Writing is need of the hour
Writing is so essential in these days that many think it is only for writers or novelist. But if you turn around everyone writes in one form or other. You write email, documentation, chat, tweet, a facebook post. With the advent of pandemic, face to face interactions have reduced. We need to write more than ever.
what is that really stops you from reading this text that is this long and why cant I continue to write this like and still have your attention and what in this sentence is something making you hard to follow what I am writing.
Can you say what you dont like about the above sentence ? There is lot many things going on. It is making the reading hard to follow along. I have already lost your interest before you finished reading that sentence.
Cognitive load on my reader is way high than needed.
More I write, more I see the need for writing better. It is getting hard to convey an idea in writing. One of the reasons many great ideas dont get the traction it needs. Why certain articles or blog stands out than others ? Why certain writers are able to make connection with their readers than many ? I am a novice and I want to learn this.
There are many books and articles that do go in detail on many aspects of writing. They give you good tips. But here I focus on some core patterns I found going through many interviews of writers and books I read. So few things that stood out.
Write without fear, edit without mercy
Starting to write without fear is the hard part. I want to explain this with a mini thought.
When I injured my knee, I met with a Physiotherapist. Therapy includes some exercises that were hard for me. I sulk at them. But you know he starts the session by saying
Hard part is over. You showed up. Now we move to easy part which is doing the exercise.
Showing up is the hard. Sitting down to write is the hard part. Once you sit down you are already done 50% of work. When you think about the result it makes the process hard. Focus on writing and over a period of time it will get better. Content is the king. Everyone has something to contribute back to this world. Writing is one form of contributing. When you start enjoying the process, results come. I am not good but I enjoy writing. So If I can write, you can.
“If you are writing without zest, without gusto, without love, without fun, you are only half a writer. It means you are so busy keeping one eye on the commercial market, or one ear peeled for the avant-garde coterie, that you are not being yourself. You don’t even know yourself. For the first thing a writer should be is?– Be excited.”
Simplify, Simplify, Simplify
“Many people assume there’s a correlation between sentence length and the sophistication or complexity of an idea or thought?–even intelligence generally. There isn’t…. You can say smart, interesting, complicated things using short sentences.”
Wordy sentences bore the readers. You can’t have their attention. Be direct, to the point without beating around the bush. Get to the point sooner. Give them a reason why they should be reading your piece. A tool journalist use Inverted Pyramid. What you want to convey goes at the top in a broadest sense. You then taper down to details. You would notice, news starts with headlines.
Clear thinking becomes clear writing
Writing is hard. Clear sentence is no accident. Writer has to work for it. Simplifying your sentences is the hard part.
I saw a tweet. It goes as a conversation between a writer and a newbie.
Newbie: How does writing work ? Writer: Well you type & delete. You rethink. Then you do a 187 min of research and correct it. You reread & wonder if english is good. Then you revise.
Newbie: Then you’re done with the book ?
Writer: Then you move to the next sentence
You get the point. Work on your sentence and don’t make your reader do the hard work. An average reader has an attention span of 30 sec. Convey your point in a de-cluttered fashion.
Write in Active Voice
Generally, good writers write in Active voice for all non-scientific writing. It is direct and keeps the sentences short and crisp.
“Mistakes were made” - Passive
who made the mistake here ? It is not clear when you write in passive. Reader has to assume, which adds to the cognitive load. So instead, let’s write the above in active voice,
“We made mistakes” - Active
It is direct, no assumptions, who made the mistake is clear.
Word clutter is everywhere you turn. Good writers prefer simple words where possible. Excerpt from book “On Writing Well”
“the long word that’s no better than the short word: “assistance” (help), “numerous” (many), “facilitate” (ease), “individual” (man or woman), “remainder” (rest), “initial” (first), “implement” (do), “sufficient” (enough), “attempt” (try), “referred to as” (called) and hundreds more”
If you notice at corporates they call something as business writing. It goes like,
"herewithin find the requisite exposition of aforementioned appraisement ".
"In this letter, I explain how we arrived at the appraisal value.".
Which one would you prefer reading in your busy schedule. Your goal is to communicate well. Simple words help you do that. Don’t clutter your sentences with complex words and unneeded vocabulary.
Read a lot
Reading is the creative center of a writer’s life - Stephen King
Good writers are good readers. They are self taught and develop a style on their own. Reading improves your vocabulary and grasp of the language. You will understand what works and what doesn’t work for you. Reading improves creativity and refine your writing as you go along the journey.
Writing is something I started to like recently and I want to improve as I move along. It’s a process that I am in love with. Aspect of research and reading, preparing for one single article. Number of edits I did for this for days and I am still sure there are lot of mistakes. I hope as I improve, I write better ones.
If anything this article can do is to make you start writing.
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