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How to Be a Better Writer: 6 Tips From Harvard’s Steven Pinker | TIME

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He forgot number 4).  Do it every day in a public setting.  Practice make perfect.  I like 3) though, whenever I try to write something and it starts going long, the second draft always has the conclusion first and then I take out as many words as possible.  Oh, and number 5) Either get a really good pen OR learn how to type the correct way.  Like a bad sports player, it's always easy to blame the equipment or lose  your train of thought by getting slowed down by the channel/medium.

Do you think it matters whether the writing is with a pen or a keyboard?

I never thought about doing it every day in a public setting being a difference maker, but it does give an opportunity for feedback, and feedback is key to improvement along with practice.

6) Good Writing Means Revising

Being a better writer doesn’t mean that the words come out perfect immediately. It means you spend time to hone them.

The way the ideas initially pour out of your head is not the best way to get them into someone else’s. That takes work.

You need to beat those words into submission. Roll up your sleeves and wrestle with them. Make time to revise.

Here’s Steven:

Much advice on good writing is really advice on revising. Because very few people are smart enough to be able to lay down some semblance of an argument and to express it in clear prose at the same time. Most writers require two passes to accomplish that, And after they’ve got the ideas down, now it’s time to refine and polish. Because the order in which ideas occur to a writer is seldom the same as the order that are best digested by a reader. And often, good writing requires a revising and rearranging the order of what you introduce so that the reader can easily follow it.

It’s all in the editing. Think that texting, email and social media are destroying the written word? Wrong.

Christian Rudder points to research showing Twitter might actually beimproving people’s writing by making them edit and be more concise.

Via Dataclysm: Who We Are (When We Think No One’s Looking):

Twitter actually may be improving its users’ writing, as it forces them to wring meaning from fewer letters— it embodies William Strunk’s famous dictum, “Omit needless words”, at the keystroke level… The linguists also measured Twitter’s lexical density, its proportion of content-carrying words like verbs and nouns, and found it was not only higher than e-mail’s, but was comparable to the writing on Slate, the control used for magazine-level syntax. Everything points to the same conclusion: that Twitter hasn’t so much altered our writing as just gotten it to fit into a smaller place. Looking through the data, instead of a wasteland of cut stumps, we find a forest of bonsai.

(To learn the ten rules for communicating effectively, click here.)

Here are six of Steven’s tips for good writing:

  1. Be visual and conversational. Be concrete, make your reader see and stop trying to impress.
  2. Beware “the curse of knowledge.” Have someone read your work and tell you if it makes sense. Your own brain cannot be trusted.
  3. Don’t bury the lead. Clarity beats suspense. If they don’t know what it’s about they can’t follow along.
  4. You don’t have to play by the rules, but try. If you play it straight 99% of the time, that 1% will really shine.
  5. Read Read Read. The English language is too complex to learn from one book. Never stop learning.
  6. Good writing means revising. Never hit “send” or “print” without reviewing your work — preferably multiple times.

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