The all important beginning point for clear writing is to develop confidence in it. This is explained in my book, “The Art of Clear Writing,” available on amazon.com/Kindle Books and in print. Here is what I have written:
“I’m not a good writer!” is an all too often heard personal lament. For those of you who believe they fit into that category, i.e., those who don’t believe they are good writers but want to be, this book can help. It provides an organized guide to clear writing fundamentals and sets forth down-to-earth, well-established writing guidelines and techniques that have worked for others, not hard and fast rules that must be committed to memory and followed at all costs.
As mentioned in the introduction, the underlying proposition of this book is that clear writing is an art form – it can be learned. Anybody can write well – but you need the desire and dedication to do it. If you’re willing to put in the time and learn the skills, the satisfaction and rewards will come. These guidelines and techniques are capable of being learned through application and practice, and should result in a marked improvement in your writing. Even if writing is not your strong suit,
you can still learn and significantly improve your writing ability by following the suggestions in this book.
As a practicing trial attorney, dealing with the exacting requirements of legal writing over the years enabled me to hone my writing ability to the point where I became an effective writer. So, unless you are involved in circumstances that require you to write continuously, you will have to dedicate
yourself to the task of writing on a virtual daily basis to achieve noticeable results.
Following the guidelines and techniques discussed in this book is therefore only a beginning, a light showing you the right direction. First, you must make up your mind that you’re going to write well. Then you must put in the time and make the effort to learn. Follow the guidelines and techniques repeatedly until skill is achieved. A now and then approach will have little effect. Perseverance and tenacity are required, particularly if writing is not your strong suit. This effort should remain a continuous and ongoing task. Poet and playwright Robert Browning summed it up nicely: “Art’s long, though time is short.” (See: The Ring and the Book [1868-1869], IX, Juris Doctor Johnannes-Baptista Bottinius, as shown in Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations, Fourteenth Ed., 1968, Little, Brown & Company (Canada) Limited, note p. 88).
Also bear in mind that writing, any writing, is a form of salesmanship, i.e., you are selling yourself. It is a basic sales truism that people will buy from you if they trust you. That truism applies to writing as well. Whatever your purpose in writing may be, whether you’re applying for a job, selling a product or service, writing personal or business letters, writing a company manual, or even preparing something as basic as an interoffice memo, the reader must trust you for your writing to be successful. Achieving this trust will depend on the respect and credibility emanating from your writing. If the reader believes you to be a credible writer and trusts you, you’ve gone a long way toward accomplishing your primary writing goal of selling the reader on whatever you’re writing about. Attracting that trust can be achieved only if you dedicate yourself to improving your writing skills.
Where do you start? Begin with a positive attitude toward what you’re doing, whether writing or speaking. John Adams, one of our Founding Fathers and a prominent lawyer by trade, successfully argued to the jury during the Boston Massacre trial of 1770 that “facts are stubborn things” and cannot be changed no matter how strong are your passions. Adams strongly believed in the rule of law and that the British soldiers he defended (successfully, it should be added), who were accused of murder when they fired their muskets into an angry mob, were innocent.
Clear writing thus depends to a large extent on the power of belief, belief that comes from having confidence in your writing. When you have that confidence, it will show – the reader can see it. To obtain confidence you must master what can best be described as the “inner game” of writing, overcoming mental blocks to clear writing. As with other challenges in life, you must develop the right mental attitude. In other words, you can’t write clearly if you are nagged by anxiety and self doubt about your writing. Persistence and determination to write well are omnipotent.”
Here’s the bottom line: whether playing tennis, or golf, you must develop confidence in your ability. The same is true with writing. The best way to gain confidence in your writing ability is by working at it. Practice your writing continuously. Refine it as you go. Study the style and technique of other writers. The more you read and write, the more your writing will improve, which should build up your confidence.
Copyright © 2013. Arnold G. Regardie. All rights reserved.