Basic Writing Principles You Can Use in Everyday Life

At last we can tell our mothers that all that writing and studying about writing (and reading and viewing and web surfing and…) actually has relevance to the real, non-writing world she’s so terrified we’ll end up in. Whew.

In other words, this particular TVWriter™ minion loves the following article to pieces:

Lovin' on this pic as well as the article. Go figure.
Lovin’ on this pic as well as the article. Go figure.

by Herbert Lui

Writing starts way before you put letters to a page. It involves processes like critical thinking, communication, and creativity. Even if writing feels like pulling teeth, you can apply the principles of writing to many facets of your day-to-day life. Here’s how.

Show, Don’t Tell

Good writers use techniques like description and dialogue to show the reader what characters are thinking and feeling. For example, instead of telling the reader, “Jim was sad,” a writer might describe how “Jenny saw Jim crying in the bathroom” or how “Jim walked with his shoulders slouched and head bowed” (Sidebar: I am clearly not a professional novelist).

Similarly, when you plan to share an idea, thought, or feeling with someone, think about how you can show it to them. For example, if you’re about to thank someone, show them your gratitude by writing a letter, or a card, or expressing yourself through a gift, in addition to saying, “Thank you.”

If you’re trying to convince someone of something, even if you can’t complete an entire task to express yourself, do a little bit of the work to get started so to make a stronger impression on them. People will take your message more seriously when the evidence is right in front of them.

Simplicity Is Better than Flowery

Put the thesaurus away. Stop looking for synonyms in your word processor. Contrary to what you might think, longer words don’t make you sound or look smarter. Author Stephen King writes in his memoir On Writing:

One of the really bad things you can do to your writing is to dress up the vocabulary, looking for long words because you’re maybe a little bit ashamed of your short ones. This is like dressing up a household pet in evening clothes. The pet is embarrassed and the person who committed this act of premeditated cuteness should be even more embarrassed.

Read it all