Voice, Style, and How to Write Super-Gud

A very decent tweetstorm with some thoughts on how to write compelling content:

  1. The most important sentence of an article is the first one. If it doesn’t entice the reader to read the second one, you’re dead. So make it sharp and snappy.
  2. In general, short sentences are better than long sentences. Great writing doesn’t involve using as many words as possible, but using the fewest amount of words to get your point across.
  3. Use the Hemingway Tool for all your writing. It will help you make your writing bold and clear.
  4. Unnecessary words, circular constructions, meaningless jargon, and pompous frills are diseases in American writing. Don’t use them.
  5. Strip every sentence to its core. Every word that serves no function, every long word that could be a short word, every adverb that carries the same meaning as its adjacent verb… get rid of ’em. They are noise.
  6. Remove adjectives. This will force your writing to be more precise.
  7. Clear thinking = clear writing. Before you write, ask yourself, “What am I trying to say?” Then write as if you’re talking to a friend.
  8. When you speak, you have mannerisms and phrases that define you and make you worth listening to. Keep them in your writing. Write like you speak.
  9. After you find your voice, ask yourself, “Who am I writing for?” The answer is simple: You’re writing for yourself. At most, you’re writing for a friend. Never act as if you’re writing for a huge audience. That’ll make you timid…and fearful writing isn’t fun for anyone.
  10. Write what you want to say, then rewrite it in a shorter way. This will most likely take three or four attempts.
  11. If you’re not throwing out at least one-third of the raw content you started with, put yourself in the corner for some self-reflection. You might be too attached.
  12. To find the right style, write paragraphs 1 through 3. They’ll suck. But by paragraph 4 you’ll get into your groove. Cut the first 3 paragraphs and have your piece begin at paragraph 4.
  13. Take a stance. Use the words “I” and “We.” Sell yourself, be confident, and believe in your identity and opinions.
  14. Pay attention to the rhythm of your sentences. Reading your writing out loud to yourself really helps.
  15. The last sentence of each paragraph should make your reader curious about what’s coming. It should also be the link connecting the previous paragraph to the next.
  16. Treat writing like you are building an argument. Introduce your argument and defend it. Make sure you are leading the reader through the logic of your argument. This will make you question the force of your sentences – is this sentence necessary to make my point? No? Adios!
  17. Get your draft down quickly, don’t overthink it. Even if it sucks, write it. Then go for a brief walk or read something else. After that, start editing. Slash away anything that isn’t necessary, and start giving shape to the raw material on the page.
  18. Editing is the most important part of the writing process. It’s where the real magic happens.
  19. My favorite book on editing is called “The Craft of Revision” by Donald Murray. I still have my copy from my days at Indiana University, and I reread it at least once a year.
  20. My other favorite book on writing is by Jack Hart. It’s called “Storycraft.” It’s mostly for longer-form writing, but you can apply it to any kind of storytelling.

I agree with most of these things except #3 since tooling can get in the way of writing, especially in the beginning where you’re literally learning your craft — don’t want to over-engineer those first few years (!!) of experimental writing.

Yes, it does take that much time.

I’m not interested in anything that gets in the way of the real focus: Pushing that damn publish button.