Last week, I started a journey to improve my writing skills and after reading through 3 classics on the subject (Elements of Style, Writing That Works, and On Writing Well) I have developed a beginning framework to learn. The breadth of the english language is so vast that I had to narrow down the subject into a simple taxonomy to work through sequentially.
I believe good non-fiction writing should be
- Clear and Concise: The purpose of writing is communication, but if it is not understood, what use is it?
- Captivating: This not only implies to marketing copy writing, but all writing. If a written piece does not keep a reader’s attention, then the message will be lost.
- Catchy: Good non-fiction should be memorable and stick with you.
There is plenty of overlap within these three areas of writing, but they are distinct enough to stand on their own. Over the next month, I will be focusing on improving the clarity and brevity of my writing. Here is a breakdown of what I believe it will take to improve my writing clarity:
- Writing Mechanics: It’s simple. If you don’t have a strong grasp of proper sentence structure and grammar, your writing will always be limited. Writing is enough of a struggle without having to wrestle with every common. To fix this, I am reading the first few chapters of the Elements of Style over and over while watching how-to videos on YouTube for grammar.
- Confidence in Vocabulary: Using long nobody understands is useless. Instead, gaining clarity on word you are familiar with, but don’t have a firm grasp on, is more helpful. For example, disinterested is not a synonym for uninterested. It is more neutral and objective. Both the Elements of Style and Writing That Works have great starting lists of words to work on.
- Use of Active Voice: Dozens of excellent articles have already been written about using active voice, but I found an easy way to make sure you are using it is to writing in the first person. Don’t be afraid of using I, you, we, or they. Not only does it help you write in active voice, but it is more personable and warm.
- Brevity: After reading through the books listed above, I find that I am reworking my sentences more often and cutting away meaningless words and whole sentences that aren’t necessary. Learn how to be concise is an exercise in editing more than writing.
- Audience Awareness: Writing is about communication. If you don’t think through how your writing will be received by the reader than you risk misunderstandings or boring the reader.