10 Weird Ways to Write Better
1. Don't Write
Most people speak a lot better than they write. Certainly more naturally. And it’s so easy these days to record on your phone and have it transcribed. Even simpler: get familiar with your phone’s voice-to-text function and watch your writing become instantly more natural.
2. Decommission the Preposition
Nothing is more detrimental to copy than overuse of prepositions in your writing since it imparts to copy a monotonousness of rhythm and absence of action.
3. Viva Verbs!
Verbs rock. They make writing active, powerful and punchy. And readers love them. You’d be surprised how often you can verbify a phrase using strong, powerful verbs that grab attention. Author Mario Puzo achieved this brilliantly in an essay when, instead of saying “among those who are Italian [weak and passive tense]” he wrote: “among those who bleed Italian.”
4. Think Small
Attention spans are diminishing daily. Use short paragraphs. Short sentences. Even short words.
5. Weave It Before You Leave It
Never consider a piece finished until you've done an edit for flow. It's what keeps readers reading and listeners listening. Go back and connect every sentence to the one before. Then knit those sentences together into tightly woven paragraphs. You can use patterns to help. For example, AB-AC: The boy (A) went to the lake (B). The boy (B) thought the lake was cold (C). Or AB-BC: The boy went to the lake. The lake was cold. By all means, try to avoid AB-CD: The boy went to the lake. Mary doesn’t like fishing. (To keep readers on a clear journey, don’t change the subject of your sentences too often, like those two sentences did.)
6. Pick Up a Brush
Don’t be a writer — be a painter. Brush vividly visual scenes onto your canvas for the reader. Show, as they say, don’t tell. Instead of “the study shows that 48% of participants improved…” try: “When scientists put it to the test, nearly half of those who tried the product enjoyed better…”
7. Readers Reject What They Expect
Predictable is boring. People crave the unexpected — and it makes them stay with you to see what else you’ve got up your sleeve. Here’s a unique way to improve any sentence: Cover up the second half of a sentence. See if you (or people you show it to) can guess the gist second half from the first. If they can, rewrite so they can’t. Dave Barry is a master at this — usually for humorous effect. For example: “If you had to identify, in one word, the reason why the human race has not achieved, and never will achieve, its full potential, that word would be: meetings.”
8. Maybe Don't Be You
One of the biggest revelations I ever had as a writer was that I could write by channeling a more interesting and self-assured “self.” Too many people write with the same self that wrote book reports in 8th grade. Instead, do like so many professional athletes and performers do, and create an alter ego to free yourself from your own limitations. Like Beyoncé, who created her “Sasha Fierce” alter ego because Sasha gave the apparently shy popstar the freedom to be sexy and outrageous while performing. (This ability to not be yourself is perhaps even more important when editing, since a writer should never edit his own work. Instead, become a more skeptical and impatient version of whomever you’re writing to.)
9. Stopping Can Lead to Flopping
The biggest mistake most writers make: editing as you go. Would you expect to be coherent if you talked while editing everything you said? “No, wait, I meant this, not that. And change that last word from potato to vegetable, please.” Write from the heart in one uninterrupted “get it off your chest” burst. Only then should you go back and edit. (Find it hard? Give yourself consequences if you stop. Or rewards if you don’t. Or go to www.WriteOrDie.com to automate this process.) This also helps you write faster, since studies show that switching between writing tasks (researching, writing, editing) makes you much less efficient (and much less smart).
10. Wordplay Makes Readers Stay
Notice how I’ve tried to weave in some wit to this list? Because it grabs attention. But also because people love to be entertained. Use rhyme, the occasional pun, a clever play on a famous book or movie title — or even on a cliché in a new way. (Done right, laughter is the best cure for dull writing.) Just do it… because if you don’t have a blast writing it, chances are your audience won’t enjoy reading it.