Thursday, April 15, 2010

Practical tips for writers (1) - Leo Babauta

If you’re like me, you collect lists of tips for writers. My view is: No matter how long I’ve been writing (now 43 years), I can always benefit from reading the thoughtful advice of other writers.

My favorite list is from Leo Babauta, a popular author and blogger. Of Mr. Babauta’s 15 tips, I especially like #1:

1. Read great writers. This may sound obvious, but it has to be said. This is the place to start. If you don’t read great writing, you won’t know how to do it. Everyone starts by learning from the masters, by emulating them, and then through them, you find your own voice. Read a lot. As much as possible. Pay close attention to style and mechanics in addition to content.

I agree that it “may sound obvious” and I agree that “it has to be said.” In my career as a business writer, editor and agency vice president, I have interviewed many writers who have not read great writing since high school. I have even met writers who do almost no reading at all; it would be an understatement to say that their work shows it.

As you probably know by now, I often recommend reading great writing aloud, for at least ten minutes per day. It is probably the most valuable way a writer can spend 10 minutes.

The Takeaway: Read Mr. Babauta’s list of 15 tips for writers. The tips are practical and practicable. Yes, I did notice that he gratuitously switched from third person to second person in the fifth sentence of Tip #1, quoted above. Yes, I noticed that he used the nauseatingly overused word voice. And, yes, I know he is involved in a messy intellectual-property dispute. I am not vouching for his grammar, diction or forbearance. I am only saying that his list is good.

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