As a blogger, I like to share what I’ve learned about writing. As one who lives simple, I like to apply simplicity to writing. Sometimes the most simple and straight-forwad messages get the most attention. I once got a job because I kept my writing simple and concise. Today, I’ll share 6 simple writing drills to help you focus on solid, yet simple content.
As a professional, I’ve written many outlines, proposals, resumes, and cover letters. Each time I’ve applied for an education job, I’ve focused on keeping my portfolio simple. It’s paid off. I was hired onto my first full-time teaching job because I had a simple portfolio. The head of the hiring committee, who taught English, commented on my ability to get straight to the point in writing. I got the job. I realize how powerful simplicity in writing can be. So I created these 6 simple writing drills for you to follow.
The tables have turned. Now I find myself on hiring committees. Last spring, I had to scan through 40 applications to choose 8 finalists. I immediately threw out any candidates that couldn’t present themselves within the the required limit. About half the candidates couldn’t write a one-page cover letter. They rambled. In the end, the committee wound up hiring the applicant who had the best ability to present themselves using minimal, yet powerful wording.
Writing Drills For Better Writing
What is minimalism in writing? Simple. Minimalism in writing pares writing down to basics. Too often writers try to impress. Using big words and long sentences doesn’t make you smarter. It makes your writing more complex. Simple writing gets noticed.
First, if you want to be a great writer, you must practice. Second, you must practice simple writing.
In college, we learn to write essays. We believe that big words and long sentences win favor with our teachers. They might. That’s what some teachers expect. In the real world, managers and CEOs want us to get straight to the point.
It takes years to unlearn the bad habits we learned in college. I’ve developed these 6 simple writing drills to help you master minimalism in writing:
Try These 6 Strategies
- Write like you’d speak: Seth Godin points out that we practice talking everyday. We speak without worrying about perfection. We speak simply. People don’t use long words and long sentences in conversation. When we learn to write like we speak, we become better writers.
- Stick to two syllable words: We can’t rely on one and two syllable words alone. The point is simply to use less complex words. Why say inundate when you can say flood? In fact, use few words in general to relay your message. Even tech writers use one and two syllable words.
- Keep sentences under 15 words: Long sentences confuse. Short sentences get straight to the point. We don’t speak in long sentences. We speak in short sentences, even phrases. Great marketing writers understand. Short sentences keep readers engaged.
- Use contractions: I do not think you will disagree. Read the last sentence. Is this how you’d speak? No. You’d simply say, “I don’t think you’ll disagree. Writing without contractions sounds stuffy. Write for the ear.
- Use the active voice: Using the active voice means the subject acts. I wrote the post. You are publishing a book. He made the bestseller list. See how clear and concise the meaning? Active sentences are usually shorter, easier to read and understand.
- Edit your work: Cut the fluff. Most of us use 20-30% more words than needed. I still find myself using too many words. There’s an easy fix. Edit. Make a point to pare sentences down to bare bones.
Keep Your Message Short And Simple
Practice these six drills to master minimalism in your writing. If you want more help with your writing, check out my coaching packages. Also, take a minute to sign up for the monthly newsletter. It’s free.