I'll start with this favorite from the great E.B. White
It's an old trick, but I still read important copy aloud before I send it out in to the world — slows me down and often helps me catch errors I didn't see before.
Don't be afraid of bad writing. I try to think of a first draft as the one that is supposed to be bad. As in, if it's not bad, I'm doing it wrong. The worse the better. This is the only way I know how to tell my inner critic to shut up and wait his turn.
"Serve the reader."
I can't remember who told me that years ago when I was a rookie reporter. But it stuck, and served me well.
You can’t beat Anne Lamont’s advice to stop worrying about editing during the first “shitty first draft.” Just get the words and ideas on screen/paper and worry about fixing it later.
My wife Sasha has done a lot of editing work for her job (and the family) and has the following suggestion: Dreyer’s English: An Utterly Correct Guide to Clarity and Style by Benjamin Dreyer (vice president, executive managing editor, and copy chief for Random House) 2019.
The book is witty, humorous, unconventional and packed with helpful advice and perfectly illustrative anecdotes, which get Dreyer's points across and then some. It’s a delight to read and learn from (yes, you can end a sentence with a preposition). He believes in the Oxford comma, and he’s been driven to despair over the misuse of “literally” — literally.
An interview with Dreyer: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/02/01/books/benjamin-dreyer-english-grammar-writers-writing.html
Another E.B. White - if you have the luxury of a little time, put it away for a while "to ripen (to let the body heat out of it)."
As a writer and as a reader, there are two things I value. The first value comes from my high school English teacher, whose voice I can still hear to this day as he urged me to "Tighten! TIGHTEN!!!" And my second value, the one I live by, is from Franz Kafka - who said, "A book must be the axe for the frozen sea inside us." To me, all writing - even factual reporting - needs to aim and swing hard at that frozen sea.
When you've finished reporting and writing a major piece, find a way to take 50 words out of it before you file it. Those final trims will make the remaining work stronger.
If you write just one page a day at the end of the year you have a book. -- Laura from Buffalo
I always begin a project with an outline. It’s very basic , but it allows me to focus on one piece at a time. I work on the rule of threes: if I can’t make 3 points the subject is too narrow, more than 3 (or 4), the topic is too broad.
"Brevity is your friend".
From Jim Kelley, when he spoke to interns at The News in the summer of '98.
"Don't write what you think. Write what you know."
This is a great question. I just reviewed a friend's resume and essays for a job application. I started by thanking her for letting me take a look because I know it's hard to put yourself out there and ask someone to tell you what changes you need to make to your writing. I made suggestions - should it be this instead of this - not 'You should change this." I recommend being judicious with who you choose to review your work. I have learned who not to ask to read my writing because some people were too happy to throw red ink all over my words. When I ask someone to review my writing, I always tell them what I want. If I am explaining something technical, I just need to make sure certain parts make sense to a casual reader. Sometimes, I just need another set of eyes to proofread. I don't need a forensic report of my writing when I just want to make sure there are no typos.
`Hear' it spoken as you write.
Disclaimer: I'm no writer, but in the spirit of imposter syndrome, I offer my two cents:
I proofread everything I write at least three times.
I read (and love) Mr. White's The Elements of Style. (See disclaimer.)
My friend, a retired marketing writer for a large corporation, shared advice he received: make every word fight for its life.
Make light of writing, sort of?
“Writing is easy, just sit down with your computer until drops of blood form on your forehead.”