Business Authors: Don’t Write Like a Writer

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“If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.”

Elmore Leonard said that in his Ten Rules of Writing. It was so important that Leonard didn’t give it a number. He said it’s the advice that sums up his other rules.

Maybe our English teachers convinced us that good writing was fancy. Maybe we think fancy writing will impress readers. Whatever it is, most of my book writing clients show up thinking that fancy writing is the way to go. It’s not.

The purpose of your book is to convey information.

If you’re writing a business book you must remember the purpose. People read business books to solve a problem or answer a question. They want to be able to do something differently when they’re done reading.

When you write like a writer, your language gets in the way of your purpose. It’s harder for the reader to get the information you want to convey. It’s harder for him or her to understand what to do next. You need to keep it simple. The good news is you know how.

Write like you’re talking to a friend.

Instead of writing like a writer, write like you’re talking to a friend. Imagine yourself at a backyard barbecue, sitting in the stands at your kid’s soccer game, or sitting around having an adult beverage and talking.

Don’t imagine yourself as giving a speech. Imagine that you’re talking to one person. When you write a book, that’s what you’re doing.

Write the way you talk, only better. There won’t be any “ums” or long pauses. Make it you at your best. Constantly ask yourself, “Would I say it that way?”

Read your writing aloud.

The best way that I know to catch and fix fancy writing is to read your work out loud. You’ll find that your tongue trips over things your eyes missed. You’ll hear fancy better than you’ll see it.

If it doesn’t sound like you’re talking to a friend, rewrite it.

Takeaways

Elmore Leonard’s rule. “If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.”

The purpose of your book is to convey information.

Write like you’re talking to a friend.

Read your writing aloud.

If it doesn’t sound like you talking to a friend, rewrite it.

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