's Top 5 Tips for Writing Well
Many business people faced with the task of writing for marketing
purposes are quick to say:
Hey, I'm no Hemingway!
But really, who better than Hemingway to emulate? Rather than
embracing the flowery prose of the literati, he chose to eschew
obfuscation at every turn and write simply and clearly.
So let's see what Ernest can teach us about effective writing.
1. Use short sentences.
Hemingway was famous for a terse minimalist style of writing that
dispensed with flowery adjectives and got straight to the point. In
short, Hemingway wrote with simple genius.
Perhaps his finest demonstration of short sentence prowess was when he
was challenged to tell an entire story in only 6 words:
For sale: baby shoes, never used.
2. Use short first paragraphs.
3. Use vigorous English.
Here's David Garfinkel's take on this one:
It's muscular, forceful. Vigorous English comes from passion, focus
and intention. It's the difference between putting in a good effort
and TRYING to move a boulder… and actually sweating, grunting,
straining your muscles to the point of exhaustion… and MOVING the
4. Be positive, not negative.
Since Hemingway was not necessarily the cheeriest guy in the world,
what does he mean by be positive? Basically, you should say what
something is rather than what it isn't.
This is what Michel Fortin calls using up words:
By stating what something isn't can be counterproductive since it is
still directing the mind, albeit in the opposite way. If I told you
that dental work is painless for example, you'll still focus on the
word "pain" in "painless."
• Instead of saying "inexpensive, " say "economical, "
• Instead of saying "this procedure is painless," say "there's little
discomfort" or "it's relatively comfortable, "
• And instead of saying "this software is error-free" or "foolproof,"
say "this software is consistent" or "stable."
5. Never have only 4 rules.
Actually, Hemingway did only have 4 rules for writing, and they were
those he was given as a cub reporter at the in 1917.
But, as any blogger or copywriter knows, having only 4 rules will
So, in order to have 5, I had to dig a little deeper to get the most
important of Hemingway's writing tips of all:
"I write one page of masterpiece to ninety one pages of shit,"
Hemingway confided to in 1934. "I try to put the
shit in the wastebasket. "
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