It’s a new year, so it’s time to kick your bad habits to the curb. We suggest you free yourself from your unhealthy dependence on poor writing and resolve to #WriteBetter in 2014! We’re here to help you out with our top five style secrets. (Click here for a list of our top five writing pet peeves.)
Read on to get 2014 off to the “write” start!
1. Shorter is sweeter.
Wordy writing is hard to understand. Keep your sentences clean, crisp, and clear. If a sentence takes up three lines of text, break it in half. Likewise, paragraphs longer than six sentences can be intimidating. Break them up, but maintain a logical structure. Remove any information that isn’t directly related to the focus of your paragraph or article. If you can get your point across in 300 words, don’t say it in 600.
2. “Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity!”
Henry David Thoreau said it best in his treatise on living with purpose, Walden. Avoid the temptation to puff up your writing with unnecessarily complicated words or complex sentences. If your reader has to re-read each sentence two to three times, you are not doing your job right! Be prepared to revise your draft several times in order to create simple writing that isn’t simplistic.
3. Subdivide and conquer.
You don’t need to rely on fancy words to give your work pizzazz. Especially in a longer piece, divide your text into sections and open each with a relevant, eye-catching heading. This piques your reader’s interest and helps her identify your key points.
4. Take a stand.
Why say that something “seems to be” when you really think it “is”? Why say something “may have been” when you believe it “was”? Make statements with conviction, and back them up with evidence. Your writing will benefit. If you’re not convinced, take a look at this video:
5. “Precision is next to godliness.”
So said playwright Samuel Beckett, who understood the relationship between meaning and absurdity. It takes extra effort to be specific in your writing, rather than rely on vague generalities and buzzwords. But if you fail to be specific, your written work won’t contribute anything of value. In this social media age, we live in an echo chamber, where “writers” throw euphemisms and empty catchphrases back and forth at each other, accomplishing exactly nothing. Push yourself to say what you really mean, and your work will be memorable.
Implement these five secrets in your next piece of writing and let us know if they help you #WriteBetter!
Posted by Beth Connolly