You Are What You Write is an excerpt from the book, Work Hacks: 300+ Cool Ideas to SPEED Career Success.
Not long ago, I met a 15-year-old American student who couldn’t spell “Wednesday.”
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Elmore “Dutch” Leonard, is the author of more than three dozen books. Many of his books have been made into motion pictures including (Get Shorty) and TV shows (Justified). Mr. Leonard, who used to live a few miles from me, has published his rules of the writing game.
Here are my favorites for you to use when blogging, crafting web copy or writing a book.
1. “Avoid prologues.”
Life is short.
Get on with it. Help your readers to do the same. Getting on with the message or story is also a great way to avoid writer’s block. Launch right into the action and your writing will not stall in the “blank page” phase.
2. “Never open a book with weather.”
For that matter, never open a memo with “…pursuant of our agreement.”
When writing, it’s important to get to the good stuff right away. There’ll be a good time to mention whether it’s cloudy or sunny. There will never be a good time to be “pursuant of our agreement.” While I’m thinking of it, use “daily” rather than “on a daily basis.” There, I feel better.
3. “Never use a verb other than ‘said’ for dialog.”
Some may call this a style preference, but simpler is almost always better, right?
Try to write dialog the exact way people talk. Use contractions and incomplete sentences, if appropriate. This is a great way to give dimension to your characters.
4. “…leave out the parts that readers skip.”
Always try to say it in fewer sentences, with fewer words, using fewer syllables. Use a varied rhythm to discourage readers from skipping parts. Try a short sentence. Then, add a more complex sentence that includes an imbedded phrase or a combination of ideas.
5. “If it sounds like writing, rewrite it.”
The best writing is rewriting.
Always revise important emails, blogs, reports, and letters. Your message will improve with each iteration. Speeches benefit from rewrites, too.
Here’s a cool rewrite technique for you. Most people write based on how words look, rather than how they sound. Read aloud what you’ve written and make changes based on what you hear.
Have someone else read it aloud and her interpretation will give you even more ideas on how to improve your writing.
Best of luck and remember, you are what you write.