The Seven Rules of Authorship

Here are our first three of seven rules for writing a newsletter, but they can also apply in large part blog posts, articles, booklets, and so forth.

Rule #1: Tell them what they need to know, not everything that you know.

Most writing is far too prolix and verbosity has become endemic to our society. But less IS more in writing, so how do you control your propensity to open the verbal floodgates?

Put yourself in your readers’ shoes. Ask what they would need to know on any given topic to be able to pragmatically apply useful techniques immediately. Newspaper articles are written in an “inverse pyramid” style, so that the most important information comes first, and the less important can always be edited out at the end for space limitations.

You have no such luxury in a newsletter that we’re advocating be confined to about a screen or 800 words or so. (An average magazine page, without advertising, has about 800 words.) So ask yourself merely this: What are the three or four most vital points and how can I express them with a minimum of verbiage.

Which leads us to rule #2.

Rule #2: A picture is worth 1,000 words but an example is worth 1,000 pictures

People relate best and most immediately to situations with which they are familiar and/or in which they’ve found themselves (or could readily imagine themselves). Consequently, use personal stories and examples to make your points, which will both dramatically shorten your article and also bring life to it.

For example: “Have you ever been in a classroom where the professor tells you everything he or she ever learned but doesn’t respond to a question and rarely looks up from the  notes? How effective was that learning compared to the professor who wades through the room interacting?”

You’ve been there, and so have we, and you can see (visualize, remember) immediately what that was like and why the point is so valid. There’s no need to try to translate a conceptual theme using thousands of words.

Try to describe a spiral staircase with your hands at your side. At best you’ll say that it’s a continuing 360-degree, ascending stair which revolved back upon its own central axis.

That’s nowhere as effective as saying, “Picture a corkscrew….”

Rule #3: Don’t use no bad grammar

Don’t fall victim to the debasement of the linguistic currency.

The Internet is largely informal, to the extent that you can readily find obscene and scatological references on Facebook and YouTube (which is the web at both its best and its worst in terms of what’s posted there).

Keep your content civil and intelligent, as if you were conversing with acquaintances you’ve met with, but not family or friends at a hockey game. You’re not talking to insiders, but to those with whom you may do business some day. You don’t want to offend, you want to impress.

If needed find an editor or someone who will simply read your newsletter before publication for obvious errors. For example, the correct phrase is “between you and me,” not “between you and I,” even though the latter may seem more refined. You don’t have to know that the reason is “between” is a proposition which takes the objective “me” and not the nominative “I,” but you do have to get it right.

If you’re grammar is isn’t correct, and you’re not smart enough to find someone to correct it, why would your products and services be any better?

This is an excerpt from my new and upcoming book Million Dollar Web Presence Leverage technology to build your brand and transform your business, which I am coauthoring with Dr. Alan Weiss and which will be published by Entrepreneur Press.

© Chad Barr 2011. All rights reserved

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