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Effective writing

Disclaimer: none of the ideas here are my original, this is what I discovered on the Internet and what resonated with me. So I compiled this checklist for my (and hopefully your) convenience.

General approach to writing

Writing and editing should be separate. This is probably the most profound thing that I learned. When you write something, be conscious of two distinct phases. In first phase you dump all your ideas on the paper. Don’t worry about mistakes, abstruse sentences, logical order, etc. First phase is creative, your goal is to put all your ideas in writing, and worrying about mistakes and sentence structures at this point will only stifle you. Once you’re done, move to phase two, which is editing. Now is the time to fix typos, rearrange sentences in logical order, think about particular word choice or turn of phrases.

In that sense, writing is like bodybuilding. First, you do particular exercises and follow a diet to gain weight, which includes both muscles and fat tissue. After that, you do different exercises and follow a different diet to burn the excess fat. As any knowledgeable coach will tell you, trying to do both at the same time will yield little to no result.

Writing style guides

  1. Remove “I think”, “in my opinion”, etc. It’s your writing so it is implied that you are expressing what you think and sharing your opinions.

  2. Replace “things” with actual words. Instead of “I like the things you’ve given me” you can do “I like the chocolates and flowers you’ve given me.”

  3. Remove “there is / there are”. “There are a lot of ducks waddling in the park” can be “A lot of ducks waddled in the park.”

  4. Use “power” words. Instead of “very smart” use “intelligent”. Instead of “The teacher gave assistance to John and he passed the exam,” use “The teacher assisted John, and he passed the exam.”

  5. Use short sentences and short paragraphs. Long sentences are hard to follow, long paragraphs are easy to skip.

  6. Remove “that”. “You believe that I’m lying, but I’m not.” becomes “You believe I’m lying, but I’m not.”

  7. Remove “-ing”. “The experiences we’re seeking end up being underwhelming and even disappointing.” becomes “The experiences we seek often underwhelm and disappoint.”

  8. Shrink opening sentences. Make it compelling, but keep it short and conversational. Example: “This is a post that’s going to help you become a better writer.” becomes “I can help you.”