Writing Without Bullshit
Summary from listening to the audio book of “Writing Without Bullshit: Boost Your Career by Saying What You Mean” by Josh Bernoff.
Write as if your audience’s time is worth more than your own.
Do this by creating value for your audience–do not postpone/hide the delivery of value (information) in your writing).
- utilize formatting (indentation, lists, tables) to break down walls of text
- incorporate images, data visualization
Consider your format–e.g. reading on a mobile phone screen.
For example with email: the subject line is 10 times more important than the email body.
Jargon & acronyms separate your audience into those who do and don’t know them.
Do not kill your audience size by unnecessarily using jargon/acronyms.
Use pronouns (you, me, we, I).
- passive voice.
- adverbs, qualifiers (very, generally), weasel words (most, many, few, countless).
Shorter is better.
State numbers. Source them with care.
Use modern collaborative editing software (Google Docs, Dropbox/Box/Drive).
- Create “fat” outlines. No harm to starting out “fat” as it’s easier to flesh out.
- Research interviews.
Editors do not dictate what to write–they help you see what you cannot see.
Communicate with your editor what you are uncertain about & to what degree you are seeking feedback.
- Too long.
- Do not get to the point fast enough.
- Passive voice.
- Too much jargon, weasel words.
- Not prescriptive enough–not focused on the audience.
- Bad use of data.
- Lack of structure.
- No central idea.
Not mentioned in the book–but Hemingway App is an interesting tool for eliminating passive voice: