Tag Archives: guide to better communication

Style guide

Kurt Vonnegut was a writer of some repute. His guide to stylish writing is worth familiarising yourself with.

  1. Find a subject you care about
  2. Do not ramble
  3. Keep it simple
  4. Have guts to cut
  5. Sound like yourself
  6. Say what you mean
  7. Pity the readers

Good tips for blogging I reckon.

Tip 6 came with this little gem… for more detail about the other points read the article.

My teachers wished me to write accurately, always selecting the most effective words, and relating the words to one another unambiguously, rigidly, like parts of a machine. The teachers did not want to turn me into an Englishman after all. They hoped that I would become understandable — and therefore understood. And there went my dream of doing with words what Pablo Picasso did with paint or what any number of jazz idols did with music. If I broke all the rules of punctuation, had words mean whatever I wanted them to mean, and strung them together higgledy-piggledy, I would simply not be understood. So you, too, had better avoid Picasso-style or jazz-style writing, if you have something worth saying and wish to be understood.

He’s also written eight tips for writing short stories:

  1. Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.
  2. Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.
  3. Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.
  4. Every sentence must do one of two things—reveal character or advance the action.
  5. Start as close to the end as possible.
  6. Be a Sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them—in order that the reader may see what they are made of.
  7. Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.
  8. Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To hell with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.

Five reasons to write lists

  1. Traffic. If there’s one thing I learned from the last week it’s that lists work. Every “how to write a better blog” post I read suggests writing lists.
  2. They’re easy – lists are the easiest of posts to write. You start with a half baked idea and build.
  3. They’re easy to read – the structure is nice, points are enumerated,   discussion is easier.
  4. They’re finite – the reader knows what they’re getting. You know where to stop.
  5. They’re controversial – lists start discussions. That’s why magazines have had “top 100” features forever. People have different ideas about what shouldn’t be on the list – or thoughts as to why your list is wrong.

There’s a great article here about why “lists of n things” are such popular fodder. You should read it.

Some quotes…

Structurally, the list of n things is a degenerate case of essay. An essay can go anywhere the writer wants. In a list of n things the writer agrees to constrain himself to a collection of points of roughly equal importance, and he tells the reader explicitly what they are.

It’s fine to put “The” before the number [in the title] if you really believe you’ve made an exhaustive list. But evidence suggests most things with titles like this are linkbait.

Lists are in. They are great Internet fodder. If you want to get discussion happening about something – write a list.