Meet Gordon. Born in England, he travelled to Melbourne to print facsimile editions of London newspapers for British expats. He spent 50 years printing those newspapers day-in, day-out. Gordon lived and breathed printing, having even been named after a publishing house.
If you’re wanting to get better at this business of typing words and hoping they make sense, aka improve your writing, your first stop should be your local library. Turns out they’re not just refuges for those sweltering days when you need aircon; they’re filled with books too.
Read anything you can get your hands on. Go highbrow with some Virginia Woolf and Tom Wolfe. Indulge in the classics of Dickens and Brontë. Discover new writers and work through the 100 must-read Australian books. Pick up ‘Flowers In The Attic’ or some Sweet Valley High. It’ll all help improve your craft.
To be a good writer, you should read widely and often. If you stopped reading the day mX died, it’s time to pick up the pace and some literature.
But don’t just take my word/s for it. Listen to this guy:
That’s Stephen King, and he’s done pretty well for himself with this whole writing business. He’s written ninety-six books (including ‘On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft’) and is worth $400 million.
And he reckons being a good writer goes hand in hand with being a voracious reader.
“If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.”
Perhaps you don’t plan to write a book or two or ninety-six. Maybe you don’t want to be like Steve.
But even if you only need to write a blog post, brochure or caption, being well-read will improve your writing.
Beyond that, here are some simple tips to keep in mind:
Write like you speak
Well, not exactly like you speak, but an ever-so-slightly polished version of it. In your writing, it can be tempting to bust out all of the big words you’ve learned, but fight the urge. Unless you throw ‘henceforth’, ‘whilst’ and ‘evidently’ into regular conversations, don’t write them.
Your readers don’t want to synergise their concepts within the framework of the buy-in.
This is a key point from Strunk and White’s ‘Elements of Style’, the writing bible. Don’t write anything that doesn’t make sense. Clearly.
We’ve all heard the findings that our concentration levels have been reduced to forty-three seconds. Avoid making your content too long as you’ll risk losing your audience. If you have that much to say, it’s likely you’ve been repeating some of it.
In his book ‘On Writing Well’, William Zinsser says:
“Look for the clutter in your writing and prune it ruthlessly. Be grateful for everything you can throw away.”
Do some chopping. Minimalise. Get onboard the decluttering trend, especially with your writing.
First published online on Pretty Neat’s blog.