1. Write drunk, edit sober
This tip comes from Hemingway, who doubtless followed it literally. I mean it metaphorically.
Loosen up. Be yourself. Be honest. Don’t hold back.
Tell your story passionately, and your writing will be real. You’ll connect with your readers; you’ll persuade them.
The next day, when you proofread, you can always tone down your copy. But it’s hard to inject life into copy that never had any in the first place.
2. Don’t hedge
If you obsess over 100% accuracy and cover every possible contingency, you’ll sound like a lawyer. Lighten up. Write with simple confidence.
Compare these two sentences:
- One could almost say that if you aren’t lazy and unsophisticated, then there’s a pretty good chance you’re a geek.
- If you aren’t lazy and unsophisticated, you’re a geek.
3. Eliminate fluff words
Qualifying words (especially “trash adjectives”) don’t add anything useful. They merely suck the energy out of your prose.
Think twice before using words like very, quite, extremely, little, and rather.
It’s very important to completely eliminate fluff words, as they are rather distracting and totally unhelpful.
Remember this quote from Mark Twain: “Substitute damn every time you’re inclined to write very; your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.”
4. Write lots
A photographer friend offered me this advice:
“Take lots of photos. 99% of them will be crap, but 1% will be gems. Take 10,000 photos and you’ll have 100 gems – enough to fill an album – and everyone will think you’re a genius.”
The same applies to writing. Write lots, then throw away the crap.
5. Sleep on it
No matter how hard you work on a piece of writing, you will never get it perfect the first time. So when you think you’re finished, sleep on it. Give your work at least one night’s rest before you release it.
Looking over your work with fresh eyes, you will always find some way to improve it.
I know, I know: You’ve got deadlines. This is precisely why you should always write articles at least one day before they’re due. Preferably longer.