Coexistence 301: How To Write

Back To Main
Coexistence 203: How To Stay Legally Safe

Writing has profound differences with talking

The developed world requires more writing skills than speaking skills

  • Crafting emails
  • Sending text messages
  • Giving summaries and reports

While talking is about 110-150 words per minute, reading is usually 200 words per minute

  • Since reading covers more information than speaking, proper writing requires more attention to detail

Readers can jump ahead with text, but listeners have to sit through speaking

More premeditation in writing than talking create more florid verbs and expressive prepositions

Writing has more possible ways to fail and a broader audience than speaking through more accessible distribution and more complications

Better writing starts with better lifestyle decisions

Read frequently

  • Reading provides an experience of how language can form
  • Read within the style you prefer to write in to more effectively construct ideas

Write often and intentionally

The more you write, the better you become

  • Set a daily goal and become more productive
  • Finish each paragraph before taking a break to keep ideas consistent

Finish what you start

  • Only rewrite to change the order while editing
  • Every written work, no matter how large, is written one word at a time

Write about your passions

You can’t convey the correct mood without a passion for the subject

  • Write about a topic that makes you furious if you can’t find one for a persuasive work

If you’re stuck writing about something you don’t care about

  1. Find a reliable and engaging source
  2. Find their references
  3. Use those references for your work

Publish as soon as possible

The only way to get meaningful feedback is to submit it for public review

Your writing must convey your natural creative style

You must continually revise and edit

  • If you see any possibility of others misreading you, they will
  • The longer your sentences, the higher the chance someone will misunderstand you

The writing should sound excellent when read out loud

  • Copy your finished work into Google Translate and listen to its playback to catch any errors or strange sentences
  • Try to find friends interested in editing and proofing your work

Increase the font size or character/paragraph spacing if you need to pad out pages

Write with a specific audience in mind

Write to please only one person

  • Opening it to please everyone pleases nobody
  • Your work should reflect your audience’s religious and political ideologies

Use the time of a total stranger in a way that they feel the time was well-spent

Revolve your writing around a message

The first sentence, paragraph, word, and title define the reader’s expectations and thoughts throughout the work

Get to the point or start as close to the end as possible

Give as much information as soon as possible

  • Never bring suspense with vagueness or obscurity; only provide possibilities the reader is thinking about

Writing should both entertain and educate

  • The reader needs to have learned something or will feel a story was a waste of time
  • The reader needs entertainment or will become bored with the information

All great messages contain a WHAT and a WHY

WHAT describes the information you want to convey

  • Event details, date, time, location
  • Educational information, data, facts

WHY describes the benefits of knowing the information

  • It gives a reason for sharing information
  • It answers the “call to action” the reader needs to take

If you’re trying to draw readers in, craft your point with the Inverted Pyramid

inverted_pyramid

Inverted Pyramids have limitations, however

  • Inverted Pyramids can’t present chronological or ordered sets of information
  • They also can’t provide a narrative or story

Avoid most amateur writing mistakes

Fanciful and empty statements

  • Many words to convey a simple idea
    • Every sentence should either advance the action or add relevant information
  • Common metaphors, similes or figures of speech
  • Long trade-specific, scientific, slang or foreign words where simple ones work
  • Excessive adverbs and details that don’t direct anywhere and clutter the central ideas

Immature-sounding expressions

  • Using passive instead of active voice (e.g. “x of the y” instead of “y’s x”)
    • The passive voice dilutes the words’ impact
    • Speaking in the passive voice appears to avoid offense, but creates vagueness
  • Misusing words
    • “Less” describes intangible concepts, “fewer” describes numbers
    • “Then” refers to time, “than” expresses an alternative
    • “Impact” is a noun, “affect” is to change, “effect” is a consequence
    • “It’s” is the contraction of “it is”, “its” is the possessive of “it”
    • “Alot” is not a word, “a lot” is a large amount, “allot” is to give something
    • “Whom” is only used when the statement can refer to “him”
    • “Into” refers to inside, “in to” has no connection to a location
  • Overused words
    • Emphasizing a point with “really” or “very”
    • Using “you” when not referring to the reader
    • Saying “feel” instead of the word that describes the feeling
    • Saying “think” to indicate an opinion (the reader knows it’s an opinion)
    • “As”, “just”, “a lot”, and “used to” in most contexts
    • “Sort of” and “kind of”
  • “Like” to show an analogy
    • Speaking with proper verb placement is far more fluid than analogies

