Three Laws of Writing

Richard Leon Linfield
Apr 30 · 3 min read
Photo by fotografierende on Unsplash

By Richard Leon Linfield, with Leilani Darling

I have seen about three thousand students in my English classes follow these three laws. Almost all of them testified that the rules greatly improved their writing.

These are the rules that virtually all professional writers follow. If you follow them, your writing shall be up to par for all college writing and all professional writing.

1. LAW OF INTEREST — Never write about a subject you’re not interested in. Always find a way to be interested in anything you write about.

When a writer lacks interest in his/her subject, the reader can tell immediately. In college classes, such work seldom makes better than a C. In newsrooms, editors routinely hand such work back to the writer with a laugh or a snort.

If you ever have the misfortune of being assigned a subject that bores you, find a way to snuff the boredom. Find a way to connect the subject to something you care about, and/or to something in your own life.

2. LAW OF QUANTITY — Always start by writing as much as you can, as fast as you can.

For your first draft, write at least twice as many words as required before you stop.

This is Freewriting, in which you write without pausing to think or edit. Only students and extreme rationalists use the method of writing a few words at a time and stopping to think before continuing.

If you write for a living, there is never any doubt that you should write as much as you can, as fast as you can, for your first draft.

Always begin by writing much more than required, and then edit it down to the limit.

If you don’t do this, your work is not going to be your best.

3. LAW OF EDITING — Spend at least two or three times as much time editing as writing.

Editing is more important than writing. Some writers say that writing is not writing, and that editing is writing.

Editing is not just proofreading and correcting mistakes.

When editing, you look for good points and make them better.

You add new ideas, delete ideas, and think about changing the order in which you present your points.

Also, in editing, you make sure you have a strong beginning and an interesting ending.

Unless you give your main attention to editing, you’ll never do your best work.

If you’ve read this much, you should be ready to go to a new level in the way you approach writing. The time in your life of writing only well enough to get by is over. Now you’re equipped to do the real thing! Subscribe to our newsletter:

Richard Leon Linfield, Ph.D. and Leilani Darling, J.D. are a writing team in New Mexico. He’s a retired professor of English and philosophy who coaches students and teachers in student success. She’s an attorney, and the author of How to be Happy: The Shocking Truth. Together they publish


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