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Sunday, January 27, 2013

How to Write with Style: Kurt Vonnegut's 8 Keys to the Power of the Written Word | Brain Pickings

The message that inspired me the most in these excerpts from Vonnegut's essay about writing is that he cares about his readers. And he's encouraging other writers to care about their readers in the writing style they use, the words they use, the information they provide.

After all, if people don't, won't or can't read what we write--and we want them to--then we writers are wasting our time, energy and perhaps our money.

Here are some of Vonnegut's points that I especially appreciate:

3. Keep It Simple ...
Simplicity of language is not only reputable, but perhaps even sacred. The Bible opens with a sentence well within the writing skills of a lively fourteen-year-old: ‘In the beginning God created the heaven and earth.’
4. Have the Guts to Cut ...
[Y]our eloquence should be the servant of the ideas in your head. Your rule might be this: If a sentence, no matter how excellent, does not illuminate your subject in some new and useful way, scratch it out.
6. Say What You Mean to Say ...
So you, too, had better avoid Picasso-style or jazz-style writing if you have something worth saying and wish to be understood.
Readers want our pages to look very much like pages they have seen before. Why? This is because they themselves have a tough job to do, and they need all the help they can get from us.
7. Pity the Readers ...
Readers have to identify thousands of little marks on paper, and make sense of them immediately. ...
Our audience requires us to be sympathetic and patient teachers, ever willing to simplify and clarify, whereas we would rather soar high above the crowd, singing like nightingales.

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