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How to Write (in a thousand words or less)

How to Write (in a thousand words or less)

How to Write

    I’ve written about editing, eliminating distractions, getting started – it’s time to get down to basics. Too many people don’t know how to write. Period. Yeah, they can make marks on paper, but when it comes to making a clear, compelling, and meaningful statement, especially one more than 140 characters long, they fail.

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    So here, in no particular order, are 17 ways to make your marks on paper as good as they can be.

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    1. Write naturally. Not necessarily how you talk – speaking and writing are separate crafts and are processed differently by the brain – but using a tone and language that is natural to who you are. Avoid “university words” (even if you’re in a university) and jargon (unless among peers).
    2. Have a plan. Outline if you can, but at the least make sure you know where you’re going and how you intend to get there. Don’t ramble on hoping your reader will put it all together in the end. They won’t get to the end.
    3. Use active, forceful verbs. Use verbs that convey action, movement, and purpose; avoid verbs that are passive and simply indicate existence or equivalence (e.g. “Our company is a leading manufacturer of…” vs. “Our company leads in the manufacture of…”). Never use a verb in a sentence that you wouldn’t do. For example, if you wouldn’t “interface” with a business partner, don’t write it.
    4. Avoid adverbs. Adverbs are words that modify the verb. If you’ve used a strong, active verb, you don’t need to modify it. While you’ll have to use adverbs occasionally, most of the time you should strike the adverb and choose a better verb.
    5. Be for something or against something. As in life, people avoid standing for something in their writing. They often seem to use language that, in a way, would tend to imply that they are perfectly ok with whatever opinion you might be comfortable with. Boooo-riiiing! Take a stand, build an argument, and convince your reader that you’re right.
    6. Cut “think”, “seems”, “believe”, and other opinion words. This goes along with the last point, but there’s more to it than just hemming and hawing. Too often, people write their opinions, which you should be convincing me of, not using to support your argument. Don’t tell me what you think, believe, or disagree with, tell me what you know.
    7. Write for people. Don’t write for some generic audience "out there", and for the sake of all that is holy don’t write for search engines. Picture the person, real or imagined, you want to read and be moved by your writing, and write for that person.
    8. Be present. I don’t mean you have to write in the first-person (though that’s not as bad as your high school teachers led you to believe), but there should be a sense of you the writer in your work, of your humanity and passion for your subject.
    9. Don’t be clever. Unless you’re writing something intended to be witty — a greeting card or joke to begin a speech with, for example — avoid clever turns of phrase that make you feel smart. Here’s what will happen: 1 or 2% of your readers will say "Oh, that’s clever. See what they did?", 50% won’t notice at all, and 48% won’t get it. I’m being generous here.
    10. Hook ’em early. Start with the headline, which should say why I should read this. Then write a strong introduction that draws your reader in and makes them want to read on. Tell a story, make a bold statement, offer up a surprising fact. Don’t open with "According to Wikipedia…" or "According to Webster’s…". YAWN!
    11. Use topic sentences. Every paragraph should clearly say what it’s about. The topic sentence might not be the first sentence — it might even be the last sentence, or the first part of the third sentence. But somewhere in the paragraph there should be a line that, taken on its own, says what the paragraph is about.
    12. Have a conclusion. People fuss a lot over introductions, and slack on conclusions. Tell your reader why they bothered to read your piece. Remember, the conclusion is the part your reader is going away with — make it count. 
    13. Explain yourself. Never assume your reader agrees with you. If you say someone’s bad because he barbecues puppies, you’d better explain why barbecuing puppies is a bad thing. Maybe your reader thinks puppies are delicious and nutritious — can you afford for that reader to completely miss the intent of your writing?
    14. Have a trusted reader. Whenever possible, get your work read by someone you trust to be honest with you. Listen intently to their responses, even when your reader tries to blunt their critique. For example, if they say they didn’t get a part, but that’s probably because they didn’t know anything about the topic, you need to rewrite that part so that, even knowing nothing about the subject, they do get it.
    15. Let it rest. Never write up to a deadline. Allow your writing at least a few hours, a day or two if you can, before you come back to it. You’ll be surprised how much cruft you find when you approach your writing with fresh eyes.
    16. Cut, cut, cut. You’ve been told that a piece of writing should be exactly as long as it needs to be to get its point across. That’s wrong – it should be half that long. There is no piece of writing, except the published work of the greatest authors, that couldn’t benefit from a savage reduction in length. Concision counts.
    17. Rewrite. You’ll break all these rules in your first draft. That’s why it’s called a “first” and not “only” draft. Writers just don’t get it right the first time – cut, cut, cut and rework your text into a lean, tight, and clear piece of work.

    Any other tips for writing? Let us know in the comments.

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    Last Updated on November 5, 2019

    12 Powerful Habits of a Lifelong Learner

    12 Powerful Habits of a Lifelong Learner

    Formal education is something everyone has to go through to a certain degree, and the knowledge it offers isn’t always that practical in real life. Life long learning is how you improve as a person, bit by bit and day by day.

    Life long learners recognize the importance and joy of growth so they never settle for what they currently know and always seek for improvement.

    Here are 12 habits of people who value lifelong learning have in common – see how many of them you recognize in yourself.

