WRITING: Six Golden Rules

Storytelling today is serious business. Companies of all sizes are discovering that good stories, tweets and blogs can move people to action. All writers are not capable of creating content that sells but those with a broad range of skills are suddenly in huge demand.

Is there a secret behind good writing? Experts like Ernest Hemingway insisted that we can’t acquire writing gifts unless we sit down and write. These days social media like Twitter provide splendid opportunities to hone storytelling skills while writing your heart out.

Tweeting isn’t like a driving range for golfers but the same principles apply. Limited to 140 characters, or roughly 20 words per tweet, regular focused activity helps writers learn to make every word count.

Tweeters don’t have to worry about spelling or grammar. Even novice storytellers struggling to collate a flurry of thoughts into a succinct message begin to avoid words and phrases that are useless, albeit at the expense of the Queen’s English.  Unfortunately, aspiring writers won’t earn a lot without acquiring a grasp of grammar and the following fundamentals :

  1. Use short sentences.
  2. Use short paragraphs.
  3. Weave unique and interesting stories.
  4. Eliminate useless words and phrases.
  5. Strive for clarity.
  6. Use action verbs.

Valued by writers today, these rules are not new. A century ago popular dime novelist Fredrick Whitaker urged his understudies to master each of them and also suggested they write on paper as if speaking aloud–in order to achieve the kind of transparency and credibility now sought by web publishers.

Many novelists in the late-nineteenth century lauded the same principles. William Randolph Hearst in the 1930s built a publishing empire while advocating them. Hemingway, once a reporter with the Kansas City Star, urged young writers to observe the same principles. Al Neuharth’s USA Today flourished in the 70s with journalistic brevity that embraced them.

We all love a good story, regardless of length. Compelling words and visuals spark our imaginations. They can inspire us, evoke sympathy and influence donations. Because they’re so powerful, well-told stories in our new digital civilization will only become more important and increasingly valuable.

“We want a story that starts out with an earthquake and works its way up to a climax,” observed movie maker Samuel Goldwyn Meyer in a tweetable complete sentence that says a lot about storytelling. Though tweeting practice won’t land you a job creating Hollywood scripts, following these six rules might help you write great blogs or perhaps obtain an entry level position with a content marketing firm.

–Ken Berry