300 Days of Better Writing

May 30, 2014

Lead the reader to your conclusion.


In classical argumentation, you build a case for some idea. You present facts, theories, and assumptions. Then, you reveal the conclusion. If you have done your job well, the conclusion will be the inevitable result of the discussion.

If you start with the idea, you either confuse your reader (because he or she won’t have the necessary information for understanding) or you will create an antagonistic relationship with the reader (because he or she disagrees with you).

Here’s what this means. If you have a new idea about which you want to convince your reader, or if your idea is controversial, lead your reader to it. Your reader will have the necessary information to understand and believe the idea—before you present it.


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May 22, 2014

Common knowledge does not need a reference.


Although we recommend providing references for new or controversial information, we do not recommend providing references for common or widely accepted knowledge. We also do not recommend providing a reference for commonly accepted definitions or descriptions.

For example, you do not need to provide a reference for this information: “Clouds are formed from water molecules.” This is common knowledge.

You also would not need a reference for this information: “Books are composed of bound papers, which often contain words or images.”

Basically, if your readers already know, understand, and believe the information, you will not need a reference.


 

This is the strategy for day 128 in 300 Days of Better Writing, available at Hostile Editing in PDF, Kindle, and paperback formats.

For a sample of 300 Days of Better Writing and other books by Precise Edit, download the free ebook.

November 12, 2013

Cite your sources to build credibility.


Citing your sources means giving credit to published experts for ideas you are presenting.

This may seem counterintuitive. If you wish to be perceived as an expert in some topic, then the last thing you want to do is let your readers know that your information comes from someone else. Right? Actually, there are two possibilities here.

First, if you are not yet a recognized authority on the topic, your readers won’t consider you credible, which means your information will be received with suspicion. By citing your sources or citing writers who have made the same claims, you are telling your reader, “I’m not the only one saying this. See? These experts agree with me.” This raises your credibility and improves the possibility that your readers will accept what you write.

Second, if you are a recognized authority on the topic, your readers will likely believe what you tell them about that topic. By citing your sources, you are telling your reader, “I keep up-to-date on what is happening and on what other experts are doing, so I’m right when I tell you . . . .” This strengthens your credibility, and the reader will be less likely to dispute what you write.


This is the strategy for day 74 in 300 Days of Better Writing, available at Hostile Editing in PDF, Kindle, and paperback formats.

For a sample of 300 Days of Better Writing and other books by Precise Edit, download the free ebook.

November 4, 2013

Major Writing Process—Editing


Let me give you three quotes that are particularly appropriate here (one of which you have already seen).

1.       It is perfectly okay to write garbage—as long as you edit brilliantly. (C. J. Cherryh)

2.       Rewriting is the essence of writing well: it’s where the game is won or lost. (William Zinsser)

3.       Rewriting is called revision in the literary and publishing trade because it springs from re-viewing, that is to say, looking at your copy again—and again and again. (Jacques Barzun)

After you write, put away your document. Leave it long enough so that you may see it without preconceptions and without remembering what you were thinking at the time. Then look at it again. Does it satisfy your purpose? Have you communicated clearly? Can you make it more concise without losing essential content? Are the ideas logically presented? Keep criticizing it, refining it, until it is as good as it can be. Then give it to others (perhaps your editor) to evaluate.

Here’s the primary point: Your first draft will need editing. The editing process is what will make your document an effective communication tool, regardless of the genre.

Here’s the secondary point: If others recommend (or make) changes, don’t be offended. First drafts will always need improvements.


This is the strategy for day 103 in 300 Days of Better Writing, available at Hostile Editing in PDF, Kindle, and paperback formats.

For a sample of 300 Days of Better Writing and other books by Precise Edit, download the free ebook.

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