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Six writing tips from "Everybody Writes"

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No matter your experience level, you can always be a better writer. Here are six tips to help you improve from Ann Handley's "Everybody Writes."

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Six writing tips from "Everybody Writes"

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  2. 2. Six writing tips from “EverybodyWrites”  @AnnHandley created “Everybody Writes” to help everyone – both writers and non-writers – improve their skills.  The book, delivered as a writing guide, features 70+ tips ranging from grammar to copyright issues.  Here are six of the lessons I found most helpful.
  3. 3. 1. EmbraceThe Ugly First Draft  Procrastination is an evil, disruptive menace that writers know all too well. But did you know you can fight it with … barf?  Instead of waiting until you have that perfect moment … just barf up “the ugly first draft” (TUFD) with all of your thoughts so you have a starting place.  TUFDs aren’t cohesive, and they don’t have to sound intelligent. The TUFD is a no-excuses reason to get started instead of procrastinate.
  4. 4. 2. Share Specifics  Details make a story stand out. So, when you’re writing your next piece of content, get as specific as you can.  Ann quotes Natalie Goldberg as saying:  “Specify geranium instead of flower … substitute cocker spaniel for dog or write Vietnamese sandwich truck instead of food-truck service.” (pg. 66)
  5. 5. 3. Add an Element of Surprise  This is one way you can really get creative. Instead of providing that obvious analogy, brainstorm something offbeat that catches your audience’s attention. Ann suggests:  “Instead of: The leaves of the giant pumpkin plant are huge.  Try: The pumpkin leaves are the size of trash-can lids, covering pumpkins the size of beer kegs.” (pg. 70)
  6. 6. 4.Test your Content’s Readability  I’ll be honest. I had no idea Microsoft Office had a readability scoring tool.  I always used the Hemingway App (or just relied on my own instincts) to determine whether my pieces were too wordy or jargon-filled.  But why not use a tool that’s already built in to your writing software?  Here’s a quick guide on how to activate yours.
  7. 7. 5. Choose ExpressiveVerbs  The best verbs are bold verbs. They follow tip number two by helping you visually tell your stories. Here are a few swaps Ann suggests, as well as a few of my own:  Instead of “cut” her finger use “slashed.”  Instead of “ran” through the airport use “sprinted.”  Instead of “asked” him for more details, use “pressed.”  Now, you may not have these all ready in your TUFD (and you shouldn’t, if you’re following the barf-up- content-quickly model). But they’re a good thing to add when you go through that first round of revisions.
  8. 8. 6. Break some Rules  Back in elementary school, teachers lowered our grades for starting sentences with “because” or “and.”  But you know what? Times have changed, and professor Handley is in charge now.  Ann suggests throwing in some fragments, starting sentences with “but” when it feels right and opting for one-sentence paragraphs for effect.  Today’s online readers don’t want your five paragraph essays, with three-sentence paragraphs.  They want it short, sweet and readable.
  9. 9. Learn More  To learn all of Ann’s “Everybody Writes” tips, read the full book, which can be found here:  http://annhandley.com/everybodywrites/  To read my full post, visit:  www.stephanievermillion.com

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