Ten Commandments of good writing

Posted: May 16, 2011 in content creation, websites
Tags: , ,
Props to the academics at Edit911, the guys who were instrumental in editing our book a few years years ago, for inspiring today’s post. You can read the full Monty here.  If you’re short on time, check out our expurgated version, below:
I. Use shorter sentences. Your readers will not only thank you, they’ll be much more inclined to read your stuff.
II. Read it aloud. If it doesn’t sound right, it’s wrong. If it sounds good, it reads well.

III. Give it to someone else to read. Preferably someone known for their candor. This is the essence of test-marketing.

IV. Outline your thoughts. This ensures a beginning, a middle and an end. It also guards against repetition and rambling.

V. In lengthier pieces, use subheads. Another way to ensure that you follow your outline.

VI. Make your main idea your compass or “true north”. If you need reminding, put it on the corner of each page as you write.

VII. Think of possible objections. If you’ve ever taken a class in debate, this is like the exercise of arguing both sides of an issue. Anticipating objections enable you to build in persuasive counter-arguments. You want your opinion to make a difference in someone’s thinking, not just make your point.

VIII. Know your audience. Never stop asking and reminding yourself exactly who your readers are as you write to them.

IX. Use spell check and grammar check. They are heavenly tools.  And these are, after all, Commandments.

X. If there is one thing worse than underestimating (insulting) your reader’s intelligence, it’s overestimating their knowledge of your subject.
It’s no coincidence that the best writing happens to be the clearest and simplest.

This was first posted earlier today on The Write Stuff, the blog I write for over at Write Angle Inc.

  1. A problem with a lot of marketing writing is that it has no soul—it’s written to everyone and no one. It becomes turgid, unlike anything someone would actually say to another person. When I write, I try to think of someone I know, and write to him or her. It makes my writing more personal, and less likely to be stuffy.

    It’s easy to forget when we write, as when we speak to a group, that all those people experience our communication as individuals, not as part of a faceless mass.

    • Stan DeVaughn says:

      It’s no coincidence that the best speakers and best authors make us feel as though they are addressing each of us as individuals.

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