The Lifelong Learner :: Do what you can, with what you have, where you are -Roosevelt ::

Posts Tagged 'writing'

Simple Rules for Better Writing June 22nd, 2007
Concise Writing October 30th, 2006
Better Cover Letter: Grab Their Attention April 20th, 2005
Better Writing March 28th, 2005
Show, Don't Tell November 11th, 2004

Simple Rules for Better Writing

Want some good tips for better writing? I’ve got something just for you! :-) Read on.

The Day You Became A Better Writer

I went from being a bad writer to a good writer after taking a one-day course in “business writing.” I couldn’t believe how simple it was. I’ll tell you the main tricks here so you don’t have to waste a day in class.

Business writing is about clarity and persuasion. The main technique is keeping things simple. Simple writing is persuasive. A good argument in five sentences will sway more people than a brilliant argument in a hundred sentences. Don’t fight it.

Simple means getting rid of extra words. Don’t write, “He was very happy” when you can write “He was happy.” You think the word “very” adds something. It doesn’t. Prune your sentences.

Humor writing is a lot like business writing. It needs to be simple. The main difference is in the choice of words. For humor, don’t say “drink” when you can say “swill.”

Your first sentence needs to grab the reader. Go back and read my first sentence to this post. I rewrote it a dozen times. It makes you curious. That’s the key.

Write short sentences. Avoid putting multiple thoughts in one sentence. Readers aren’t as smart as you’d think.

Learn how brains organize ideas. Readers comprehend “the boy hit the ball” quicker than “the ball was hit by the boy.” Both sentences mean the same, but it’s easier to imagine the object (the boy) before the action (the hitting). All brains work that way. (Notice I didn’t say, “That is the way all brains work”?)

That’s it. You just learned 80% of the rules of good writing. You’re welcome.


The Day You Became A Better Writer, The Dilbert Blog

Concise Writing

The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr.”); ?>

Better Cover Letter: Grab Their Attention

I will give you two tips on how you can make your cover letter better.

One, make sure that it is actually read by the recipients. How? The answer is simple: Grab their attention right away. How do you do that? You need to put an attention-grabbing statement right away in the letter. (Did I grab your attention in the opening statement of this post?) For example, you might start (I like this one): “THREE reasons why I believe I may be the candidate you’re looking for to fill [the position].” Read the whole article by Jimmy Sweeney here.

Two, include an attention grabbing P.S. (Post Script). I have to admit this is true, I’m jumping to a P.S. right away (have you read the P.S in this post, yet?). If not, I almost always read it. From now on, I’m going to use it to my advantage. :-) You’ll find the whole article, also by Jimmy Sweeney here.

P.S.The articles are taken from a newsletter I subscribe to.

Better Writing

Writing, Briefly by Paul Graham is a great set of tips and tricks on how to write better. I like to listen to the best and learn. I said it before, Paul Graham is one of the best writers I know. Listen to him and learn. Read his essays.

Show, Don't Tell

When she was home from her boarding-school I used to see her almost every day sometimes, because their house was right opposite the Town Hall Annexe. She and her younger sister used to go in and out a lot, often with young men, which of course I didn’t like. When I had a free moment from the files and ledgers I stood by the window and used to look down over the road over the frosting and sometimes I’d see her. In the evening I marked it in my observations diary, at first with X, and then when I knew her name with M. ….

The above is a starting passage from The Collector by John Fowles. It illustrates the principle “Show The Story” very well. It is one of the major principles of writing. By showing the story, not simply telling, a reader is exploring it the same way as the author. The reader sees what the writer sees.

I recently listened to a book by Sol Stein, Stein on Writing. It is a book where Stein, master editor and a great writer, shows you how to improve your writing. He shows you. He doesn’t just tell you the theory behind it. How? By giving you countless examples. It’s a great book if you want to improve your writing.

The two principles from this book that I’m going to remember when I’m writing:

1. Show, Don’t Tell

2. Use Distinctive Detail

To use distinctive detail, or to particulate, is to make the character, scene, or story unique. Make is so distinctive that you can actully see it in your eyes. You can visualize it.

Check out the book, or listen to it, and learn.

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