How to sound like a good writer, even if you’re not

They may eject me from the from the underground writers union for revealing this. We like to keep this stuff secret, hoping that more people will hire us for the heavy lifting.

But here goes, anyway.

1. Delete your first paragraph

Get to the good stuff faster. Forget the preamble, the context-setting, the background, the throat-clearing. Being with the interesting part, like good movies and books do.

Also, delete your first slide. Maybe delete the first two. Also delete any sentence that begins with “In today’s . . .”

2. Write shorter sentences

You’re allowed one idea per sentence, no more. If you try to juggle three ideas at once, you will always drop one and break it.

Or, you will get lost in the sentence and never find your way out again. Sometimes, readers forget the beginning of your sentence before they get to the end. And they won’t start over. They’ll just quit.

Shorter sentences also make you sound forceful and decisive. Even if you’re waffling.

And short sentences create the illusion of clarity. That is almost as good clarity itself. We writers use this trick all the time.

Don’t worry about sounding choppy. Your English teacher was wrong. No one cares.

3. Use smaller words

The simpler your language, the smarter you sound. Mimic plain-speaking communicators like Jack Welch or Steve Jobs or Jeff Bezos.

When you write “transformational non-siloed customer journey enhancement” readers won’t stop to decode that. They’ll skip ahead.

4. Shorter paragraphs

No more than three sentences per paragraph. Two is better. It makes your stuff read faster and easier.

This especially useful when If the subject is boring; tight little paragraphs will make it seem to move along quickly. Ergo, you look like a better writer. I’ve been using this ruse for years.

Also, in emails, hit return after each sentence. People can scan it more easily, in search of the relevant part.

5.  When in doubt, put a story in

A graphic designer in our office came into work one morning, saying she had been reading a Stephen King book, and was so haunted by it, she had to run out at midnight and throw the ghastly thing in the river.

At lunchtime, we bought a copy of the book, got it all scuffed and muddy in a puddle, then hid the sodden book in her desk drawer.

This also works if the story is good, or if it relates to what you’re writing about. Either way, it will light up your text a bit.

Oh, and keep these tricks to yourself. Otherwise, everyone will be using them.