I recently watched a video where Scott Adams, the creator of the comic strip, Dilbert, spoke about his tips to become a better writer.
These tips apply to writing nonfiction such as blog posts and articles.
Here are my takeaways from the video.
1: Find the right topic.
- Find a topic that makes you feel something, eg: makes you laugh or get you excited.
- Find a topic that your audience finds familiar or understand.
- Don’t write about something that only you would like.
- Write for your audience NOT for yourself.
- Imagine yourself writing for an invisible friend. It can be a real person in your life.
2: First sentence should evoke curiosity.
- Your first sentence is what helps your audience decide if they want to read the full article.
- This is your chance to make a good first impression.
- If you are up for it, make the first sentence provocative.
3: Pace and lead the reader.
- Match your audience and be like them in certain important aspects. This will make your audience comfortable with you.
- Call out what your audience might be thinking and once you have their attention, give your solution.
4: Use direct sentences.
- The brain processes direct sentences faster and you don’t want your audience to get tired.
- Of the format : The subject did something.
- Eg: say “The boy hit the ball” instead of “The ball was hit by the boy”
5: No jargons, adjectives, adverbs and cliches.
- The reader subtracts all words that don’t mean anything to them. This includes adverbs, adjectives and jargons.
- For eg: Tomorrow is very hot. When editing, if you leave out “very” and instead say “Tomorrow is hot”, its means the same to your reader. All they will remember after reading your article is that tomorrow will be hot.
- His trick to avoid jargon, adjectives, and adverbs:
When you are editing your article, imagine someone is offering you $100 for every word you take out that will keep the meaning the same.
6: Brevity = brilliance.
- Use fewer words to present the information.
- People think you are brilliant when you speak in a simple language.
7: Sixth-grade vocabulary.
Avoid using big words. Keep the vocabulary simple.
8: Get the musicality of the sentences right.
- Certain words have hard sounds in them like K and T.
- If you string together a sentence that has them in the wrong places. that would sound ugly.
- Keep the hard sounds spaced out and in the right place.
9: Avoid ugly words.
- Such as moist talc.
- This is more a matter of preference but where ever you have a choice, use the good words instead of words you think sound ugly.
10: Consider associations.
- Putting together two completely unrelated things together creates unpleasant images in the reader’s mind. You dont want your reader to make assumptions and judgments.
- Eg: I like babies. I like automatic weapons. This creates an ugly picture in the reader’s mind between babies and automatic weapons.
11: Visual language.
- Use visual language where ever you can.
- Our visual senses dominate every other sense. What we see overrides what we hear.
- If you want to peruade the reader quickly, use visual cues.
- His eg: instead of saying “Let’s beef up the border security by creating a solution for different parts of the territory” saying “lets build a wall”, creates a quick visual image in the readers mind.
12: Violate a norm.
- Make the reader a bit uncomfortable.
- Dont try to please everyone in your writing.
13: End on clever or provocative thought.
Have a clear closing statement.
14: Write everyday.
This is the only way you will get better at it. Don’t wait to get inspired to write.