to Write Like A Pro
by Burt Dubin
Start by having something to write about.
Something that is targeted at a particular audience. Something
this audience longs to know about. Something that adds value
to their lives, their career. Something that empowers the
members of your target audience. Something your target audience
yearns for. Something that guides them to get somewhere
they want to get. Something that gives them hope.
Continue by being in love with words.
By delighting in using your thesaurus and your dictionary
to find the right word to convey your meaning. It doesn't
hurt to have a copy of Strunk and White's The Elements
of Style handy. And Theodore M. Bernstein's The Careful
Writer. Throw in William Zinsser's On Writing Well.
Next, have a passion for your topic or issue
-- Whatever you're to write about. And, more than
your passion, know what you're writing about. Know it inside
out, upside down, backward and forward. Then, with that
as your starting point, do your homework. Research your
Research your subject exhaustively.
Invest in every book, every recorded program by every expert
you can find. Read the journals, magazines and newsletters
that treat any aspect of your subject. Make yourself a hungry,
restless, greedy seeker after data, knowledge, wisdom and
truth regarding your subject.
Now, get to know the experts in the field.
Call them. Write them. Meet with them at conferences and
conventions, trade shows, every convocation where they gather.
I almost forgot -- live your subject.
Get out of your aerie into the street. Get your hands dirty,
your face besmirched. Make a few hundred blunders and suffer
as many pratfalls in the process. Get embarrassed and hurt,
red-faced, eyes stinging with your held-back tears -- all
on your way to mastership.
After a few years of all of the above, you're ready to write.
Ask yourself, now, what value you have to offer in this
piece you're about to write, fingers trembling over the
keys. What benefits are you ready to confer on your reader?
What joys and pleasures are to ensue for your reader as
a result of reading and then acting on the hard-won wisdom
you're about to share? What pain and torment is your reader
to avoid by abiding by your guidance? What suffering is
your reader to evade by doing as you say?
Now -- you're ready to write.
Tell the truth. Tell your perceived truth. You're
unique, one-of-a-kind. You see the world outside you through
your eyes. You see life and conditions outside you through
the prism of your perceptions -- and through the prism of
your misperceptions. Don't deny it. We all have misperceptions.
John F. Kennedy misperceived matters and created the Bay
of Pigs fiasco, circa 1961. A few years later Richard M
Nixon misperceived matters and brought his presidency down,
disgracing himself in the process. Both cases were sad.
If presidents can misperceive, so can you! Your truth is
yours. Be proud of it. Share it simply. Plainly. Directly.
Share it with your head high.
Write like you talk!
People prefer vernacular. Give it to 'em. Forget English
101. You're writing to communicate your ideas and feelings
on stuff that matters with readers who care. Do it!
Avoid adjectives and adverbs as if they carry communicable
diseases. Cause your nouns and verbs to carry your message.
Cut down commas:
Every comma slows your readers down. You don't want that.
The rule here is simple. If in doubt, leave it out. Review
what you write a few hours later. Better yet review the
next morning. Mercilessly rip out every comma that isn't
crucial to your meaning.
Your readers gotta be sold on the value of reading the fruit
of your mind. In your opening paragraphs paint vivid pictures
of the rapture and sweetness, the thrills and exultation,
the excitement and delight, the bliss, the euphoria, the paradise,
the joy and the love -- not to mention financial success,
acceptance and recognition, fame and maybe even...maybe even...maybe
even...dare I write it...immortality -- all of which await
the reader who absorbs and then acts on your message. And,
in addition, it's your responsibility to paint black images
of the tortures and torment, the punishment and agony, the
misery and wretchedness, the distress and adversity, the tribulation
and anguish that await those who choose to ignore your words.
With your reader panting and throbbing with wild desire,
conditioned and ready to soak up every word, now deliver substance.
Solid value. And, not just information dryly delivered. No,
please, not that!
Start with a survey, a summary of what is here for your
Phrase your summary as benefits to be made available in
this piece of prose. Folks, professionals in particular,
are interested in benefits to be harvested when they read
Continue with your presentation of facts
Continue with your presentation of facts, data, information,
and wisdom, seasoned by a story, maybe several illustrations
and metaphors. Short sentences. Simple sentences. Avoid
compound sentences. One and two syllable words for the most
part. "Tell it to the Sweeneys -- and the Stuyvesants
will understand." The front page of the Wall Street
Journal and all of USA Today are edited for the 8th grade
level. Go thou and do likewise.
Conclude with an Action Plan
Conclude with an Action Plan, a series of steps to take
now in order to enjoy the benefits you outlined.
One final word: When you're through, stop.