There are four pillars of good writing, as shown in the graphic above. But there’s one more. Your work needs to be interesting, exciting, or somehow gets and keeps a reader’s attention.
Avoid being boring
People who are completely invested in their topic or storyline often forget that someone else will be reading their work. As a result, they tend to make several mistakes in their writing. Here are some of them:
- Avoid clichés—Over-using time-worn clichés implies that you may not have any original thoughts. Hackneyed writing will likely lose readers. They may also be insulted that you think so little of them. So, change phrases such as “at this time” to “now”, “attached please find” to “here is”, and “it has come to our attention” to “we understand”. This will make your writing more concise.
- Don’t go on and on—Here’s the thing. Once a sentence exceeds 25 words, the reader begins to forget the subject of the sentence. An effective average sentence length is 10-12 words, depending on the genre, topic, audience, etc. Cut long sentences into two or more pieces. It will make your work clearer. Likewise, watch out for long paragraphs. When a paragraph runs to one page or more, most people get lost, and maybe a little annoyed.
- Make your point quickly—Before you start writing, take a minute to think about what your audience already knows. If non-fiction, what do they know of your subject? If fiction, what do they know about you, the writer, or a long-running character? If you need to provide some kind of refresher, do it quickly. Then, get on with your new ideas or your story. Emphasize what’s in it for your reader. Remember radio station WIIFM: What’s In It For Me.
Remember that you’re talking to a reader
- Read Your Writing Out Loud—This is a clever trick to make your writing more effective. Listen to yourself. Does it sound like you talking or someone else? Change words, sentences or paragraphs that don’t sound like you. Get someone else—someone impartial and who will be honest with you—to read your work. Get another viewpoint.
Think about your writing as talking to someone on paper. To get your message across, you need to be Clear, Concise, Complete, and Correct. As the saying goes: You usually don’t get a second chance to make a great first impression.
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