15 Tips For Becoming A Better Writer
By Michael Angier
Whether you're writing a memo, a letter, an article or a full-length
book, there are a few basic rules to keep in mind that will help your
message first to be read and then to be better understood and accepted.
1. Never Be Boring
Your reader will forgive almost anything except you being boring. Your
reader doesn't have to agree with you, but he or she should at least be
intrigued. Make the reader care. Don't be afraid to be "edgy."
Look at every sentence and ask yourself, "Why will the reader care
2. Write in Short Sentences
The reader shouldn't have to work hard to understand what you're saying.
If he or she has to go back over a sentence because of poor structure it's
not his or her fault, it's yours. Read what you've written aloud or have
someone else read it aloud to look for sentences that are too long or
3. Write to the Reader
Use "you" often. Look for ways to eliminate or reduce
"I" and "me." Present tense, second person is always
best. It feels more to readers like you're talking to them.
4. Go Active
Use active verbs as much as possible. They're more engaging. They move the
reader along and take fewer words to get your message across. "John
loves Mary" is much more powerful than "Mary is loved by
5. Keep it Simple
The front page of The Wall Street Journal and all of USA Today is written
for the eighth grade reading level. Why should we be any different? People
aren't interested in things they don't understand. Make your points
quickly and succinctly. Make your words work and use as few of them as
possible. Use the right word, not just to show off your vocabulary (or
your new thesaurus), but to convey your message clearly.
6. Tell Stories
Facts tell and stories sell. The best writers and speakers of the world
have always been good storytellers. Your own stories are the best. What
you are sharing is wisdom from your point of view and stories can
illustrate this better than anything else.
7. Know Your Subject
Write on things on which you've earned the right to write. The more you
know, the more confidence and credibility you'll have.
This is the radio station that everyone listens to. The call letters stand
for "What's in It For Me". People want to know what they'll get
out of what you're writing, so appeal to what they want.
9. Write Like You Talk
Often I see people who are good verbal communicators trying to put on a
different air in their writing. It doesn't work. It's much better to be
10. Paint Pictures
We think in pictures and should write in ways that create these pictures
in the mind of the reader. Be descriptive. Use examples. Describe the
unfamiliar by using some of the familiar. For example: "Jennifer's
first day at her new job reminded her of the freshness and unfamiliarity
she experienced on her first day of school."
11. Sleep On it
It's a rare individual who can sit down and write something well at the
first attempt. Any writing of import should be written and then reviewed
later, preferably at least a day later. Some things should be edited
several times over an extended period of time in order to properly convey
a clear understandable message.
12. Write and Read Extensively
This advice is from Stephen King, a prolific writer. If you want to be a
good writer you have to do two things … read a lot and write a lot.
13. Break it Down
Where appropriate use bullet points. Use them for summaries or outlines.
Think about someone who may only start out by scanning your text. Let your
bullet points draw the reader in.
14. Keep Paragraphs to no more than Six Lines
Short paragraphs provide white space to the text. They break up the page
and make it appear less formidable to the reader. Like in music, the space
between the notes is as important as the notes themselves.
15. Avoid using Capital Letters to make a Point
Capital letters are harder to read than upper and lower case. They also
can be perceived as SHOUTING! A little uppercase usage is OK but regular
use of words with every letter shown as a capital doesn't work and it
Writing can be a happy and rewarding experience. If you follow these
tips, you will find it easier to convey your written communications to
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