The Three Quickest (and
Ways to Improve Your Writing
2002 by Debra Koontz Traverso
reserved in all media.
Want to improve your
writing? Then set your goal to be to express, not to impress. To get
you started, try these three easy tips:
1. Be brief
Robert Southey said, "If you
would be pungent, be brief; for it is as with words as with
sunbeams. The more they are condensed, the deeper they burn."
And oh, as writers, how we do
want our words to burn - into the souls of our readers.
Unfortunately, we often think that the more words we give, the
greater that burn will be. Fact is, just the opposite is true -
tightly written, colorful, descriptive, and pared-down prose will
burn into readers' hearts and minds more quickly than rambling,
redundant and unnecessary text.
Why? Several reasons: The
shorter your writing, the better chance it has of being read. And,
people enjoy prolific people: saying the same thing with fewer words
as opposed to many words brands you as prolific, not the fact that
you know a thousand multi-syllabic words. And finally, it's easier
to remember three pithy words than it is ten that wander about. The
concept that "less is more" may have started in architecture but
could not be more appropriate in our writing.
2. Be clear
Be aware that many words carry
both connotative and denotative meanings, which can mean subtle, yet
significant differences between what you meant to say and how
readers interpret your meaning. As the following delightful poem
points out, your positive denotative words may carry with them some
negative connotative interpretations. What words might you be using
that confuse your readers?
Call a woman a kitten, but never a cat;
call her a mouse, cannot call her a rat;
Call a woman a chick,
but never a hen;
Or you surely will not be her caller
You can call her a duck, cannot call her a goose;
can call her a deer, but never a moose;
You can call her a lamb,
but never a sheep;
Economic she likes, but you can't call her
(Note: And by the way, this is one of those
millions of little ditties that skip around cyberland without
accompanying attribution or contact information. If anyone can
verify the author/origin of this poem, please let me know as I would
love to give appropriate credit.)
3. Be a storyteller
If you want to grab attention,
then tell a story. Whether you're writing a brochure to sell
leather, a Web site to discuss water-proof rain gear, or a book
about a famous podiatrist, tell a story rather than merely listing
rote facts, such as the features of the boots that a foot doctor
Instead, tell readers how these
same boots were worn, thanks to a trusted doctor's recommendation,
by a weary bush pilot in sub-zero Alaskan weather and how they saved
him from certain frostbite after his plane crashed in the remote
northern-most portion of the state.
Stories grab and hold
attention. And, they intrigue readers to keep reading until the
story's happy - or bittersweet - end.
Bottom Line: If you write to
express rather than to impress, then your writing will automatically
be more impressive.
Debra Koontz Traverso
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