I love simple, effective writing. It is incredibly empowering. It's the best way aside of video to snapshot knowledge in time for others to learn.
Paul Graham wrote a wonderful article titled Write like you talk and I agree with it wholeheartedly. In my opinion these are the main pillars on which I try to build my writing skills upon.
If I don't believe in what I am saying, it is waste of both mine and the person's reading my work time. If I believe in what idea or message or thought that it is I am trying to say, writing becomes second instinct and it is much easier to translate what is in my head onto paper. Being honest with yourself may sometimes be difficult but journaling often helps in this regard.
Saying more with less
Never use a long word where a short one will do.
I try to have my writing be as transparent as possible for the person reading it. If something can be said simply, it is best to say it, simply.
Read other people's work. Read books. Both fiction and non fiction, and get a taste to how different styles of writing can exist and how they can be used effectively.
Don't use filler words
Always be conscious when I am writing something and try to focus on the message and remove as much fluff as possible. Words like 'really' have no place in writing as they only undermine what you said before.
Be aware of pacing
Be aware of pacing between words and sentences. The sentences ideally should flow into one another. Breaks in form of commas and full steps are important. As they allow for the reader to take a break and absorb the point that you tried to deliver.
Replace words like
really like with
love or other more appropriate words that save space writing and are more relevant to what I am trying to say.
My writing process
I stopped writing articles after starting this wiki. For reasons I mention here.
When I did write articles, I started writing all my articles by jotting down notes/ideas as dashed points below the title. Here is how that looks:
I then started writing the article and try to touch on one or all of these points as I write the article. I add/remove points as I write the article.
I wrote all my articles, docs & notes in Sublime Text app and used an Alfred workflow to search through this wiki & my blog.
Nowadays I mostly use Obsidan for everything.
Focus. Format. Framing.
- Short focused post is easier to both read & write.
- Focus on making a single point.
- If your post needs a table of contents, it's probably too large in scope.
- Find a format that works for you. Experiment, ask for feedback & iterate.
- A few, clear examples go a long way.
- Headings, code samples and images can provide visual "anchor points".
- Presentation guides perception.
- You don't have to be an expert, just don't pretend to be.
- Topics are everywhere - just look at the problems you're solving every day.
- Share learnings & experiences instead of "selling" things. (Don't say
I hope I convinced you to use ... Just share what you want to share and let the readers decide for themselves.)
- pretty much
- quite a few
- of course
- everyone knows
- have made (use made)
- a bit
- a little
- sort of
- kind of
Improving my writing
I try to take notice of things I like when reading. The main issue I find that authors make is writing to impress. Writing as everything else in life has to be and feel genuine.
There is no point in trying to impress someone with flashy words. Focus on the message you want to deliver and do it succinctly and with impact. Most readers remember the start and end of the articles most.
Having 0 frictions in starting to write & publishing is incredibly empowering too. Linus's site is great inspiration for that. Alongside many of the wikis people have made and published.
Quick notes interlinked are amazing. But when combined with proper researched and well done articles such as ones by Bartosz Ciechanowski backed by visualizations and data. It's even more incredible.
I personally have been focusing on growing this wiki for way too long, I want to write more long term pieces, properly researched and well done. Web canvas is so powerful in the kinds of stories you can tell. Or maybe make more photographical stories like ones seen on Exposure.
Tools like Lex or Careful Words are great.
Nice pieces of effective writing
I love writing of Matt Levine. Also:
- Most adverbs are superfluous. Most cases where you say "generally" or "usually" you're undermining your point and the use of "very", "extremely", etc. are hyperbolic and breathless and make it easier to regard what you're writing as unserious.
- Examine every word: a surprising number don’t serve any purpose.
- One of the best things about starting your career at Amazon is grooming in some fantastic values in early years of life. One of those is writing pithy, powerful documents.
- Writing is not publishing. If you conflate the two you might not write at all.
- I just set aside about an hour a day, during my peak alertness time (around 11-2) during which I write. I have an outline of a book I want to write, and I just pick a section and start going (whatever I feel like that particular day). I write until the words don't flow any more. One thing that helped me a lot an idea I learned in high school of writing a shitty first draft -- almost stream of consciousness, without caring about quality, then going back to clean up later.
- Write like you speak. Use simple words & tenses. Use the active voice. Cut as much as possible.
- Writing clearly is like playing Tetris. Sentences should be presented with clauses that drop down and slot together efficiently. At the earliest available opportunity you drop in a block that completes the line and points are won/made.
- Recipe: 1. Write an essay. 2. Explain to a friend what you said in it. 3. Go back and rewrite it to say what you just said to your friend.
