The importance of being trivial

August 4, 2011 by Dean Rieck · 2 Comments
Filed under: Writing Basics 

mail pouch barnDo you like the title of this article? I stole it from chapter 3 of The Art of Readable Writing by Rudolf Flesch.

Back in the 40s and 50s, Flesch was hailed as the guru of clear, direct writing. His advice remains powerful and relevant today.

When Flesch recommended being “trivial,” he meant you should use details to energize your writing. That requires researching your subject and sharing specifics with your reader to create vivid mental images.

I can illustrate this simple idea with the following two descriptions:

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Spelling errors that make you look like an idiot

November 11, 2009 by Dean Rieck · 3 Comments
Filed under: Writing Basics 

dumb spelling errorsEvery copywriter takes pride in delivering clean, error-free copy. That’s why you proofread, run a spell checker, or use a program such as WhiteSmoke to catch goofs.

But sometimes you can spell a word correctly and still have a spelling mistake when two words are similar and you type the wrong one. Spell checkers never catch these errors. It’s up to you to watch for them.

Here are some of the most commonly confused and misused words.

loose vs. lose

  • My shoelaces always come loose when I jog.
  • It’s embarrassing to explain to my neighbors why I lose my running shoes.

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Different from or different than?

October 16, 2009 by Dean Rieck · 3 Comments
Filed under: Writing Basics 

This one always makes me stop and think. Should I write different from or different than?

By itself, the choice won’t affect whether someone buys the widget you’re selling, but it’s one of those little details that can add just a smidgen of extra clarity to your writing. In the aggregate, such things can improve your message and affect the response to your copy.

So, which one is correct? Different from or different than? Here’s what Elements of Style says:

Here logic supports established usage: one thing differs from another, hence, different from. Or, other than, unlike.

So that’s that. Different from is correct. But hold on, is it that simple? The University of Houston suggests that different than may sometimes be correct.

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Banish writer’s block with these 8 tiny tips

October 5, 2009 by Dean Rieck · 1 Comment
Filed under: Writing Basics 

Do you ever have a hard time getting the words to flow? Of course you do. It’s called writer’s block. And it happens to all writers from time to time.

But writer’s block is not inevitable. There are specific reasons you suffer from it and specific ways to avoid it. Here are 8 that help me get my fingers moving on the keyboard.

Do your research. After all, how can you write about something if you don’t have anything to say? Ask questions, collect your facts, and decide on the main points you want to make. Writing is a bit like cooking. You have to gather your ingredients before you fire up the stove.

Start with a structure. You don’t have to use a standard outline (unless you want to). After you’ve collected enough information, just put your ideas into an order that makes sense. The simpler the structure, the better. For this article, for example, my structure looks like this: 1) Introduction, 2) Series of bullet points, 3) Closing remarks. This gives you a modular approach that can further help you avoid writer’s block. If you get stuck on one section, write another section first. Writing doesn’t have to be linear.

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