Poorly written books make me angry because as I see them, in paperback, on my coffee table I think, “I could’ve done that.” However, I didn’t do it. I just sat around and complained about the outcome, which puts me in a different category of pathetic.
The content of the bad books is terrific. Wonderful points. Just poorly written. I couldn’t decide what made it so bad, but here’s what I’ve come up with.
1. Depend on words to express the strength of your feeling, not punctuation. If you have to put an exclamation point at the end of every other sentence to emphasize your thought, you’re not using enough of the right words.
2. Write your piece. Then go through and get rid of 90% of the times you see the words is, are, was, were, am. They‘re passive, and 90% of the time passive is boring. Like that last sentence. No action. You wish that I would delete it.
3. Write your piece. Then rewrite the introduction, eliminating 60% of the introduction. The entire train of thought isn’t necessary, just something a bit exiting to tell me why I should read it. I really should lecture myself on this point.
4. On this note, get to the point. Read Seth Godin’s blog
, he sets a great example. And he probably put much more thought and has deeper understanding as to why he writes the way he does.
5. Catch phrases fit better on a tshirt or a bumper sticker or a Pinterest pin. Not a book. Draw me a mental picture, don’t sell me words.
6. In the words of Tina Fey
, oftentimes “when it’s true, it doesn’t need to be said.” Know the baseline understanding of your audience.
7. Avoid stupid adjectives. Anything that goes on a commercial probably shouldn’t fit into prose, such as excellent, best, all-new, exciting…
8. On that note, avoid the ends of the spectrum when making claims: always, never, all, none. At least 70% of current readers live in a generation of authoritative doubt. We don’t believe at least a fraction of what you say, so don’t give us reason to doubt the rest. When you paint with too wide a brush it serves as an excuse to dismiss the entire message.
9. Percentages serve as a best friend and a worst enemy. You can find a stat to match any point you try to make – this post serves as proof, as I’ve not actually looked up a single one. “Over 75% of the people sitting on the board for the FDA, to decide the “Healthy Food Pyramid” – work for leading processed food providers & pharmaceutical companies. Sure…sure…they are making decisions based on what is good for you….” (a quote from my FB friend)
I’m sure there’s more to the story, but that stat works. Any of the stats mentioned in this post are 42% useless.
10. The rule of authority: find someone who lives outside the same 60 mile radius of you to say the same thing you’re trying to say. For some reason, we don’t trust figures from our own zipcodes. But if they traveled to say it (and expenses the gas), then clearly they know what they’re talking about. Those of you who live more than one county away from Miami County, Ohio, I’m available for a nominal fee.
11. Proofread. Proof of how badly you must do this: I’m not going to proofread because I’ve got to run. Count the mistakes yourself.