- One of the hardest things to do when writing (and thus one of the differentiators of really good writing) is to cut stuff that's genuinely good, just not good in the thing you're writing.
- 1. Write not just what you know, but what you're learning. And post about what you love. 2. Have at least a tiny website that shows something neat. 3. Do things publicly, and comment when you think the other people would find it meaningful. 4. Help other people.
- Writing with rhythm: This sentence has five words. Here are five more words. Five-word sentences are fine. But several together become monotonous. Listen to what is happening. The writing is getting boring. The sound of it drones. It’s like a stuck record. The ear demands some variety. Now listen. I vary the sentence length, and I create music. Music. The writing sings. It has a pleasant rhythm, a lilt, a harmony. I use short sentences. And I use sentences of medium length. And sometimes, when I am certain the reader is rested, I will engage him with a sentence of considerable length, a sentence that burns with energy and builds with all the impetus of a crescendo, the roll of the drums, the crash of the cymbals–sounds that say listen to this, it is important.
- Start working on a hard problem. Take notes all along the way. Turn those notes into a deep dive blog post. Open source what you can!
- People who think well, write well. Good writing is not a natural gift. You have to learn to write well.
- Read to collect the dots, write to connect them.
- Moving your team from slides to long form writing is not just a process change. It is first and foremost a culture change. A writing culture values comprehension over aesthetics, nuance over certainty, clarity over charisma, deliberation over impulse, and rigor over hierarchy.
- Write like a journalist. Adopt the inverted pyramid. Be curious. Use emotion-based questions. Tell a story. Pay attention to the details, data, & money.
- Good copywriting: Here's your problem. Here's the benefit of solving it. Here's why what you've tried has failed. And by the way here's a product that will help you solve it.
- Immature poets imitate. Mature poets steal.
- Amazon has a philosophy called "Work Backwards." Employees start projects by writing the press release, which clarifies a bunch of product decisions. Writers can work backwards too. Write the tweet people will use to share your article before you write the article itself.
- Give up on saying anything new. Most people haven’t read my old stuff. Play the hits. I constantly remind myself that if I think I'm just sharing the same ideas over and over again... it doesn't matter, because no one is paying me enough attention to notice!
- If you're not just making slow progress but literally unable to make a single bit of progress, my goto strategy is similar to what writers call a vomit draft. For writing it conventionally means means writing words without stopping to plan or edit, no corrections allowed, the rule is you just have to keep typing, no matter what. It's about something being better than nothing, creating momentum, and also avoids being too critical because you literally can not stop and make edits to old work. Remember the only rule is keep typing. Even if it means typing random nonsense for awhile. I do all that but I sometimes make it even more extreme. I make it the goal to produce truly terrible version of the the thing I'm trying to make. Full of cliches and tropes in writing. Amateur coding mistakes if it's a technical project. Not just bad but legit so awful that I would truly embarrassed if somebody else saw it. Like literally, what would so shoddy I'd be afraid to have someone look at my screen right now. I mean literally ask yourself what work is so bad you would be humiliated if your advisor saw it. Make that your goal. But it still works. After you have something even it's an abomination, it gets your brain thinking about it and working on it, and it's so much easier to make the obvious improvements, and then more, and eventually you are just doing things normally.
- A blog post about blog posts
- Learnup - Service to publish books.
- TLDR of MailChimp's writing style guide
- You Should Write Blogs
- Awesome book authoring - Collection of awesome resources for technical book authors.
- HN: What Is The Morning Writing Effect? (2018)
- On self-publishing “A Programmer’s Introduction to Mathematics” (2018)
- Write.as - Minimalist, privacy-focused, writing and publishing platform.
- Write Freely - Open source platform for building a writing space on the web. (Code) (SwiftUI MultiPlatform Client) (HN) (HN)
- Typegram - Open source publishing platform.
- Notes on writing well
- On Writing Well Summary of 7 Principles
- The Day You Became a Better Writer (2nd Look) (2015)
- Tips for Writing a Technical Book (HN)
- Undervalued Software Engineering Skills: Writing Well (2019) (HN)
- Writing is Thinking: Learning to Write with Confidence (2019) (HN)
- Cut out everything that’s not surprising (2019)
- How to write a technical paper
- Production Guide - Practical explanation of formatting and style conventions that should be consistent across Guides.
- Amazon writing tips
- Left - Distractionless Writing Tool.
