Better Writing: Write to Inform, Not to Impress

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It’s not about you. People pick up a copy of your business book because they want to solve a problem or answer a question. They think you can help. They don’t care whether you’re a “great writer.” They do care about whether you can help them answer that question or solve that problem.

Here are some ways you can do that more effectively.

Make it easy on the reader.

Thomas Sowell said, “if the book is unreadable, people won’t read it.” Make your book as easy to read as possible. That’s not easy. If you want to make it easy on the reader, you’ve got to do a lot of hard work.

If it doesn’t move the book forward, throw it out.

As you work on your book, you’ll produce some spectacular bits of writing. The problem is that writing must serve the purpose of the book. Sometimes it does. Leave it in. Sometimes it doesn’t. Then you must throw it out even though it feels like ripping out a piece of your heart.

Show don’t tell.

Don’t describe emotions. Instead, describe the behavior that demonstrates the emotion. Ask yourself, “How would I know that Tom was angry?” The answer might be that Tom clenched his jaw and got red in the face. That’s what you write. Ask yourself, “How would I know that customers didn’t like the product?” The answer might be that only a small percentage of them ordered a second time. That’s what you write.

Write like you’re talking to a friend.

Don’t write like a writer. Write like you’re talking to a friend. Avoid jargon or explain it. Avoid acronyms or explain them. Don’t ab (don’t abbreviate).

Use simple sentence structures.

Use simple sentences. Subject, predicate, object.

Use the active voice. Don’t tell the reader what was done by John. Instead, tell the reader what John did.

Keep it lean.

Every book should be as long as necessary and no longer. A lean book is the shortest book that will cover everything necessary.

If readers notice your style, you’re doing it wrong. Business book readers don’t care about your style. They care about answering their question or solving their problem.

Takeaways

Make it easy on the reader.

If it doesn’t move the book forward, throw it out.

Show don’t tell.

Write like you’re talking to a friend

Use simple sentence structures.

Keep it lean.

If readers notice your style, you’re doing it wrong

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