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Practical writing tips

Remove -ing words

Words that end in "ing" are a sign that your writing could be better. For example: "I will be looking at this tomorrow" is longer and less direct than "I will look at this tomorrow". Look for chances to rewrite your sentences when they use "ing" words, and your writing will be more direct, more dynamic, and generally shorter.

Accuracy, Clarity, Brevity

The ACBs are an ordered approach when you edit something you've written.

First, focus on accuracy: Is what you've written objectively true? "The best text editor in the world" is not objectively true, but "Downloaded by over 20 million people" is provable, and might be better.

Next, look at Clarity. Is what you've written as clear as it could be. This generally means simpler language which uses more common words, and takes out any fluff. Be direct, and make sure it's easy to understand.

Finally, look at brevity: If your language is accurate and clear, you can focus on how long it is. Shorter language is generally better than longer language, especially for interface design or people with low attention spans. But it's important that the language remain accurate, and clear. Shortness for the sake of shortness does not help.

One idea per paragraph

When you write, try to put one idea and only one idea into each paragraph. This kind of focus helps to get your point across, especially if someone quickly reads what you've written, rather than slowly and carefully.

Use each sentence in a paragraph to reinforce and support the idea in that paragraph - don't introduce a new idea.

How to come up with topics to write about

There're good resources out there about the craft of writing - how to be a better writer. I recommend Ann Handley's "Everybody Writes". One thing I struggle with more is coming up with writing topics. Here's a list of all the methods and approaches I've found.

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