Tips for Writing More Betterer

When I was at high school, English was never my pet subject.  I always struggled to put two or three good sentences together into a semblance of a meaningful paragraph.  And as far as connecting paragraphs into an essay, well forget it! 

I did not really get the writing bit down pat until about third year university which was just in time to thrash out 50,000 words for my honours thesis the next year.  And then a career in the public service followed with writing presentations for Ministers and Secretaries of departments, cabinet briefing papers and so forth.

So I wish I knew these 6 rules for rewriting by Michael Nielsen back then as they would have helped me become a better writer a lot earlier.  His rules are:

  • Every sentence should grab the reader and propel them forward
  • Every paragraph should contain a striking idea, originally expressed
  • The most significant ideas should be distilled into the most potent sentences possible
  • Use the strongest appropriate verb
  • Beware of nominalization
  • None of the above rules should be consciously applied while drafting material

I am wont to nominalize a fair bit and grammatical experts love to pick my split infinitives.  But in the end, these rules are handy hints to follow to get the most impact from your writing and to facilitate that all-important knowledge transfer to the reader.


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