“A man may write at any time, if he will set himself doggedly to it.”—Samuel Johnson
Five “Keeps” for Good Writing
Assuming that you write to persuade, educate, or entertain your readers—that you write to be heard, in other words—here are several important tips to remember.
Keep it simple. When it comes to style, less is usually better than more. Don’t use more words than necessary to say what you want to say. Don’t use ten words when six will suffice. And don’t use fancier words than needed except very sparingly, for effect. You don’t want your writing to sound like an exercise in using a thesaurus. As a general practice, unless you are writing a scholarly or highly technical piece that calls for advanced terminology, choose shorter and simpler words over longer and more complex ones.
Keep it clear. Think through what you write very carefully. Don’t necessarily settle for the first words that come to mind. Make sure that the words you choose actually convey the meaning you intend. Good writers are never lazy about language.
Keep your purpose in mind. Don’t forget why you are writing. One of a writer’s greatest temptations is chasing rabbits. Stay focused on your purpose. This doesn’t mean stifling your imagination, but it does mean resisting the urge to include anything that does not advance your story, theme, or argument.
Keep your audience in mind. Never lose sight of who you are writing for. Determine your target audience before you begin and tailor every word you write for that group.
Keep yourself in the background. As you write, keep yourself in the background. Don’t distract your readers by allowing your authorial voice to intrude. Strive to write well, even eloquently, but hide yourself behind your story so that your readers will be irresistibly drawn into the imaginative world that you have created and kept there until you release them.
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