1. Begin your piece. Don’t introduce it.
“No sentence can afford to be merely transitional. If you’ve written clearly, the reader will never get lost reading your prose. Or have trouble following without transitions. A reader is likelier to get lost cutting his way through the jungle of transitions than crossing the gap of well-made ellipsis. And what about topic sentences? Their only purpose is to announce the subject of the paragraph you’re about to read. As if you’d never figure out otherwise.” – Page 25
2. Trust your reader.
“In school you learned to write as if the reader were in constant danger of getting lost. … What does that say about the reader? That the reader is essentially passive and in need of constant holding. Are you that kind of reader?” – Page 25
3. Write shorter sentences.
“Why short sentences? They’ll sound strange for a while until you can hear what they’re capable of. But they carry you back to a prose you control. To a stage in your education when your diction–your vocabulary–was under control too. Short sentences make it easier to examine the properties of the sentence. They help eliminate transitions. They make ambiguity less likely and easier to detect.” – Page 9
4. Press “enter” (or “return”) after writing each sentence.
“Turn every sentence into its own paragraph. What happens? A sudden, graphic display of the length of your sentences. And, better yet, their relative length–how it varies, or doesn’t vary, from one to the next. Variation is the life of prose, in length and in structure.” – Page 55
5. It’s (sometimes) okay to write informally.
“It’s always worth asking yourself if you can imagine saying a sentence. And adjusting it until you can. … When your prose begins to stiffen and your thoughts get stuffy, it’s sometimes worth reworking the piece you’re writing as if it were a letter or long e-mail to a friend. Someone who knows you well but hasn’t seen you in a while. What happens? The prose relaxes, the sentences grow more informal. You remember to use contractions. Even the words grow shorter. Suddenly things are clearer and simpler and more direct, as if they were being spoken. … But something else happens too. … You’re writing to someone who knows you, who understands your allusions, your patterns of speech, who’s quick and empathetic in reading your thoughts and feelings, whether they’re spoken or unspoken. What makes this reader valuable is a sense of connection and kinship. An intuitive grasp of what you say and don’t say.” – Page 75
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