Writing Hacks

Writing may be something we all do, but like any skill it requires practice to master. Fortunately, writing also has some hacks you can use to improve quickly. If you are frustrated that people do not read, or understand, what you write, try out some of these 10 hacks to quickly improve your writing:

  1. The time is now: write everything as if it is happening now. Avoid past and future tense, wherever possible. Present tense is easier to read and gives your words urgency.
  2. Go all in: never express doubt. Doubt causes the reader to mistrust your message. Beware of the words such as “could, should, might, try, and hope” as they express uncertainty.
  3. Just say it: get right to the point. Address the reader as if they were standing in front of you. Avoid lengthy explanations or disclaimers as they distract from your message.
  4. Visualize the reader: picture the person who will read your words in your mind. Write at that person. Write only what they need to hear, not what you want to say.
  5. Less is more: the more you write, the dumber you sound.
  6. Lead the reader: dribble out information slowly. One idea per sentence. One point per paragraph. One topic per section.
  7. Come on strong: you have about three sentences to capture a reader. Put 50% of your effort into opening sentences of a document or email. Make those sentences short and enticing.
  8. Declutter: remove meaningless adjectives such as “very” or “basically.” These are clutter adjectives that communicate nothing.
  9. Touch it: make the subject of sentences a living or tangible thing whenever possible. Our minds are wired to more easily understand concrete things.
  10. Bye By: passive voice is difficult to read and understand. It also makes you sound pompous. The easiest way to eliminate passive voice is to scan your work for the word “by” and then flip the sentence. That is, change the object of the sentence to the subject and vice-versa.

Of all of these hacks, perhaps the most powerful is how well you can get into the mind of your reader (or listener).  It is my experience, that poor communicators are self-absorbed people.  They lack the skill to see something from another person’s perspective.  If you want to communicate effectively, stop thinking about yourself. Focus on what the reader sees and hears.  

I find these to be valuable tools to keep my writing crisp and focused. Now, can I actually follow them? Yeeeeeah.  

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