- Notes on Technical Writing (2020) (HN)
- Why I Keep a Research Blog (2020) - Writing has made me a better thinker and researcher. I expand on my reasons why. (HN)
- Epistemic statuses are lazy, and that is a good thing (2018)
- It's time to start writing (Lobsters)
- Brandon Sanderson lecture on story telling
- CFP Advice (Tweet)
- Set of standard document templates
- Design: The Key to Writing (and Advising) a One-Draft Thesis
- How to Write Usefully (2020) (HN)
- Write a rapid prototype first
- Mary Dash’s Writing Tips
- How to Edit Your Own Writing (2020) (HN)
- Practical guide to writing technical specs (2020) (HN)
- Mise en Place Writing (HN)
- How to Write Like Naval Ravikant
- Few 80/20 tips for writing (2020)
- Good writing is a business advantage (HN)
- How to Grow Your Business by Writing: Sahil Lavingia + David Perell (2020)
- Hemingway App - Makes your writing bold and clear. (HN)
- Making sense of Design Unbound vs. prior theories of collaborative design work (2020)
- Proselint - Linter for prose. (Code)
- 2020 Pulitzer Prize Winners (HN)
- Encouraging a Culture of Written Communication (2020) (HN)
- Writing for Software Developers (HN)
- Collection of materials relating to technical writing
- The power of proposals
- How I write (2020)
- Text as an interface (2020)
- Alex - Catch insensitive, inconsiderate writing. (Code) (Article)
- Fuzzy - Spell checking and fuzzy search suggestion written in Go.
- Self-Defined - Seeks to provide more inclusive, holistic, and fluid definitions to reflect the modern world. (Code) (Twitter)
- Monzo – Tone of Voice - Brief overview of how we write. (HN)
- E-Prime - Variant of English in which one avoids the use of the word ‘is’ and all its conjugations.
- Ask HN: I find writing difficult, how do I make it easy? (2020)
- AsBlocks - Encrypted collaborative writing environment. (Code)
- Paris Review - The Art of Fiction (2019) (Tweet)
- 40 tips for writing great microcopy
- Fluently - Online text editor with a multilingual translator, dictionary, and thesaurus built-in.
- Scott McCloud Discusses the Making of The Sculptor (2015)
- How to Write Technical Posts (so people will read them) (2019) (Lobsters)
- Write to a short attention span (2020)
- Lobsters: What are you writing? (2020)
- My Writing Setup (2020) (Lobsters)
- Learn Ulysses course
- Writing Tips for Remote Workers (And Everyone Else)
- WordSafety - Check a name for unwanted meanings in foreign languages. (HN)
- A Founder's Guide to Writing Well (2020)
- The Age of the Essay (2004)
- Architecture of Writing (2020)
- Writing to Learn: How to Write--And Think--Clearly about Any Subject at All (1993)
- Reading Supply - Writing and discussion platform.
- Vale - Command-line tool that brings code-like linting to prose. (Docs)
- errata.ai - Innovative tools for collaborative writing. (GitHub)
- George Orwell: Politics and the English Language
- How to write in plain English (HN)
- Andy's Note-writing stream (2020)
- Awesome Technical Writing
- On the importance of writing for for computer-type-people
- Awesome Scientific Writing
- Why you should write (2020) (HN)
- Google Journalist Studio - Collection of tools to empower journalists to do their work more efficiently, creatively, and securely.
- Writing for Programmers by Paulus Esterhazy (2020) (Slides)
- On Deck Writer Fellowship - Where the best writers go to grow their audience and improve their craft.
- Asciidoctor - Fast, open source text processor and publishing toolchain for converting AsciiDoc content to HTML5, DocBook, PDF, and other formats. (Code) (HN)
- Telescopic Text - Experimental tool for creating expanding texts.
- Steps to Improve Your Writing (2020) (HN)
- The Ultimate Guide to Writing Online
- Grammarly - Free writing app to make their online writing clear and effective.
- Writing for Reasons (2020)
- The job of a writer (2020)
- 8 questions for writing (2020)
- Robert Eggers on Making The Lighthouse: Full Screenwriter's Lecture and Q&A | On Writing (2020)
- David Lynch: Don't fear writer's block, get a setup, and be patient (2020)
- How do you write simple explanations without sounding condescending (2020) (Lobsters)
- The Craft of Writing Effectively (2014)
- Writing well (HN) (Tweet)
- Prose for Programmers Book - Book aimed at helping software developers write better prose. (Code)
- Resources for Writers
- How to write good prompts: using spaced repetition to create understanding (2020) (HN)
- Sci-fi writers on how they build their worlds (2021)
- Pocket Technical Writing List - Small but formidable list of technical writing resources for software developers.
