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Less Is More: 10 Writing Tips To Help You Develop Your Writing

Less Is More: 10 Writing Tips To Help You Develop Your Writing

You should always write with your reader in mind. And if you don’t waste words then you won’t waste their time. Make your points quickly and with thought so that whether your reader is an employer, hiring manager or blog reader they get to see the best of you.

Following these ten writing tips will help you write fewer words whilst still packing a punch.

1. Have a Point

Have something to say and a point to your writing. Whatever you write will then come more easily and you’ll avoid writing something about nothing.

2. Get to the Point

Read any newspaper and almost every article will have the facts first, followed by increasing amounts of context and detail. This grabs the reader’s attention and ensures that if they don’t get to the end of a story they still get the message.

Unless it is your intention to write a ‘whodunnit,’ start with your conclusion and then add the context.

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3. Keep it Simple

Don’t fall into the trap of writing long words to try and make yourself sound important. Keep your language simple and straightforward so that you do not alienate put anyone off.

4. Write Short Sentences

Shorter sentences are easier to read. Readers enjoy them and are more likely to continue reading.

Got that?

5. Keep Paragraphs Short

Paragraphs don’t have to be long, dense blocks of text, they can be a single sentence — which may consist of only a few words and sometimes only one.

By keeping your paragraphs short, your text will look more inviting to your reader and provide them with places to pause and think about what you’ve written.

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6. Choose Your Voice

Where practical write in the active voice to keep things engaging. You do this by constructing your sentences using the Subject, Verb, Object model:

The dog bit the postman.

If you reverse your sentence structure you will still have the same meaning but it has less oomph:

The postman was bitten by the dog.

Different language examples can be found on Wikipedia.

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7. Use Punctuation

Use punctuation to help you cram more meaning into fewer words. Semi-colon and bullet point lists can help keep things short and make your writing easier to consume. If you are not sure how to use the dreaded semi-colon, then have a read through this site.

8. Avoid Repetition

Unless you are writing a political speech, avoid repetition at all costs. It will bore your reader and seem as though you only have a few things to say.

9. Cut the fluff

Words such as nice, rather and very add no impact and just make sentences longer — see point 4. Either choose a substantial replacement or remove them altogether. For instance:

She had a very nice day.

becomes:

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She had a marvelous day.

Mark Twain suggested that you should “Substitute damn every time you’re inclined to write very; your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.” Not a bad writing tip.

10. Edit like you mean it

If you want to write a laser-guided message then you need to check every word is on point. Remove sections that meander, as your reader will prefer your writing if they don’t have to wade through off-topic content.

Mark Twain once wrote, “I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.” Don’t let your readers think you’ve been lazy and written the ‘long letter.’

Any more writing tips?

Do you have anything to add to my top ten writing tips? Have I missed something important? If so, please leave a comment below as I’d love to hear your thoughts. Thanks

Featured photo credit: http://szolkin.blogspot.com/ via s3.amazonaws.com

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Last Updated on July 17, 2019

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

What happens in our heads when we set goals?

Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

The Neurology of Ownership

Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

The Upshot for Goal-Setters

So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

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Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

Reference

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