Writing Secrets You Must Know
Writing better is critical for students. But it's even more important for business communicators.
Let's face it?if you write succinctly, you can (a) win promotions, (b) lead people with your creative ideas, and (c) create instructions for your employees to follow.
Therefore, here are five secrets about business communications you must know:
1. You must write simply ? We all want simple instructions that are easy to understand. Choose words that everybody knows, and offer analogies that are clear and precise.
2. Use action verbs ? Passive verbs like is, are, was, and were simply exist. Active verbs jump, run, explain, and covey information.
3. Learn from the best ? Read Mark Twain's brilliant short stories. Study Ben Franklin's short quotes and aphorisms. Lean about headlines and copywriting from researcher John Caples.
4. Compressed messages ? In the fast-paced 21st century, readers demand information in short, easy-to-absorb form.
It's been said that the average adult attention span today is a mere eight seconds. Can you deliver the theme of your message in that short time?
5. A word about headlines ? Researchers say most of us look at headlines four times more often than we read anything else. Therefore, that headline ? or the heading on your paper ? should capture the reader's interest immediately.
Bottom line: Learning to write clearly might be the most important skill you'll ever acquire.
Rix Quinn's book "Words That Stick" offers simple ideas for both students and business writers. It's available from your local bookstore, or from http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1580085768/qid/
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The One-Plot Wonder
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A writer writes. Bet you've heard that one before. Or maybe this one: if you want to be a writer, first you write one word, then you write the next.Both of these old clichés are true, of course. That's how they turned into clichés. But there's another dilemma a beginning creative writer often finds himself facing: do I write short stories or novels? Writing novels is almost always the end goal. You'll find exceptions---such as Ray Bradbury and Harlan Ellison, who primary built their careers writing short stories---but the vast majority of successful storytellers are novelists.The real question then is this: do I jump into novel writing with both feet or do I test the waters first by writing short stories? Generally, beginning writers don't understand that these are two very different forms. They see writing a short story as easier, less intimidating. At a cursory glance, it's hard to argue with that. But if you ask a writer successful in both forms, he'll almost always tell you that short stories pose a much more difficult task.Why?Because you're working on a small canvas. The novel is a wall mural. It's expansive. You have time to fully develop your characters. There's room for movement, for growth and change, for surprises and insights, for looking back as well as looking forward. The short story is an 8x10 landscape. It's a moment in time when your character faces a critical point in his or her existence, a moment that changes everything. In a glimpse, readers must believe in your characters, in the crisis they face, in the choices they make. It's a tiny, one-dimensional surface that must appear three-dimensional.With that understanding, starting out writing short stories can still be a good proving ground for a writer. You learn quickly what works and what doesn't. You learn to write tight, to pack as much meat into as few words as possible. You learn to capture the core make up of your characters. All very valuable lessons for both the short story writer and the novelist.
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Piecing It All Together
There's a little known secret we writers like to keep to ourselves, because we fear that if word got out, readers would immediately become disillusioned and abandon us. It's not as bad as a reviewer spoiling a twist in the plot of a book, I suppose. Those people should be tarred with onion dip, feathered with potato chips and released to a crowd of hungry football fans on the day of the Super Bowl. But it is a little like the magician showing you how he fooled you.
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