Many hold a notion that the ability to write, or write well, is a gift bestowed on a chosen few. Writing well is considered a kind of art, linked murkily to muse and mysticism.
That leaves us thinking there are two kinds of people: the writing haves—and the hapless, for whom writing well is a hopeless struggle, like trying to carve marble with a butter knife.
But I don’t believe that, and neither should you. The truth is this: we are all capable of producing good writing.
Or, at least, better writing.
And we all should be producing better writing. Because in our content- and social media-driven world: Everybody writes.
We are all capable of shedding mediocre writing to reveal something more inspired and reader-centric. The first step is to get into the right mindset.
Here are 13 writing tips (or writing rules) to help you get started.
13 Writing Rules
1. There is no one way to write—just as there is no one way to parent a child or roast a turkey.
2. Our words are our emissaries; they tell the world who we are.
3. Good writing isn’t just any tool. It’s the power tool you should be able to wield expertly, just as every respectable building contractor can use the skilsaw he keeps in his truck.
4. The key to being a better writer is to be a more productive one. More simply: the key to being a better writer is to write.
5. Writing well is part habit, part knowledge of some fundamental rules, and part giving a damn.
6. No one will ever complain that you’ve made things too simple to understand.
7. Assume the reader knows nothing, but don’t assume the reader is stupid.
8. Buzzwords and jargon are the chemical additives of writing.
9. The Ugly First Draft isn’t a pass you give yourself to produce substandard work. But it is a necessary part of the process of creating above-standard work.
10. The people you think of as good writers are often terrible writers on their first drafts. But here’s their secret: They are excellent editors of their own work.
11. Editing is not just about fixing the grammar, it’s about fixing the clarity for your reader.
12. “You can’t rush art” is folly. You do have to rush your art. Otherwise, that art sits on its butt on the couch watching Netflix.
13. Deadlines are the WD-40 of writing. (h/t to Doug Kessler for this one.)
header photo credit: Amy Guth