To do great writing, read great writing. Here’s the great writing I’ve been reading this week:
Sometimes it feels like the world is swimming in bad writing. It’s everywhere – press releases, email, corporate memos, academic journals, scientific papers, lawsuits, government documents, textbooks, text messages, and on and on.
So it’s comforting to know that the average reader is just as fed up with it as writers and editors are.
I know this because after the New York Times Magazine published a piece by Hugo Lindgren on corporate jargon and other forms of bad language titled Words We Don’t Say editors there asked people to share their own examples of words they never want to read again. They were inundated. You can see the entire list in Words You Don’t Say.
Many of the submitted words are the same ones I cringe at in press releases and delete from manuscripts I edit, words like “actionable,” “deliverables” and “dollarize,” and phrases such as “at the end of the day,” “it is important to note” and “new beginning.”
If you’ve ever worked as a business or technology reporter or editor, you’ve run up against what feels like an unceasing tide of buzzwords, new iterations replacing old ones in lockstep with technological advances (then “world wide web,” now “cloud computing.”)
As Henry David Thoreau said, “Simplify, simplify.”
A few simple tricks: Avoid using the same word more than once in a sentence. Use active voice – your writing will be livelier, and you’ll need fewer words. You can see other suggestions for tightening up your writing in a post called When it comes to writing, economize.
Here’s the other great writing I’ve been reading this week:
- What I Learned in Joplin (New York Times) – The next time you hear a writer say “I don’t understand why I have to be on Twitter” show them this. Stelter, normally a Times media reporter, jumped on a plane to Joplin, Missouri, to cover the aftermath of the tornadoes there, and due to spotty cell phone service and other technical difficulties, ended up doing most of his most significant reporting via Twitter.
- 5 things I learned from Social Media Weekend (DNAInfo.com) – Columbia U. professor and digital news expert Sree Sreenivasan shares his usual adroit observations. Check out the graphic that shows the expected bump in engagement (buzzword alert!) when blog posts (or tweets) contain references to heart-warming stories, scores for major sporting events, etc. Good to know.
- Why I’m starting to pay for guest posts on my blog (Make a Living Writing)
- What we can learn from U.S. sports journalists (Nieman Labs)