You can break every writing rule as the situation demands

Even self-help or instruction manuals are types of stories

Ideas spread through stories

Most stories, even presentations, use a 3-act structure

1. Thesis – introduction to the situation

  • The basis for the story as the “ordinary world”
  • The main character has to embark on a call to adventure
    • In presentations, the hero is the audience (not the presenter)
    • The hero initially refuses to go from a fear of change
    • The hero is inspired to change after a meeting with the mentor
    • The hero crosses the threshold of the known world into something new

2. Antithesis – the opposite of the presented situation

  • The situation becomes more urgent and intensifies
  • The hero’s desires will come against roadblocks

3. Synthesis – everything comes together

  • The hero will somehow transform, and that transformation is the message of the story
  • The synthesis has the most action
    • A climax confronts the hero’s conflict
    • A resolution combines the thesis and antithesis in a new way
    • A conclusion creates an ending for the story

The most interesting stories and situations are “what if…?” questions

1. What Is – what’s currently going on or a fictional analogy to it

2. What Should Be – compared to What Is, with the difference drawn as far as possible

3. Repeat What Is and What Should Be – swing between the two faster and faster to build tension

  • Repeating What Is and What Should Be makes a predictable theme while also building emphasis

4. One more What Is and then a New Bliss

  • New Bliss is the most accurate What Should Be or the story’s message
  • A New Bliss with enough emotional energy can be life-changing to a reader
  • The best New Bliss pulls from the audience’s previous memorable and inspirational knowledge

All stories have three parts

Narration – moves the story from one point to another

  • The story honors the rules of the world the writer has created

Description – creates a sensory reality for the reader

  • Implicit descriptions are better than explicit ones

Dialogue – brings characters to life through their speech

  • Speaking shows character and integrity as much as actions

The story comes first, and the characters will follow

The audience is interested in the story to the degree of emotional energy expressed toward it

  • However, the stories are about the characters’ responses and reactions more than the event they’re experiencing

Fiction has a few additional rules

Every story has a few specific character archetypes

Hero

  • The hero’s essence is self-sacrifice
  • Journeys from the self to a new identity that includes the story’s experiences
  • Give the Hero a complete polar opposite partner to create an entertaining dynamic to bring out ideas
  • Could be an Anti-Hero, whose main essence is self-preservation
    • Self-destructively journeys from an experienced identity to a worse state

Mentor

  • Older or more experienced guide for the Hero
  • Can sometimes act as the Hero’s conscience

Threshold Guardian

  • The Hero’s first legitimate obstacle
  • Symbolizes the breach from the conventional life the Hero is accustomed to

Herald

  • Tells the Hero of their need to break from their confined lifestyle

Shapeshifter

  • Changes in role or personality, often significantly
  • Their allegiance and loyalties are difficult to discern

Shadow

  • Works to malevolent ends usually against the Hero
  • Will often see their malevolence as a good thing

Trickster

  • Operates as comic relief and keeps everything in proportion

Make characters identifiable

Give the reader at least one character they can cheer for

Every character should want something, even if it’s a glass of water

  • Most professional writers define characters by their obsessions

Give the characters cruel and frustrating experiences which are painful to watch

  • Many writers grow so connected to characters that they avoid giving them a devastating experience

Narrative

Your voice is more important than the image you’re crafting

  • Everyone wants to know how good the story is, not how good the writer is

Show the audience; don’t tell or give an editorial

Continually shift focus by varying the sentence structure, type, style, and jumping around inside the story

One misplaced word can ruin the entire flow of the story

Build a story from back to front

  • Conclusion – what’s resolved and how has this changed the character(s)?
  • Falling Action – how does the character overcome or not overcome their challenge?
  • Climax – what is the final challenge for the character?
  • Rising Action – how does the character come to the final challenge?
  • Exposition – what world is the character in, and how are they pulled out of it?

