How to write good.
What I’m about to tell you will win you the respect and admiration of your colleagues, happiness to last you a lifetime, a chalet in the south of France, and a really good (just stepped out of a salon, but all day long) hair day.
Maybe…At the very least, what I’m about to tell you will absolutely make you a better writer.
As you may have noticed, we’re the new kids on the block. But like all new kids, we want our voices heard and our actions noticed… so we’ve arrived, settled in and now we’re here to cause a ruckus. To get to the point, because we are in the practice of setting a good example, just like an actual new kid in a new block must stand up and show the other kids what he or she is made of, this is our literal take on the matter. We’ve taken this opportunity to not only show you what we have to offer, but to also touch on a rather personal, sensitive and extremely frustrating topic… the English language. We thought it couldn’t hurt to start off as we mean to go on.
While the team at Boldly may resemble anal retentive grammar Nazis’ now, if we’re being honest, we all snoozed through those English lessons back in school (don’t deny it). However, there’s no refuting that nothing grinds our gears more than reading a piece of writing and cringing at the incorrect use of the word ‘you’re’, or is it ‘your’… see where I’m going with this? (if you don’t, please re-enroll in high school stat!)
Consider this your kick up the backside to put some quality content out there because there is far too much noise drowning out the glorious phenomena that is ‘words’. Side note, while this article can’t comprehend 12 years of English classes, we recommend you keep a dictionary and thesaurus as a favourite bookmark in your browser toolbar. Alternatively, download the language app Duolingo and take up English (#noshame). So, let’s do this:
Boldly proudly introduces “the tedious and dull stuff about writing that no one ever talks about but is super
important if you actually want people to care about what you’ve written”.
1. The headline
It all begins here, and writing your title first will force you to polish and refine exactly what it is you are writing about. Not to mention, 3-10 words is all you’ve got, so in the wise words of J.K.Rowling “use them well”. Think of your piece of writing as a topic of conversation that you are mentioning to a friend and write it in plain English; simplicity goes a long way.
2. The description
One or two sentences which describe what this amazing (to be) piece of writing is about. It’s the text that will appear on Facebook below the headline (because of course you will be sharing this to your social channels). The process of writing your description second to your headline is to further sharpen what the topic is and keep you focused on the central and fundamental concept. While personally, I can’t say I ever really stick to my initial topic… I mean, there’s just so many things to say so how some people can cohesively talk about only one thing without getting side tracked is just tops. But for the purpose of this article, do as I say, not as I do.
3. The draft
We won’t lie, this is the hardest part of writing. I can hear your mind ticking… “why, it’s just draft words after all”. Firstly, I take that as a personal insult, no words should ever be treated with the disrespect of being “just words”. Secondly, it’s bloody hard to start, but that goes with anything. Trust me when I say, just spit out whatever you’ve got and you’ll soon find it hard to stop. This is exactly why the draft is so important. Just accept that it’s not going to be your finest piece of work and then move on from that heartbreak. Just, write! Write anything and everything, even if it’s “I don’t know where to start, so I’m just spitting out words.” Action creates reaction, so just worry about getting your thoughts/feeling/emotions on paper. Besides, the best part is editing after all (if I do say so myself).
Walk away! I don’t really care what you do, or how long it takes you, but after you’ve written that draft, close your computer/throw all the pens you have in your house out the window and walk away from your writing. Ironically, when you stop focusing on a problem, your mind subconsciously comes up with new ideas to solve it (or overthinks the problem, but maybe you should consult with a professional for that). This step is awfully noteworthy, so before you throw those pens out, make sure you jot this down.
5. Have a coffee… or a cider, depending what time of the day it is (no judgement either way)
I think this point speaks for itself. Wine is also appropriate (encouraged in fact).
Ah editing! As good as cuddling a puppy… or is that just me?! (Surely not). Anyways, this is where the magic happens. Editing is the equivalent of Rumpelstiltskin’s turning straw into gold.
7. Cull like your life depends on it
Sorry to say, but you’re going to have to refer to point 6 again because the first part of editing is culling useless words and sentences. If you happen to have caught snippets of your high school education in between all those snoozes, you might have caught on that you’re life back then depended on hitting word counts (not the words themselves). NO! Just, no. Listen very carefully… EVERY WORD MUST BE NECESSARY! In short, expect to lose the first and last 25% of your writing… words for the sake of words don’t mean anything, and we’re in the business of making every word count.
8. First sentence
Now, punch your reader in the face. Not literally you idio… erm, I don’t actually have another verb to replace that with. Anyway, moving on, the purpose of your first sentence is to be so strong it seriously hits and leaves a mark on your reader. There’s no denying, our attention span is getting shorter and shorter, so the first sentence is literally a ride or die moment.
9. Create the slippery slope
After you’ve successfully assaulted your reader with your first sentence, you have hopefully created a slippery slope effect; first sentence leads the reader onto the second, the second onto the third, and if you paid attention in Math class then you’ll understand where I’m going with this (if not, please refer to my previous comment about re-enrolling in high school). To achieve this effect, consider leading with a personal story, give hints about what’s to come, or ask the reader an ironic question – make it that the reader has a reason to read your article over scrolling through Instagram – like this article, which of course you aren’t reading while simultaneously scrolling because it’s so beautifully written. In actual fact, a tear dances down my cheek as I edit this, THIS will go down in history as a GREAT piece of writing (#fakeittilyoumakeit).
10. Write dumb
Okay, so not dumb… but aim for a 7 th to 8 th grade level. Hemingway said it well, flowery, overly complex language isn’t getting you anywhere.** A universal rule is to keep paragraphs around 2-4 sentences aiming for about 25 words or less in each sentence. This’ll makes your writing easier on the eye. ** And when I say “Hemmingway said it well”, well what I mean is that it’s writing etiquette to avoid flowery, descriptive language when writing, but frankly, I can’t seem to help myself. Never the less, as I mentioned above, do as we say not as we do.
11. Adverbs … just don’t go there
The more adverbs and adjectives the better! Or at least that’s my approach, but then again, I also live in a world that is made up of sentences like “when the entire world feels amass with pretty colours” and “serendipity reinstated an inkling of faith” … you get the idea. But let’s get back to speaking best practice, not bold practice (see the irony?)… Stephen King once wrote “The road to hell, is paved with adverbs”. As a rule of thumb, adverbs (words ending in “ly” – now we’re really heading back to grade 7 English) usually weaken your sentences. “I chased the dog” is stronger than “I quickly chased the dog”.
12. The headline 2.0
Don’t be discouraged, but 90% of readers will read a headline and skip the article… it’s the nature of the beast. In order to minimise those odds, write 25 headlines. Do it now, don’t even think about it. Now, find some trusted friends, if you don’t have any try the likes of Tinder, and ask their opinion on what headline they would click to read the full article.
13. Make it pretty
To avoid copyright fraud, don’t use Google for images! Be safe and use a website like Unsplash to break up your writing. Keep in mind though, this isn’t a picture book… unless you meant it to be and then please discard all of my above advice.
Whew, now that’s done… let’s get writing?