Saturday, July 12, 2008

Excellent Writing Advice

In reading about writing today, I Stumbled across a 1950s essay by Paul McHenry Roberts entitled “How to Say Nothing in Five Hundred Words”. I offer this as proof that good writing has always been good writing, SEO and AdSense notwithstanding.

Mr. Roberts injected wit and pointed examples into the essay to carry his points, setting an excellent example for his readers and aspiring writers. I am resisting the urge to quote extensively from it and will add only one section on brevity:

You may ask how you can arrive at five hundred words at this rate. Simple. You dig up more real content. Instead of taking a couple of obvious points off the surface of the topic and then circling warily around them for six paragraphs, you work in and explore, figure out the details. You illustrate. You say that fast driving is dangerous, and then you prove it. How long does it take to stop a car at forty and at eighty? How far can you see at night? What happens when a tire blows? What happens in a head-on collision at fifty miles an hour?

Pretty soon your paper will be full of broken glass and blood and headless torsos, and reaching five hundred words will not really be a problem.
This, my dears, perfectly explains how to write effective, readable, read articles for the Internet. Hack the fluff from your sentences and replace it with specific illustrations. Don't just tell your reader what you believe; support your case with facts and examples. Make room for useful and interesting words, instead of using four adjectives and an adverb to describe a simple noun.

Then read the section labeled “Call a Fool a Fool”.