Improving my writing
If a nation loses its storytellers, it loses its childhood
Mathematicians are not renowned for their eloquent prose. I studied Maths at university which involved little writing. Virtually none. On one rare occasion when I was required to compose a small essay, I started it with: And the next. My girlfriend, who studied languages, did her best to persuade me that one needs to introduce the subject before talking about the next. However, I was having none of it. Years later, I apologised for being such an ignoramus.
Recently, I bought a little book which amuses and educates me. It is 100 Ways to Improve Your Writing by Gary Provost. Below are three suggestions I try to apply.
Find a slant
We should not try to write everything on a topic. Instead, tie ourselves to a specific idea relating to the topic, something manageable. That is a slant. To illustrate, here are topics I have covered in this blog and the slant I took:
Productivity → Elon Musk’s 6 Productivity Rules
Creativity → How Less Makes Us Creative
Negotiation → Get Better than Yes using these 5 Negotiation Tactics
Influence → 3 Influencing Tactics for App Designers
Decisions → When to Stop Searching and Choose
Vary sentence length
The elegance of Gary Provost’s illustrative paragraph struck me. Genius.
This sentence has five words. Here are five more words. Five-word sentences are fine. But several together become monotonous. Listen to what is happening. The writing is getting boring. The sound of it drones. It's like a stuck record. The ear demands some variety. Now listen. I vary the sentence length and I create music. Music. The writing sings. It has a pleasant rhythm, a lilt, a harmony. I use short sentences. And I use sentences of medium length. And sometimes when I am certain the reader is rested, I will engage him with a sentence of considerable length, a sentence that burns with energy and builds with all the impetus of a crescendo, the roll of the drums, the crash of the cymbals-sounds that say, "Listen to this; it is important." So write with a combination of short, medium, and long sentences. Create a sound that pleases the reader's ear. Don't just write words. Write music.
Provide useful information
Gary Provost suggests that, Useful information is information that has service value. That means readers can do something after they read what you have written.
I often write about how I have tackled or intend to tackle something relating to app development. Examples from this blog include:
How I Generate App Ideas. Address a problem either we ourselves or a small group of people have. Alternatively, improve upon an existing solution.
Making a Minimum Viable Product. Write a brief specification which can be built in a few days, using existing skills.
Setting up a Company. The steps are: 1. Choose name, 2. List directors, 3. Identify share allocation, 4. Define purpose and rules, 5. Register online via Companies House.
Get Your Own website. Register a domain name, find a host for our website then configure it.
Write Simply essay by Paul Graham
Blog Well. Think Well. post by Phil Martin
The 3 Questions Great Headlines Address post by Phil Martin
Even though Gary Provost died in 1995, he is still influential. That is the amazing power of good writing.