Monday, 16 November 2015

10 Simple tips to improve your writing

"Easy reading is damned hard writing." Nathaniel Hawthorne
Office workers use written communication daily,  but few devote time to improving it.
Clear writing can amplify the thoughts of the writer, careless writing confuses the reader.
Good writing happens when you understand the goal of their writing. Know what you want to say before you can create and edit your writing.  Readers have a limited bandwidth, you risk losing readers if your writing isn't focused, keep your writing simple and get to the point.
1.  Create an attention-grabbing title
The title of your writing should grab the attention of your reader, the first paragraph interests them, the quality of the article will make them come back.
If the title isn't interesting people won't read your work.  Create multiple titles and pick the best..
2.  Start strong
The first paragraph should keep the reader's attention, explaining why they must read your article.
3.  Ideas
You need ideas before you can create a draft.  Generate ideas, thoughts, insights for the topic.  Generate lots of ideas, good, bad, some not yours, ideas a different topic.  To create a few good ideas you often need to create a bunch of rubbish ones.
Ask yourself questions
  • Why is the this important
  • Why, When, What, Where, Who
  • Personal stories
  • Quotes
  • Links
  • A list of ideas
4.  Create an Outline
Read your article notes, create sub-headings for your article.  Clarify your thoughts, create a logical flow to your article and keep it focused
5.  Write don't edit
Writing and editing are different processes, don't do them together.  Write your first draft knowing it must be edited.
Stephen King has great advice in his autobiography/writing book On Writing.
”Write the first draft with the door closed, and the second with the door open.”
The first draft is a mess, it includes sentences and paragraphs which will be cut, the writing will be sloppy, but the article exists.
Write the first draft, don't stop to edit, editing slows you down.
Editing is shaping, cutting, organizing, clarifying.  You need to create an initial draft before you can shape it.


I didn't appreciate editing until I read books and writing tips.  Without editing my articles were slow, unfocused confused.  The insights were lost amongst the noise of poor writing.
6.  Remove as many words as possible but still keep the meaning
The first draft gets thoughts down on the page, editing revises those thoughts, removing superfluous words.  Most adverbs are not needed and should be removed.
7.   Remove cliches
Don't use cliches, create original thoughts.  Replace cliches by describing what you mean.
8.  Use short words and short sentences.  
Get to the point fast, replace complex words with a simple ones, don't slow the reader down.
9.  Question the purpose of each sentence, do you need it
If a sentence doesn't add value or is on a different topic take it out of this one.
If a sentence, no matter how excellent, does not illuminate your subject in some new and useful way, scratch it out. Kurt Vonnegut
10.  Always edit your work.  The first revision may be rubbish, it's the starting point for you to revise, remove and polish your thoughts.
Writing should quality not quantity.  It's better to have a shorter well written focused article than a long rambling article.  Readers have short attention spans, make every line count.

Books to improve your writing

This book helped me focus on the what and the why of writing.  The book highlighted the importance of planning and helped me create a blog template.
George Orwell's Essay Politics and the English Language (Penguin Modern Classics) has 6 rules for writing.  Keep your meaning clear and your writing simple.
  1. Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
  2. Never use a long word where a short one will do.
  3. If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
  4. Never use the passive where you can use the active.
  5. Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
  6. Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.
Writing tools gives grammar advice using a list of concise tools.  The writing is interesting and memorable.
Great tips on writing to help writers think about the writing process

Monday, 13 April 2015

Why do people dislike Mondays?

How did you approach Monday morning at work today, was it with a skip in your stride or did you slowly shuffle into the office, slump into your chair and brace yourself for another long week.
I'm sure most of you will hear someone making a cup of tea bemoaning that it's "Monday" and there is a big long week a head.

Why do people dislike Monday so much?

My daughter who is 2 and a half, she doesn't fully understand the days of the week but every day she runs excitedly into my room "get up daddy, get up daddy".
She is excited the day has begun, she can see the day can be full of possibilities and fun
This is the feeling we should have for Monday morning.
You have a choice how you view the start of the week either view
start of the week focusing on all the possibilities and the things you can achieve this week
start of the week as a long time with lots of tasks you have to do and five days until the weekend.
As a person with a positive outlook, I don't understand why people like to moan about it being Monday, I think we have had a rest from working, you are charged up and ready to rock
if your only aim this week is to get through the week, all the way to Friday then that is all you are going to archive but why are you aiming so low! If you aim low you hit low targets, if you aim higher then you could hit those high targets but if you come a little bit short you will still have done a lot better than aiming low.
Set yourself some targets that you want to achieve this week. Once you have your targets, the next step is to create a plan to achieve those targets.
The targets can be linked to your normal work and include other things like read a number of articles, start learning a new skill/technology and read a chapter/number of pages.
if you trudge into the office, feeling sorry for yourself, feeling there is a big long week a head, you are going to have bad posture and you are going to persuade yourself into feeling tired.
If you view a task or in this case a weeks worth of work as a big task, which is going to be a slog, it's going to drain the energy out of you and make it more difficult, this attitude is contributing to the likelihood of it becoming true.
Bound into the office, Give out some hearty Good Mornings
If you are unsure about how your body language shapes you actions then watch the this Great TED talk from Amy Cuddy - Your body language shapes who you are

Come on it's Monday, you have things to archive, work to do

You have
all week to show what an asset you are
all week to better last weeks output
all week to sell/do more than last week
all week to meet people you have met and increase you network
all week to learn skills to help you in your job
This could be your best work week ever and why not, what's holding you back
Go get em tiger
frog picture used from Mathew T Rader
tiger picture from Christina Saint Marche