Read this article in our brand new Speed Reading Mode
Stephen King famously gave us three of the most useful words to improve your writing: 'kill your darlings.' You should treat words as practical rather than precious. They are the bricks to a building: they need to be sturdy and accurately placed in order to create functional and beautiful architecture. Right, 47 more to go...
How. People always want to know how.
Number. Numbers attract attention, often odd numbers work best.
Verb. Put some action into your headline. "Man kills woman" is better than "Woman dead" [Hat tip to Jo Higgins for that example.]
Promise. Be brave and make a claim.
Benefit. Tell your readers what they'll get out of reading your work.
Solution. Unless you have laid out a specific problem, you cannot offer a solution.
A lot. How much? A lot is too vague and can be interpreted too many ways. Write precisely.
Passion. No. Especially not in mission statements.
Really. Find a more powerful descriptive rather than use really. "It's an excellent tip" is better than "it's a really good tip."
As practical and concise as words can be, they are also powerful, emotional and sometimes beautiful. Used carefully, such words will make your writing personal. Remember, whenever you write, speak to the reader.
Exciting. Describe and evoke emotions. Bring your own reactions in when they are strong. Don't be afraid of feeling exposed.
Crunched. Evoke the readers' other senses and let them experience a sense of place.
Contrary. People are interested in conflict, they relish it.
Serendipity. Whimsy, happy endings and fortune, handled carefully, make people smile.
Fuck. Swear words have their place, and even venerable publications like The New Yorker have accepted the reality and necessity for profanity.
And that is number 50. Rules and precision are necessary for good writing. Practice and internalise good standards until they are automatic and then (and perhaps only then) you can begin to play with the infinite possibility of words.