Whether I’m working on a blog post or business proposal, I write by these seven writing truths. I hope they’re helpful for your own writing, from blog posts to business proposals and everything in between. Good luck, friends!
1. Practice “less is more.” When you write, use exacting language. Take your time picking out the just-right words and the several details that are worth including, that help paint a picture in your reader’s mind of the story you’re telling, be it fact or fiction. Norman Maclean, who wrote my favorite book, “A River Runs Through It,” was a master of the “less is more” approach. Check out the power in the simplicity of this passage from his acclaimed memoir:
“We had to be very careful in dealing with each other. I often thought of him as a boy, but I never could treat him that way. He was never ‘my kid brother.’ He was a master of an art. He did not want any big brother advice or money or help, and, in the end, I could not help him.”
Powerful, right? I try to write “less” as much as possible in my own writing, too.
2. Read a lot. And read lots of different things. Ideas for how to improve your writing can come from wonderfully unexpected places. Case in point: Slate’s “Mad Men” TV Club recently inspired the ending to a piece I was working on. I loved how John Swansburg “signed off” his piece here with the closing “Can we still go to Friendly’s?” (a reference to the “Mad Men” episode in question) and took a similar approach with my blog post “History and Memory in Relationships.”
Another unexpected source of inspiration: Sports Illustrated. Their writers have a talent for threading witty phrases through feature stories, so that you can’t help but smiling.
3. Write as much as you can. The more you practice your craft, the more certain skills and techniques become second nature. For example, the submissions guidelines for many publications prefer one space rather than two after periods. If you regularly space sentences this way, then you can be efficient when you submit your work.
4. Revise. When you have something to write, you should just start writing—extraneous details, “more” rather than “less,” and all. But when you’re done writing, take a breath. Step away for a moment. Finesse the finished product into something sound and beautiful.
5. Include; don’t exclude. When you’re revising, check that your writing welcomes as many people as possible, so that you can reach and inspire the broadest readership possible. The original title of my post above was “History and Memory in Marriage.” During my last revision of this piece, I changed “Marriage” to “Relationships.” Why? Because I believed that the spirit of this post spoke to interpersonal connections beyond marriage—also friendships and the bonds between siblings. And other kinds of romantic relationships, too, particularly those between same-sex couples. The word “Marriage” was acting exclusively here, and I didn’t want it to.
6. Make a connection. In a blog post, ask a question or two. “Have you had a similar experience?” “Tell me your story.” In a business proposal, use “we,” “you,” and “our” rather than the more hands-off “the company” and “the project.”
7. Keep in touch. Encourage feedback and communication. And when you get feedback, reply to those comments and follow up with any reader questions. And always, always share your contact info in an easy-to-access place.
Melissa Leddy has been writing professionally for 10 years. She’s the author of three e-books, including the popular short fiction “The Moms.” You can follow her writing on her website, and connect with her on Twitter at @MMLWrites.