The legendary writer, William Zinsser. I did know him in the morning today. I was struggling to write an essay about me and needed to promote myself as an outstanding talent. I asked for a favor of one of my friends, who was very good at writing. William Zinsser and his book, "On Writing Well" is what he told me when I asked for the tips to improve my writing.
Let me summarize his seventeen essences:
- Strip every sentence to its cleanest components
Simple is the best. Every word should be purposeful.
- Write in the first person.
Writing is the interaction between the readers and the author. It is better for them to feel "you."
- Imitate the style of one's writing you want to learn
Everything is starting from scratch. Sometimes I feel I just copy and paste, and not add any value when writing based on some other sources. But I just need to be mindful to learn the style intentionally.
- Believe in your own identity
- Don't ask who your audience is...you are the audience
This reminds me of the post about "the most important customer is you" by @abrahamKim. You are the most important customer and reader.
- Listen to what they write
This advice is actually given by my friend. He recommended me to read aloud the sentences so that we can make the rhythm but smooth sentences.
- Have a habit of writing
Here 200WaD is the place to be. We are doing the right things. Also, make it right.
- Select the single message that you wanted to leave in the readers' mind.
This is related to 1. We tend to add too many things into one place.
- The first sentence is the most important.
If you want the reader to finish reading, you should pay attention until the end of the writing.
- Use the Thesaurus
This is another tips and routine my friend showed me in front of me while revising my writing. I am doing the same. Whenever I find repeated words, I will try to replace by another alternative.
- Don't finish writing once. Rewrite it.
This is still a hard part for me. I did not often come back to my writing. Even I do not want to see since it is a kind of a pain if you come up with the better one and you feel like no progress. But no trial, no progress.
- Go at your own pace. Your only contest is with yourself
Ha! This is the exact same lesson as I learned here "compare yourself who you were yesterday."
Write down the most vivid memory.
In other words, you don't have to look back too much to write something in the past.
"If you still remember them it's because they contain a universal truth that your readers will recognize from their own life"
Write down the person's actual word when writing about him or her
Look for the nearest exit when you finish your sentences
Accept the fact that it is hard to write a great sentence
Be proud of your writing
I learned a lot through these essences. It might be weird but I was afraid of writing with fewer words since it seems to be too simple and not sufficient to convey my message. This is probably because I unconsciously think my thoughts are complicated (yes, because it is not organized and clear yet) and shorter sentences look poor. I need to reset my mindset and make some efforts to convey my ideas with the shortest and simplest way.