The Sign Doctor   »  Step 8: The writing process – making heritage come to life

Step 8: The writing process – making heritage come to life

James Carter says that writing interpretation is more like writing a letter to a friend than a report for a committee or an academic essay. It needs enthusiasm and life in its language.
Like any good story, the opening line should make you want to continue.

This is best done by making it personal. Refer to your visitors as “you”, or even give them a challenge for added interest, for example:

“If you’re lucky, you might see a Dipper in the river below”.

Inviting people to use their senses is very powerful but do it sparingly. Don’t ask people to look, shut their eyes, sniff or listen at each sign!

Make plenty of comparisons using similes or paint pictures with your words using metaphors so people can better relate to the what you are saying. For example:

Metaphor: The first Arctic explorers went through a rollercoaster ride of emotions

Comparison (simile): In places, this fjord is as deep as the mountains are high

As soon as you use the words “like” or “as”, this is a comparison (simile), while a metaphor uses another an unrelated word or phrase that isn’t literally true paint a picture you can relate to (“her/his smile is pure sunshine”) Both are imaginative figures of speech.

Use plenty of comparisons, metaphors and analogies (similes) so people can relate to what they are reading about. For example:

Comparison (simile) or metaphor?

Inject life into your language. A bird can fly for sure but it can also swoop, soar, glide or flutter which is much more interesting. We are not all walking dictionaries so do use the thesaurus in your word processor app for inspiration.

Change the length of your sentences (10-20 words) and paragraphs (no more than 50 words) to avoid boredom setting in. Keep the reader fresh and engaged by varying the tempo of your text. It’s easy, almost natural, to do if you’re telling an exciting story.

Always keep it simple! Try to keep to the rule: one idea per sentence. Lengthy sentences can be complex. They can ask too much of visitors to follow several concepts or ideas then confusion or worse, frustration and misunderstanding, occurs.

For more writing tips and techniques see step 10!