If I’m ever going to post regularly on Medium, I should probably start now.
I’ve been telling myself I would cross-post from SteveMoraco.com, Huffingtonpost.com, and the various abroad-related places that I guest-post to medium. One day, I will actually do all that. But first I needed to begin writing on medium.
This is a quick post about writing.
Want to write well?
I’d like to join in the long and proud tradition of amateur writers giving writing advice.
I’ve read posts just like this one that didn’t help my writing at all.
Thankfully, a few did.
Thanks to all my hard work and wasted time, I can now tell you confidently that there are only a few things you really need to keep in mind.
The rest is buzz.
Year before last, I wrote 60,000 words and self-published a 200 page book in three months — practically before I even knew what I was doing. As you can imagine, I’ve had the occasion to edit a fair bit of my own writing. I’ve even recently been over much of my own published writing several more times.
All this editing has made it clear that I started out an awful writer and I’ve gotten progressively better. I hope to continue.
During this two year growth period as a newly-minted writer, I’ve narrowed all the advice I’ve run across into just a few things that I keep in mind whenever I proof my own writing.
I fancy the following 5 points as the highest impact things to keep in mind if you want to write well.
1. Vary your sentence structure and length.
Short sentences. Then, medium sentences with some detail. When your reader is finally interested in what you’re saying, introduce a long, flowing sentence with complex structure. Don’t get carried away.
This practice makes your writing tolerable and keeps your readers on track.
2. Consider deleting the first and last paragraphs of whatever you write.
The human brain isn’t great at beginning and ending things cleanly. Keeping this option in your back pocket will improve your writing with very little effort.
3. Fewer commas. Get to know the rules when it comes to proper punctuation. Be respectful of your readers’ internal voices.
4. Active sentence structure.
Some people learn the term “passive voice” in school and others don’t. The idea is to avoid using the verb “be” (or was, is, etc.) as much as possible in favor of action verbs.
The difference? Compare these two sentences:
With passive writing, your ideas are boring and passive at best.
Active writing brings your ideas to life.
Which one is easier to read? Which one has impact? This makes the difference between boring your audience or exciting them.
I’m not great at actually doing this, but it’s good advice. This is probably the one I need to pay closest attention to when I edit.
5. Don’t get fancy. Less adverbs, normal vocabulary.
This is the only advice that really matters. If you try to write in any specific way, you’ll fail. Just write how you’d talk. If you’re not comfortable using the words you write with in normal conversation, stop trying to sound fancy.
Don’t get too descriptive. Ditch the adverbs. Step away from the thesaurus.
Maybe a 6th is in order: worry less about your writing and more about publishing.
You can’t improve unless you start somewhere and work hard.
If you’d rather procrastinate than start writing (me too) you can always check out Maria Popova’s master post of ALL TEH WRITING ADVICE on BrainPickings.org:
By popular demand, I've put together a periodically updated reading list of all the famous advice on writing presented…www.brainpickings.org
Above all, start writing and then keep going. That’s what I hope to do here on medium. Glad to finally have begun :)
This was written by Steve Moraco.
You can learn more about Steve@Mora.co
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