How to write well

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

Came across this article.

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 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.

So I want to share a couple of principles that I think is the key to writing well.

These rules are specific to the context of written communication, business or casual.

I am not informed nor experienced enough to say how to write well for other forms such as fiction and non fiction.

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

It all boils down to empathy.


How to write well

  • 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
  • write like you speak
  • know who you’re speaking to
  • 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?
    • does this flow, is this in the right sequence?
    • why is this important?
    • am I massaging my own ego or am I helping?
    • can I rephrase this into a question?
    • does this help them answer:
      • “what is in it for me”
      • “how much time and attention do I need to invest in this”
  • hard writing makes easy reading

Other useful resources

  • https://www.plainlanguage.gov/guidelines/
  • https://www.cnbc.com/2019/04/23/ex-us-navy-officer-how-to-write-emails-with-military-precision.html
  • https://hbr.org/2016/11/how-to-write-email-with-military-precision
  • https://medium.com/lessons-from-mckinsey/the-pyramid-principle-f0885dd3c5c7

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