a bunch of fancy-sounding words, you’re probably not going to sound fancy. It conveys an anxiety in the writer to sound all-knowing and experienced, while simultaneously revealing that the writer Googled “Cool ways to say ‘strong’ and other things.” Definitely keep a thesaurus close by when you write, but leave the Oxford English Dictionary for research.

5. Make sure you know the difference between such words as “affect” and “effect,” “then” and “than,” “there,” “their,” and “they’re,” and all of the other words that writers easily confuse. For a helpful info-comic, check out The Oatmeal.
Ex: You’re eyes keep me alive, from there blue oceans two they’re white valleys.
Fix: Your eyes keep me alive, from their blue oceans to their white valleys.
That being said, it is possible to use “effect” as both a noun and a verb, so if you can use it in such a way that another person attempts to correct you on its usage, when it is actually correct, then you instantly gain power from their fault in attempted dominance. Take that!

6. And finally, if you followed all of my steps but you still need some pointers, come visit The Writing Center in the Dominican Center. We are here to help make you a stronger, more confident writer than you already are.
Ex: I’m a terrible writer and I don’t know how to write anything lol 😦
Fix: No, you are not. Come visit us so we can turn that frown 😦 upside down 🙂

Book an appointment here: https://sites.google.com/a/my.msmc.edu/writing-center/make-an-appointment

…And when you come in for your appointment, or when you come in asking for help on booking an appointment, come give me a high-five.

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