I have a bit of a dilemma. I have an article that has some great content that I’d like to share with you—especially those of you who write and edit technical documentation or non-fiction documentation. The problem isn’t the article, it is citing the article. It’s from a blog that contains the long form of the term B.S. I guess I will give you the content, but be forewarned that if you click the link, you will be face to face with an expletive. If you are offended by swearing, just wait for my installments here.
Okay, with that caveat, I give you the first two tips of the 10 Top Writing Tips and the Psychology Behind Them, by Josh Bernoff.
There are plenty of folks happy to tell you how to write better, just as any doctor will tell you to “eat right and exercise.” But changing your writing (or eating) habits only happens when you understand why you do what you do. I can help you with that.
1: Write shorter.
Why it matters. Readers are impatient and will give up on your blog post, email, or document before you’ve made your point. Every extra word makes readers antsy.
Why you write long. It’s far easier to type than to edit. So people just keep adding things.
How to fix it.Edit. Delete your “warming up” text and start with the main point. Cull extraneous detail and repetition. Work as if each word you eventually publish or send will cost you $10. I’ve often had writers who were outraged that I had redlined two-thirds of what they wrote . . . only to read the shortened doc and respond “that’s so much more powerful.”
2: Shorten your sentences.
Why it matters. Long sentences make readers work too hard to figure out your meaning.
Why your sentences are too long. New ideas keep occurring to you as you write each sentence. And you think long sentences make you sound sophisticated.
How to fix it. Break sentences down into bite-size ideas. Then delete what you don’t need. Think Hemingway, not Dickens.
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