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Advice on writing Advice on writing
by Joseph Gatt
2019-10-06 10:35:20
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Tips on writing. The method is what I would call the Israeli method or the Jewish North American method of writing, but which also applies to some North American non-Jews, and people from other backgrounds as well.

Tip number one: provide the context, but don't overdo it

I'm currently taking very boring lectures on the great trials of history. Why are they boring? The lecturer provides absolutely no historical context on the trials. No context on what the justice system was like, on what the historical context of the time was. For example, for the Lincoln assassination trials, it's Booth shoots Lincoln, there goes the trial, thank you very much.

writi01_400I once had a friend who liked to go back three or four centuries before the facts. That's pushing it. So they idea is, you don't want to brag about your intellect by providing way too much historical context, but you don't want to leave context out of the story. You want to say what was going on around the world when the facts happened. If the facts were today, you would want a quick reminder on social media, very big egos ruling the world, and technology dominating social and business interactions. That should be enough.

Tip number two: provide personal anecdotes to make the writing less dry

If you're writing non-fiction, you could provide a personal anecdote or two. You want to let the readers know whether you have watched the movie, whether you have met the people you are talking about, or whether you have visited the places you visited. Personal anecdotes tend to make the writing more personal, and people tend to remember the facts better when you provide a personal anecdotes.

However, careful not to brag too much. Make sure your personal anecdotes are “accessible” to anyone. If all your anecdotes involve sports cars and presidential suites at hotels, people will get tired of reading you. For example, I think Nassim Nicholas Taleb speaks at least 7 languages (I know he speaks Arabic, English, French, Greek, Spanish, maybe Italian and maybe a couple of other languages) but he only mentions the fact when he encounters people who don't speak any of the languages he speaks.

Tip number three: Don't hint or use euphemisms or use code language

The reason I read books rather than newspapers or watch the news is because they use too many euphemisms in the news, when books tend to be more plain. I hated Thomas Piketti's book “Capital” because his hints at anti-Semitism and his insults of readers and cynical tone made the reading... a bad one.

So you want to make sure that everything is clearly stated and that you're not trying to send a coded message to anyone.

Tip number four: Mysteries should be real mysteries

Some books I've read contain deliberately hidden information on people, characters or facts. Not because they don't know, but because the author is afraid to discuss that. So if you have a boyfriend/girlfriend/character that you don't want to discuss, either don't discuss them at all, or make their existence clear. Hinting at them tends to make the reading annoying.

Tip number 5: Don't distort facts to serve your personal biases

I know I've made mistakes and got my facts mixed up in the past, but those were honest mistakes. If you want to serve the cause of either informing people or influencing the way people think, you want to say the truth, all the truth and nothing but the truth. As they say it's the intention that counts, and if you intend to tell the truth, and try hard to get the facts right, that's what counts.

Final tip: You want to have a good guess at who your readers will be

If you have two people in mind you are writing for, most people probably won't be interested in what you have to say. So you want to keep a very broad audience in mind. In my case, as with many people, I've travelled all over so tend to have a truly global audience in mind. In most cases, you want to have at least a national audience in mind. Either way, avoid writing your paper or book with the president in mind, or with your lover in mind. Chances are they won't read you, and your real readers will be bored very quickly.


   
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