300 Days of Better Writing

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.

October 21, 2013

Use the pyramid structure to provide descriptions.


The pyramid structure is familiar to journalists. It involves starting with broad information and proceeding to specific details. Good descriptions do the same. They start by providing a broad look at the thing described and proceed to detailed information. Here’s an example.

The library was empty of books. Shelf after shelf was covered only in dust. The reading carrels were missing the familiar stacks of books. The check-out desk was unmanned, and the book return cart held nothing but air.

As in this example, we start with a general picture of the thing we’re describing. This allows the reader to create a context for the details that will follow. We provide a framework that gives meaning to the details. As we move toward greater specificity, the reader can begin filling in details, and each new piece of information will make sense due to the broader description that precedes it.

The end result is that the entire description makes sense, each piece of information has value, and the reader understands and can picture what we are describing.


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June 10, 2013

Use “additive” words to show how a new idea connects to the topic.


You have just written an important idea. Now you want to make another point related to the same topic, and you want the reader to know that it is just as important as the previous idea. You can use “additive” words to do this.

“Additive” words are words that show you are adding to the previous idea. [I’m using quotes around “additive” because this is our word, not the official word.] Sample “additive” words are as follows: additionally, also, similarly, likewise, and furthermore.

These words provide useful signposts to your readers, telling them that the next idea you state is on the same topic as the previous statement, that it is a new idea (not redundant), and that it is as important as the previous statement.


This is the strategy for day 96 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.

April 22, 2013

Respond to expected criticism.


If you present your ideas well, most readers will agree with you. However, some won’t, and they may have valid reasons for disagreeing. To earn their agreement, you have to think like they think. You have to address their criticisms. This is part of understanding your readers.

When writing, ask yourself, “What reasons will my readers have for disagreeing with me?”

I recommend that you list those reasons. Then, you have two strategies for addressing them. First, you can address those criticisms directly. For example, you might write, “While the argument can be made that . . . , in fact . . . .” Although this strategy works, you might seem as if you expect criticism (which you do) and are insecure about your ideas.

Second, you can revise, expand, and strengthen your arguments and rationale so that those criticisms are not possible. This is the more difficult, but more effective, strategy.


This is the strategy for day 124 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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