Photo by curtfleenor

Straight up writing advice.  Ready?

Use fewer words.

Sure, there are writers out there who use complex language to awe-inspiring effect.

I could name any number of literary giants, but instead I’ll introduce you to David Thorne, whose hilarious posts send me spiraling into a word candy coma.

Seriously, it’s like a roller coaster ride of brilliance, made all the more compelling by drawings of cats and the Australian accent I imagine while reading it.

Back to my point

For every David Thorne, there are a thousand equally skilled writers who get the job done in the fewest possible words.  Like Ernest Hemingway, for example.

And sadly, for every Hemingway, there are a hundred thousand writers whose sentences look like this:

In an effort to compensate for their individual lack of knowledge on either the IT or Facility requirements, many customers…

How about this instead?

To compensate for knowledge gaps, many customers…

That’s like, half as long.  And twice as precise.

I see this all the time.

Too many words!  Stop it.

Here are some tips:

1. Instead of using a modifier, think of a better verb. Which is better?  He said softly?  Or, he whispered?  Or, he spat? Or, he sighed?

2. Don’t be redundant. Your readers are smarter than you think they are. If you’ve been talking about IT or Facility requirements for 23 pages, you don’t need to say that again here.

3. Put your ideas in a logical order.  Every time you sit down to write, you’re making an argument.  Treat it as such.

Do you think this rant came out of me perfectly?

Or do you think I sat here for an hour editing it, testing every idea, reordering things repeatedly, and deleting with abandon?

(It’s the second one).

Bonus personal pet peeve

4. Never say something happened “suddenly.”  Of course it happened suddenly.  Doesn’t everything happen suddenly?  First it isn’t, then a moment later, it is. Suddenly is inherently redundant.

How to write

  1. Get it all out on paper.
  2. Strike any idea that raises more questions than it answers.
  3. Go back to the beginning and reduce your word count by 1/3.
  4. Add new ideas as they come to you, but only if they’re brilliant.
  5. Go to step 2.

Be ruthless.