Eight writing tips
Think well. Write well.
The world we experience as ‘out there’ is actually a reconstruction of reality that is built inside our heads. It’s an act of creation by the storytelling brain. This is how it works. You walk into a room. Your brain predicts what the scene should look and sound and feel like, then it generates a hallucination based on these predictions. It’s this hallucination that you experience as the world around you. It’s this hallucination you exist at the centre of, every minute of every day. You’ll never experience actual reality because you have no direct access to it.
This passage from Will Storr’s The Science of Storytelling made me reconsider how I perceive reality. When executed well, writing is hugely powerful.
How to write
I didn't have time to write you a short letter so I wrote you a long one instead. - Mark Twain
David Ogilvy was a marketing genius, dubbed The Father of Advertising. He founded Ogilvy & Mather which produced hugely successful adverts, including for Rolls Royce, Schweppes and Dove soap. In 1982, David circulated a memo entitled, How to Write.
I try to apply his writing tips which include:
Write the way you talk. Naturally.
I find conversational style writing appealing so that’s what I lean towards.
Use short words, short sentences and short paragraphs.
The less energy readers expend on our prose, the more they'll have left for our ideas.
Never use jargon words like reconceptualise and judgmentally. They are hallmarks of a pretentious ass.
A quick way to lose readers.
Never write more than two pages on any subject.
My blog posts are typically less than 2,000 words and can be read in 5 minutes.
Check your quotations.
I try using quotations which add context and embellish key points.
Never send a letter or a memo on the day you write it. Read it aloud the next morning and then edit it.
When I have a draft of a blog post, I use Google Translate to read it back to me. This often highlights grammatical and spelling errors.
If it is something important, get a colleague to improve it.
Marcia, my wife, does a fantastic job of suggesting improvements to my draft blog posts. She checks they flow and say something interesting.
Before you send your letter or memo, make sure it is crystal clear what you want the recipient to do.
Marketing wizard Dave Trott says great communication gains attention, conveys a message and persuades people to act.
Diary of a CEO with Rory Sutherland interview by Steven Bartlett
Improving My Writing post by Phil Martin
A Personal Website in 3 Steps post by Phil Martin
Many authors I admire say they still find writing hard. As David Ogilvy said, You’ve got to close the door and write something. That is the moment of truth which we all try to postpone as long as possible.