Give closure to the story

  • The conflict should have a satisfying resolution that resolves the problem, even if it’s not necessarily perfect
  • The close must leave with a lingering experience that carries away with the reader

Even email has a few rules

Attach or upload the documents you’re sending as soon as you start the email

Fully summarize the purpose of the email on the Subject line

Think about your audience

Emails are often better communicated with a phone call or as an off-hand conversation topic at a meeting

Pay close attention to who receives a “Reply All” message and who is Cc’d or Bcc’d

  • Cc stands for “Carbon Copy” and keeps someone informed with no expectation of response
  • Bcc stands for “Blind Carbon Copy” and will send a copy without anyone else knowing they received it

Make a greeting that matches cultural expectations

  • “Hello” – first-time professional greeting only
  • “Hi” – strangers, professional contacts, and non-professional introductions
  • “Hey” – familiar professional contacts, loose acquaintances
  • No greeting – closer friends

Express emails with the correct tone

Email doesn’t convey emotion well, so avoid expressing it

  • Keep the tone respectful and courteous
  • The simplest way to say something is funny is by writing “that’s funny!”

Avoid using text message language (e.g., LOL, JK, BRB)

Carefully choose your words to avoid ambiguity that could create more emails

Write simple and straightforward emails

If an email needs explaining, make a phone call

Limit every email to 5 sentences or 150 words barring an unusual circumstance

  • Most people read emails on mobile devices, which make lengthy emails daunting

Only communicate one or two points per email

  • Break out ideas with spacing and bullets
  • If the conversation grows too long, start a new email with a new subject line

Make a clear “call to action” to indicate what they should do with the information

Asking people to share content on social media through email forces one of two options

  1. They can drop the ball and seem disorganized
  2. They can say no and seem rude

Instead, tell them about it and how it may interest them, then let them look at it at their leisure

Be more cautious with strangers

Don’t ask for feedback

  • Ask for advice through guided questions

Don’t ask for them to introduce you to specific people in their networks

  • Ask them if they know a good source of insight on the topic

Don’t request a phone call or an in-person meeting in person within the next few days

  • Since you’re requesting, you must be more flexible to their needs
  • Don’t name times for a meeting

Observe any unequal power dynamics in email conversations

One person makes typographical errors, skipping punctuation or ignoring capital letters and the other isn’t

One person takes a while to reply while the other doesn’t

  • Reply quickly and relatively infrequently
  • If you need more time to reply, send a quick reply that you’ll get back to them

One person is responding to long, well-written emails with much shorter responses

  • The length of an email varies on industry and context

Take advantage of modern technology

Use a “delay send” or “scheduled send” to deliver it at a more appropriate time

Always spell-check and review everything before you send

  • To be safe, keep the “To:” section blank until you’re ready to send

Make sure your email address conveys the right image

Don’t use electronic return receipts, since they’re annoying to the recipients

If you use a mailing list, keep your content relevant and significant to the readers

Honor the rules of great web content

Your visual appearance on the internet is as important as your content

  • Demarcate ideas and sub-ideas with headers of different sizes
  • Separate thoughts with blank spaces
  • Illustrate points with pictures and graphics

Write with the long-term in mind

  • Fact-check more thoroughly than a book or email
  • A blog or web post could stay in the public eye for decades

Post consistently, but don’t blog every day

  • Daily blogging will prevent you from creating great content

Avoid over-optimizing for search engines

  • Search engine algorithms are continually improving and mind-numbingly advanced
  • Overusing keywords will disrupt the flow of the post and increase the bounce rate, which harms the algorithm ranking

Self-promote whenever possible

  • Don’t wait to generate attention
  • Create email lists to connect with people personally
  • Learn proper marketing (in the next section)

Add variety to the posts

  • Vary the lengths of the posts from short to long
  • Format long articles to be easier to read
    • Vary paragraph length and space them appropriately
    • Create a multiple-part series for extremely long posts
  • Ask readers questions and then answer them
Next: Coexistence 302: Public Speaking