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Writing it Right!

The most important sentence in any article is the first. If it doesn't
induce the reader to proceed to the second then your article just died.

Still with me? Good, let's look at powerful writing concepts:

Lack of clutter

These will ensure your articles live long enough for you to retire,
collecting the pension they've earned.

Maximum Simplicity:
The secret of good writing is stripping every sentence to its cleanest
components. Each word serving no function, drop it. Every long word
that could be shorter, make it so. Frequently the higher the writer's
education or rank the worse their addiction to unnecessary words. This
affliction is not recent.

In 1942 a Presidential senior staffer wrote concerning the blackout
required by war-time conditions:

Such preparations shall be made as will completely obscure all
Federal buildings and non-Federal buildings occupied by the Federal
government during an air raid for any period of time from
visibility by reason of internal or external illumination.

Roosevelt suggested:

Tell them that in buildings where they keep working to put something
across the windows.

Minimum Clutter:
Fighting clutter is like fighting weeds - the writer is always slightly
behind. New varieties sprout overnight and by noon they're part of
everyday speech. Nixon's aide John Dean said on television during
Watergate, "at this point in time". By next morning this had replaced
the word "now" in the American language. By sunset it had spread
across the English speaking globe faster than a Love-Bug virus!

Word meanings get twisted creating more clutter. It seems that today
people always "address" things instead of actually dealing with them.
"Experiencing" is another splendid example. Your dentist may ask if
you're experiencing pain. What he'd say to a five year old is: Does
it hurt? Any doubts which is most effective?

Mark Twain: Had I more time, I should have written less. Enough said!

Specific Style:
Few of us realise how badly we write. First it's essential to strip
sentences to bare bones, ensuring removal of all surplus baggage. Only
then can we consider style - that with which we to seek to charm our

Style is where we focus our words on distinct audiences. Here the
sonnet and the recipe part company. Though going their separate ways,
they must still share the same powerful common ingredients.

Get excited:
If there's no enthusiasm in the writer there'll be none in the reader!
Allow your writing to get emotional - let your readers know you're keen.
They may disagree strongly with your views but at least they'll read
them. Boredom - and your writing has just committed suicide!

Most adverbs are clutter - effortlessly easy - myself personally - don't
say that the radio blared loudly - blared means loud, how else can
anything blare? Virtually unique is like saying somebody is virtually
pregnant. Either they are or they're not! Virtually shouldn't get a
look in!

Noun Breeding:
Why is it nobody goes broke these days, they have money problem areas.
It no longer rains, we have precipitation activity or thunderstorm
probability. Get real - say what you mean - simply.

Credibility is as fragile for a writer as for a politician. Don't
inflate anything. Get caught in a single bogus statement and everything
else you write will be suspect. Don't do it.

Your style will be warmer and truer to your personality using
contractions such as "I'll" and "can't". Check if your style is
stilted by reading it out loud - to your spouse or to your dog. Which
doesn't matter. You'll soon pick up the style in your voice - does it
work for you? Does it flow, does it sound right? If not, do it again.

Keep them short. Writing is visual. It catches the eye before it has
a chance to catch the brain. Short paragraphs put white space around
your writing and make it look inviting. Long chunks of type can
discourage readers from even starting.

You're going to hate this one! Rewriting is the essence of writing
well. It's where the game is won or lost. We all have emotional equity
in our first draft; we can't believe it wasn't born perfect. The odds
are it wasn't. Read it again tomorrow. Consider Mark Twain's comment
about brevity. Use what time you have to distil your words to the
potency of good whisky.

Go with YOUR flow:
There's no subject you don't have permission to write about. I've read
articles on fishing, flying, football, pistons and perfumes. Plus
dozens of subjects in which I thought I had no interest. People often
avoid subjects that are close to their hearts, assuming readers will
think them "stupid".

No area of life is stupid to someone who takes it seriously.

Follow your fancies and you'll write well. Apply these powerful
principles - and you'll do it even better! You'll engage, enlighten
and entertain your readers. This is all they will ever ask of you.

About the Author

PETER DE PRADINES is OEO (Only Exec Officer :) of the HiperNet Group: On-line peer-to-peer free site critiques. Professional critique assessment services. Discussion forum for the critique community. Weekly newsletter on web design & tips.

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