How to write well

I am not going to lay any other argument for why writing well is one of the most valuable life skill anyone can develop. Many has done so.

I can just say that being able to write well is the single biggest factor that has given me the most edge in my role as a knowledge worker in a fully remote working environment.

A couple of principles that I think are key to writing well in business or casual setting:

  • Know what you want to say / ask
  • Only say that one thing
  • Say one thing at a time
  • Say it, support it, and say it again
  • Know who you’re speaking to
  • Write like you speak, but punctuate
  • A question is worth a couple of sentences
  • Use active voice
  • First dump, then edit, then edit, and then edit again.

When editing, ask:

  • What’s the point here?
  • Can I make the same point with less words?
  • Why is this important?
  • Does this flow, is this in the right sequence?
  • Am I massaging my own ego or am I helping? (see: kill your darlings)
  • Can I rephrase this into a question?
  • Does this help them answer:

    1. “what is in it for me”
    2. “how much time and attention do I need to invest in this”

Writing to think is easy but writing to communicate is hard.

We don’t write well because we think clearly. We think clearly because we write.

They say communication is not what you say. Communication is what they hear. More and more of our communication happen in written format. Being able to write well means we can get our message across to other people more effectively. We communicate to
inform, to ask for help, to influence, and to build relationships.

I believe the same principle applies to writing in any language.

It all boils down to empathy.


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