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2 December 2008

How to write easily and effectively

By Andrew Clifford

Writing regularly makes writing much easier, helps you think more clearly, and helps you get your ideas across more effectively.

Many writers on the web say that they write because they want to give something back to the community. I am more selfish than that. I write because writing helps me.

  • Writing helps me understand things better. If I do not understand something, I write out the little that I do understand, and build on that one small step at a time. My powers of memory and abstract thought are limited. Writing things down is how I think things through.
  • Writing frequently helps me communicate more clearly. I used to get frustrated that my colleagues didn't understand me. The more I write, the better I get at explaining things.
  • Writing helps me be more confident. I am not a naturally confident person, and I get flustered by difficult questions. Writing about a subject, exploring all the questions I might get asked, helps me be more confident.
  • Writing is the best way to get better at writing. We all have to write, whether for long business reports or just a note to your children's teacher. Just like physical exercise, if you keep exercising your writing muscle, all types of writing get easier.
  • Writing gives me a voice. Writing lets me put forward my views and contribute to the debate.

To get writing to work for me, I have adopted some rules.

  • Write regularly. To force myself to write regularly, I publish this newsletter to a strict timetable and word count. Knowing that other people will read the newsletter keeps me writing. A strict time table and word count gives me the focus I need to finish each newsletter.
  • Write about anything. There is no such thing as a bad subject. Writing is about teasing ideas out of the mind, one step at a time. I write about whatever I am thinking about.
  • Write properly. Write in full sentences. Be careful with spelling, punctuation and grammar.
  • Be clear. Being clear is much more important than being correct. It is better to be wrong, but to be clear enough that your readers can see the error, than to be right, but so obscure that your readers can not understand you.
  • Always start with a summary. Writing a summary helps me focus. It is also a courtesy to my busy readers, who can tell at a glance whether the newsletter will interest them.

Writing helps me a lot. If you are like me - if you can not understand or explain your situation, if nobody seems to share you views, if you are not confident, if you find writing hard work - then writing can help you too. Do not worry that nobody is interested in what you write, or that people might disagree, or that you have no style. All these things come after you start writing, not before.

Writing regularly may not make you the world's greatest writer. But it will help you think more clearly, write more easily, and get your ideas across more confidently.

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