- What Writers and Editors Do (2021) (HN)
- Writing tips
- English Style Guide
- Writing Tips from the Masters
- On Writing More (2021) (HN)
- Paid Community Writer Programs
- Paul Graham Isn’t a Simple Writer, and Here Are Some of His Cool Tricks (2021)
- Writing tools I learned from The Economist (2021) (HN) (PDF)
- Compound Writing - Community-Powered Writing Workflow.
- RedPen - Open source proofreading tool to check if your technical documents meet the writing standard. (Web)
- Mental model for generating world-class writing
- Editing technique of counting to use with writing (2021)
- Great Memos
- Programming and Writing (2021) (HN)
- Technical Writing Courses by Google
- 15 Tips for Writing Better Short Stories (2021)
- ShaelinWrites - YouTube - Talks about writing.
- David Ogilvy: How to Write
- How to Start a Novel (HN)
- UX writing: Using voice principles and a tone map to write consistently (2021)
- exegesis - Writing app for capturing and sharing disorganized, non-linear, creative thinking.
- Master copywriting (2021)
- The Document Culture of Amazon (2021) (HN)
- Words & phrases you can almost always cut from your UX copy
- 4 different ways to make money by writing articles (2021)
- Explaining how I explain things
- On academic writing: a personal note (2016) (HN)
- Writing, technically (2021) (HN)
- Write More, but Shorter (2021) (HN)
- The Expanse | James S.A.Corey | Talks at Google (2014)
- Scaling Engineering Teams via RFCs: Writing Things Down (2021)
- Learning about writing by seeing only the punctuation (2021) (Tool) (HN)
- More Asemic Writing (2020)
- Creative Spark: Eric Roth (2014) (Article) (HN)
- Greatest Screenwriters of All Time
- How I motivate myself to write (HN)
- 50 Resources And Tools To Turbocharge Your Copywriting Skills (2021)
- Best Story Wins (2021) (Tweet)
- What I learned from a year on Substack (2021) (HN)
- Advice for aspiring bloggers (2021)
- Awesome Writing
- Writer - AI Writing Assistant for Teams. (Twitter)
- Writing is networking for introverts (HN)
- Writers on their day jobs
- Some thoughts on writing (Tweet) (HN)
- Writing is a visual language (2021)
- Tips for making writing more fun (HN)
- Best Pens for 2022: Gel, Ballpoint, Rollerball, and Fountain Pens (HN)
- Piece of writing, on the internet (i.e. not a book), that you return to or at least consider foundational
- Putting Ideas into Words (2022) (HN)
- Fountain - Markup language for screenwriting. (TS lib)
- Easy trick for telling better stories
- What makes writing more readable? (2022) (HN)
- What makes a great opening line? (HN)
- Substack’s Ideology (2022)
- Plotto: A new method of plot suggestion for writers of creative fiction (1928) (HN)
- How to Write More Clearly, Think More Clearly, and Learn Complex Material
- Writing for Engineers (2022)
- Goodwrite - Writing app that uses deep learning AI to make your writing smarter, safer and fairer.
- Tools for a Culture of Writing (2021) (HN)
- Ask HN: Examples of good technical writing? (2022)
- Writing better by answering why, what, how (HN)
- Writing One Sentence per Line (HN)
- Ask HN: How to level up your technical writing? (2022)
- Brevity 500 - Short games to help you become a powerful writer. (HN)
- Technical Writing for Developers (2022) (HN)
- Ask HN: Any great books about technical writing? (2022)
- Walter Benjamin's rules for writing
- How James Clear is Writing His Next Book (HN)
- Replace the “very” in your sentence (HN)
- Careful Words - More inspiring thesaurus. (HN)
- Lex - Word processor with artificial intelligence baked in, so you can write faster. (Tweet)
- Screenplays for Movies and TV Shows (HN)
- Moonbeam - Moonbeam's AI will give you everything you need to write killer long form content.
- Write Like You Talk (2015) (HN)
- Just Don’t (2022) (HN)
- Dev Writer's Workshop
- Lesson writing structure. Write music.
- Prefer simpler language
- Ian Fleming Explains How to Write a Thriller
- Writing at work (2022)
- Ask HN: How to get better at writing? (2022)
- KoboldAI - Browser-based front-end for AI-assisted writing with multiple local & remote AI models.
- JK Rowling story telling framework
- How to Write English Prose (2023) (HN)
- Story Structure 101: Super Basic Shit (HN)
- Jotte - Graph-based AI for longform writing. (HN)
- Punctuation Matters: How to use the en dash, em dash and hyphen (HN)