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Writing Tips via The Economist

6 wonderful writing tips from Ahmed who studied the writers at The Economist (via Built by Words):

I like the writing style of The Economist for many reasons: the most important is that it’s easy to understand their point. Writing to be understood might be an obvious requirement of a readable article, but often I find myself occupied with deciphering form instead of digesting content.

Not so with the British newspaper: its writers understand that form exists only to serve content. It’s okay to internally admire one’s word choices and sentence structures, but writers should be a little less selfish in their writing, especially nonfiction.

So here they are:

  1. Getting to it:

No writer wishes to get off their intended subject and yet it happens all the time. Losing the thread is the most predictable writing mistake: we stray from our point and dwell on what we think is worth mentioning at the moment. It’s so easy to start the first sentence with absolute nonsense even if you have your topic nailed down.

  1. Successive Proofs of Evidence:

If you start with evidence number 1, expand on it for a couple of minutes, move on to evidence number 2, analyze it even further before mentioning evidence number 3, readers won’t sense the strength of your reasoning. Scattered evidence, like objects in a spacious room, gives readers the impression they’re approaching a weak argument.

  1. The first sentence summarizes; the following sentences explain:

Most of the paragraphs in The Economist clearly state their main idea in the first sentence and expand on it in the following ones. I find this the most digestible, purpose-serving form of a paragraph.

  1. Using precise words:

The Economist’s choice of verbs, nouns, and adjectives creates a strong mental picture and explains exactly what’s at stake.

  1. Invoking the past:

If you’re trying to understand the context of nearly anything, knowing its history is essential. Same goes for explaining. When writing for your own sake or others’, you’ll undoubtedly go back.

  1. Getting with the beat:

Human brains enjoy certain rhythms. We differ culturally in our appreciation of musical patterns, but we can agree on the simplest of all: equal beats separated by equal intervals.

Really good stuff. Thank you.

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