Thursday, August 10, 2006

on writing well

from Leadership Journal:

Use action verbs
Forms of the verb “to be”—is, was, were, etc., make for dead writing. In every possible case, pick forceful verbs.

Use anecdotes
Each point in a Leadership article needs a carefully chosen illustration, colorfully written. By basing principles in specific experiences, we show how to minister effectively amid the complexity and ambiguity of real life.

Use short sentences whenever possible
Variety of length, of course, contributes to good style, but writers err more often with too many long sentences than short ones.

Use long words only when necessary
Some critics claim scholars and professionals purposely write to obfuscate meaning, to cover fuzzy thinking, or to sound intellectual. Of this Leadership writers will never be guilty!

Assume your reader bores easily
Remember, if he flips the page from lack of interest, you’ve lost! Keep asking yourself, “What grabs my attention? An illustration? A fresh insight? A well-turned phrase?” Keep the reader with you by introducing a constant stream of interesting material.

After writing your manuscript, go through it and see how many action verbs you have. Mark each noun you can taste, hear, see, smell, or feel. You can see hubcaps, handkerchiefs, coffee mugs, and lightning bugs. Good writers fill their prose with objects you literally see in your mind’s eye. Be as specific as possible. For instance, “Toyota” is better than “car” for conjuring up an image.

ht: Steve Addison


Anonymous said...

I've been reading your blog for years and I've really noticed lately how your writing is improving. Mostly it has better flow and I can "hear your voice" so to speak. Less academic, more accessible. It's not that it was bad before, it's just that you're getting really, really good now. Well done. Gold star :)

Stephen said...

hey you made my day! I have been trying to write using a simpler style.