Whether you’re writing fiction or non-fiction, the rules for good writing are fundamentally the same.
1. Express, not impress.
Good writing is not about the number of words you’ve produced, the quality of the adjectives you’ve written or the size of your font–it’s about the number of lives you’ve touched! It’s whether or not your reader understands you. It’s about expression, not impression.
2. Simple sentences work best.
– The only possible option in order to accelerate the growth of the food industry is to focus on the fact that the target market of this business demands convenience, competence and cost-effectiveness.
– Better: The food industry can grow faster if food trucks focus on convenience, competence and cost-effectiveness.
3. Active, rather than passive.
– The offering price was established by the real estate vendor and the negotiation process was initiated by the real estate buyer.
– Better: The real estate vendor set the offering price, and the real estate buyer started negotiating.
4. Know who your target audience is.
Who are you writing for? Who do you expect to read your article, your book, or your blog post? Will they care about what you’re talking about? Will they understand the message that you’re trying to get across? Good writing isn’t generic; it’s specific because it’s targeted towards a group of people with something common binding them.
5. Read it aloud.
Reading your works out loud allows you to notice something that you might not have noticed if you were just reading it silently. Go on, read them out loud now. Also, try to listen to your work objectively as you read it. Are you making sense? Or are you simply stringing a couple of words together just to fill a gap?
6. Avoid using jargon as much as possible.
Not everyone in your audience will know what a “bull market” is. Not everyone knows that “pyrexia” is basically the same thing as “a fever”. And surely you can come up with a better term for high blood pressure than “hypertension”?
7. In terms of words, size matters.
Please, don’t strain yourself by browsing the Internet, looking for complicated and fancy-sounding words. Less is always more.
– The man gave a me look so sharp that I sincerely believed it could pierce my heart and see my innermost fears.
– Better: The man glared at me.
8. Being positive is better than being negative–even in writing!
– I did not think that the unbelievable would not occur.
– Better: I thought the unbelievable would happen.
9. Set aside time for revising and rewriting–after you’ve written the whole content.
I’m not suggesting that you should edit each time you’ve finished a paragraph–that would just be tedious. What I’m telling is that you should first give yourself some time to finish the content prior to editing. Write away. Don’t edit yet. Don’t focus on the grammar yet. Don’t worry about the syntax, the synonym, the antonym or the order that you’re using.
Write for yourself, but mostly, write for your target audience. Write the message clearly and don’t be afraid to express your thoughts. Don’t censor yourself yet. Let the words flow. Don’t erase what you’ve written yet.
Right now, it’s all about expression, about art and about your imagination.
All the editing and the fixing will come later.
10. Write. All the time.
Good writing is simply always writing. Write when you’re sad. Write when you’re scared. Write when you don’t feel like writing.
- What was the purpose of your trip?
- Where did you go?
- When did you travel?
- Who traveled with you?
- With whom did you meet there? At what facilities?
(The questions above are the basics, which you can cover briefly.)
- What did you accomplish on the trip?
- What did you learn?
- What do you recommend based on your trip?
- Overall, how useful was the trip?
- Does anyone need to follow up on the trip? If so, who? How?
- What is this report about?
- What time period does this report cover?
- Are things on track?
- What has been accomplished since the last report?
- Have any important events taken place?
- Have there been any problems or obstacles? If so, how have they been managed?
- Is there anything I need to worry about?
- Where can I get more information?
- Is your purpose to help build a better relationship with the overseas office?
- Is your purpose to illustrate the critical need for more involvement with the factory?
- Do you want to show the monetary value of the trip to get approval for travel in your 2015 budget?
- Do you want to impress your new manager with the clarity of your thinking and writing?
- Leave out any information that does not answer a reader’s question. For instance, if your reader would not ask what hotel you stayed at or whether you had any great meals, do not include those details.
- Avoid using chronological order to report. Chronological order may cause you to include irrelevant details just because they happened.
- Use headings, preferably descriptive headings such as “Recommendation: Send a Team to the 2015 Conference” and “Budget Required: $85,000.” Headings will stop you from including information that does not belong in that section.
- Summarize. For example, in a report on a client meeting, do not include he said-I said details. Instead, report agreements and outcomes. In a financial or technical report, do not include raw data in the body of the report. If it’s essential, put it in an appendix.
- Include links to more information and offers to provide more. For instance, in a report on a conference, link to the conference program or offer to provide certain conference handouts.
- Use fewer examples. One or two powerful examples can achieve your goal. Additional examples provide length–not strength.
- Use tables and charts rather than sentences to capture numerical information. Graphical illustrations help you leave out extraneous information. Be sure to label each graphic so its relevance is clear to you and your reader.
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Have a magnificent Wednesday,