Fall in love with the full stop. The more full stops you have, the greater the chance your writing will be energetic and clear.
Most writers don’t reach the period soon enough, according to writer, editor and teacher William Zinsser.
Get to the period quicker and your sentences will get stronger. Resist the temptation to bolt two thoughts together with a conjunction. One thought per sentence is plenty.
When you feel tempted by a comma, hit the period key instead. Scrutinize your longer sentences. Every time you see a comma or a colon, every time you see an ‘and’ or a ‘but’ or some other joining word holding two thoughts together – stop and think.
Separate those two or three or five thoughts into separate thoughts in separate sentences.
The payoff is more muscular sentences, easier to read and easier to comprehend.
Try to keep sentences to 20 words or less. Your readers will thank you.
Here’s a quick round-up of writing tips:
- Have a clear objective in mind. Why are you writing?
- What do you want to say? Focus your ideas into one big thought, and express it in one short sentence.
- Hook your reader. It could be a dynamite headline, a strong first sentence, a tease, or an offer the reader can’t resist.
- Identify the pain. Summarize the problem.
- Present your solution, answer the ‘so what?’ question, and support your solution with quotes and testimonials.
- Write as you speak. Use ‘Hi Mom’ to make sure no jargon or bafflegab is sneaking into your sentences. Keep it simple.
- Keep it short. Short words. Short sentences. One thought per sentence.
- Strip out clutter. Would you pay $1 for every word? Eliminate every word that’s not working hard for you.
- Avoid adverbs and adjectives. Put your trust in muscular verbs.
- Tell stories. Stories make information memorable.
- Specifics beat generalities; action beats abstraction.
- Provide signposts to help the reader navigate around your thoughts.
- Plot the structure carefully before you start writing.
- Rewrite everything.
Neil Everton has distilled a lifetime’s experience with some of the world’s top news organizations into his Media Mastery training aids for anyone worried about talking to reporters. The video, books, e-books and workbooks are available in the Podium Coaching online store.