    1. They Read on a Daily Basis

    Whatever problem or dilemma you currently face, there’s definitely at least one decent book that discusses it and presents a variety of solutions.

    Reading is a great way to open up new horizons, train your brain and revolutionize your life. I can’t even count how many times books completely transformed the way I view the world, and it’s always a change for the better. Through reading, you can connect with successful people and learn from the lessons they share.

    Life long learners love to get lost in books and do it regularly. Bill Gates knows that reading matters a lot; on his personal blog, he reviews plenty of game-changing books.

    Due to technology, you can access a bookshelf of the wealthiest entrepreneur on this planet.

    2. They Attend Various Courses

    Whether it’s online or offline, there are countless courses you can participate in without spending a dime on it. These are great opportunities to connect with clever and like-minded people and learn from them.

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    Because of the advanced technology, you can now gain knowledge from online programs, starting from coding through self-improvement to programs from top universities.

    There are literally endless ways to thrive. What life long learners have in common is squeezing as much as possible out of these opportunities.

    3. They Actively Seek Opportunities to Grow

    Instead of spending your free time laying on the couch and watching TV, you prefer doing something creative and practical. You know every wasted minute is gone forever.

    That’s why you’d rather practice your language skills with a native-speaker you’ve met, engage in local meet up or attend a class that teaches something you always wanted to learn.

    Life long learners stay up-to-date with growth opportunities in their areas and participate in them frequently.

    4. They Take Care of Their Bodies

    “Physical fitness is not only one of the most important keys to a healthy body, it is the basis of dynamic and creative intellectual activity.” — John F. Kennedy

    A clever mind combined with a body in a great condition is the best asset you can have. Our bodies were designed to run, walk, jump, swim, lift and much more. Leading a sedentary lifestyle harms both your physical and mental sphere.

    Life long learners know the body is your temple. In order to make it flourish for as long as possible, they train regularly, move a lot and eat healthy.

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    5. They Have Diverse Passions

    Among Steve Jobs’ wise quotes, there’s one I like especially. It’s about connecting the dots:

    “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backward. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.” — Steve Jobs

    Each dot is some event or skill in your life, and it’s only when you go through these elements that you know how to combine them into something great.

    Having a variety of passions indicates that you love to progress. By practicing different skills, you give yourself an advantage over the rest of the people. During hard times, you are more likely to to act intelligently and solve your problems with less effort.

    6. They Love Making Progress

    If behind the efforts, there is passion and a deep desire to grow, your chances of success are way higher, compared to when you are forced to learn.

    Life long learners love to experience the constant growth and improvement. The breakthrough moments help them to notice the impressive change that took place because of the learning process. Any milestone serves as a driving force for further headway.

    7. They Challenge Themselves with Specific Goals

    In order to keep growing, you clearly define your goals. Smart goal setting is one of the tools to ensure constant growth.

    Since you love challenges, a difficult goal doesn’t scare you. Quite the opposite, it keeps you motivated and engaged.

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    Research showed that precise and ambitious goals increase the performance of an individual. As we already agreed, life long learners are people who care about their performance, hence they never stop improving.

    8. They Embrace Change

    A complete change can lead to incredible results. This is especially visible on the example of successful companies.

    Oftentimes, it’s that transformation which created space for their so-called overnight success. Twitter was originally created as an internal service to serve Odeo employees. Currently, it has over 300 million monthly active users and is considered the second biggest social network.

    As a life long learner, you know a change can lead to extraordinary results so you welcome it and stay open minded about making a shift.

    9. They Believe It’s Never Too Late to Start Something

    Some people tend to think after a certain age, they are no longer allowed to start something and become successful. The truth is, it’s just a lame excuse not to leave the comfort zone.

    Opposite to common misconceptions, there’s no wrong age to begin something. Henry Ford was 45 when he invented the Ford Model T car, which is considered as the first affordable automobile.

    Sure, for some domains like becoming a professional athlete, starting early is required. However, to learn and improve for its own sake, you are never too old.

    10. Their Attitude to Getting Better Is Contagious

    “We now accept the fact that learning is a life long process of keeping abreast of change. And the most pressing task is to teach people how to learn.” — Peter Drucker

    There’s nothing better than to see your surroundings getting involved in what you actively participate in. Oftentimes, the best way to achieve that is to inspire them and be the example. As Gandhi would say, you need to be the change you want to see in the world.

    As a life long learner, you are extremely passionate about the constant growth and people around you can sense that positive attitude. As a result, they start acting similarly.

    11. They Leave Their Comfort Zone

    Is it really better to step out of your comfort zone? The answer is always yes.

    You always embrace discomfort as you know the path to success leads through hardship and countless obstacles. Instead of being afraid of facing them, you challenge yourself to overcome more and more difficult handicaps.

    Every time you get out of your comfort zone, regardless whether you win or fail, you learn something new. That’s the part you love the most!

    12. They Never Settle Down

    “Knowledge is exploding, so you need to commit yourself to a plan for life long learning.” — Don Tapscott

    A sense of being clever enough is something you don’t experience. Without a doubt, you appreciate what you already know, but that’s never a reason to stop. You just know once you stop learning, you lose the amazing privilege humans have, namely an ability to a never-ending intellectual development.

    More About Lifelong Learning

    Featured photo credit: Christin Hume via unsplash.com

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