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Outlines Help You Write Better, Faster

Would you build a house without blueprints? No, probably not. That would be a recipe for disaster. The same could be said for writing without an outline. An outline gives your writing structure and helps you organize your thoughts from start to finish, to ensure you get your point across or tell a good story.

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about how the inverted pyramid style helps you write better press releases. Part of this approach is getting all the readers’ questions answered upfront (who, what, why, when, where and how), the other part is forcing you to outline before writing.

Do People Still Outline?

A lot of you are writers, so I’m sure you outline your writing from time to time. I’d guess that most people in the business world don’t. There are a couple of reasons I think most people don’t outline their writing anymore: [Read more...]

Can Twitter Make You a Better Editor?

You have anywhere from three to ten seconds to capture and hold someone’s attention in a conversation. On Twitter, you have 140 characters. Realistically, you have about one second if you consider the number of Twitter users (100 million+) and the number of tweets per second (1,000–4,000, pending on the current events). The point? If you don’t have a snazzy lede (am I old school for still spelling it that way?) you’re never going to get clicked.

So, tweeters got smarter. They saw what worked and what didn’t. They found ways to cut out the unnecessary info and focus on only the good stuff. They jazzed up their call to action. Basically, they became editors — and good ones at that (some of them, at least). Self-editing and style guidelines are now more important than ever because people can easily get content somewhere else. While Strunk and White never imagined a need for a well-defined Elements of Twitter Style, it does beg one question: Can Twitter make you a better editor? [Read more...]

Five Ws and One H: The Secret to Complete News Stories

If you ever sat through Journalism 101, you know all about the Five Ws and one H. For the rest of you, you may find this concept helpful when preparing interview questions or writing factual news stories. This concept may help you write better news releases too, considering they should contain news.

What are the Five Ws and One H? They are Who, What, Why, When, Where and How. Why are the Five Ws and One H important? Journalism purists will argue your story isn’t complete until you answer all six questions. It’s hard to argue this point, since missing any of these questions leaves a hole in your story. Even if you’re not reporting on the news of the day, this concept could be useful in many professional writing scenarios.

In case it’s not obvious what information you would be looking to gather from each of the six questions, let’s look at what information you might want to gather with the Five Ws and One H if you were reporting on The Three Little Pigs: [Read more...]

The Elements of Style: Twitter Edition

I have at least four copies of The Elements of Style. Originally published in 1918 by William Strunk, Jr., this book has truly stood the test of time. It’s been a great writing resource for me over the years, even though there are still dozens of its rules that I break with each blog post. I recently read the book again and noticed how many of the rules are relevant for Twitter and other short-form, social media writing.

Here are some guidelines for tweeting adapted from or inspired by The Elements of Style. I hope you find these suggestions helpful and entertaining: [Read more...]

How to Beat Writer’s Block

All writers get writer’s block at one time or another. For some, it last five minutes. In extreme cases, it’s been known to last for years. For me, it’s been on and off for about a month now.

In a desperate attempt to jog myself out of this rut I’m in, I figured I’d ask some readers for come topic suggestions. Guess what the most popular topic suggestion was? You guessed it, “How to Beat Writer’s Block.”

Why not use my writer’s block as the topic of my next post, to see if that gets me back on track? I love the irony, don’t you? [Read more...]