We talked last time about three basic attributes of good writing. Those ideals were accuracy, clarity, and brevity. If our writing—any writing—is accurate, clear, and brief, we won’t go very far wrong.
By saying we won’t go very far wrong, I’m not promising perfection, but I am promising that the writing will be successful. It will be readable and understandable—that is, it will do what good writing is supposed to do.
And what is good writing supposed to do? Good writing is simply good communication—that is, it transmits a message precisely, plainly, and quickly. It has, in short, the same humble goal as speech. It’s no accident that the best writing is also conversational writing.
In other words, writing well can be hard, but it isn’t as hard as we make it.
How can we ensure that our writing is as good—and as easy, both for reader and writer—as possible? Are there shortcuts to the readable and understandable prose that readers want? There are. And I’m going to share some of those with you right now. You might want to grab something to write with. But if that’s not possible, don’t worry—we’ll discuss these tips one at a time in future commentaries on writing well.
Also, these tips are examined in detail in Part One of my book The Book on Writing: The Ultimate Guide to Writing Well.
The tips we’ll discuss are not by any means all there is to say on the subject. But taken together, they form the bedrock of good writing. Right now, we’ll present the tips without elaboration so you’ll see the whole picture before we look at its parts. Notice that these tips are relatively easy to put into practice, and that they apply to any kind of writing.
The first of my writing tips says to Keep Sentences Short.
The second is to Avoid Jargon, Fad, & Cliché
The third says to Be Wary of Anecdotal Leads
4. [is to] Avoid Pretensions
5. [is to] Avoid Overblown or Mangled Metaphor
6. [is to] Cut Wordiness
7. Avoid Vague Qualifiers
8. Don't Back into the Beginning
9. [is] A Primer on Pronunciation
And my tenth and final tip says: Don’t be Fooled by Language Myth
Those are some of the most important shortcuts to writing well. If we make them second nature, all our writing will be not only easier and quicker to read, but also easier and quicker to write.
Please join me next time—when we’ll discuss exactly what it means to keep sentences short and why it’s really not quite that simple. And how short, precisely? That short? Really? All of them?
I’m Paula LaRocque.