Improve your writing with an online class
My latest online courses are now available
I’ve finally finished rewriting all my online courses. I thought this would take a month or so and it took seven months!
My latest two are:
The others are:
These courses are available for individuals and organisations.
Your opening sentence must engage your readers
As Stephen King says: ‘An ‘opening line should invite the reader to begin the story. It should say: Listen. Come in here. You want to know about this.’
That’s why it’s often the most difficult sentence to write.
Even Stephen King admitted in an interview with The Atlantic that he can spend ‘months and even years’ writing an opening sentence.
He’s talking about fiction, but it’s true for whatever you’re writing.
How you write your first sentence will depend on what you’re writing (e.g. report or email), who you’re writing to and the formality of your writing.
Think about what your readers want to know
Why will your readers be interested in your topic? If it’s a work document, they may have to read it, but that’s no excuse for turgid prose. Think about the questions they’re likely to ask and what they will be most interested in. Then decide if you need a hook to grab their attention or if you just get straight to the point.
Now, let’s look at writing techniques.
Keep the first sentence short
Fiction writers can write long, engaging opening sentences, but that’s not true for most online or business writing. How short will depend on the medium. In marketing and advertising copy, you can use a single word or short phrase. For example, Avis used the first sentence of an ad as a tagline for five decades. It simply states:
‘We try harder.’
If you’re writing an article or online post, you may want to arouse people’s curiosity.
‘As she reached into the bag, something inside it moved.’
Read the rest of my blog.
The difference punctuation can make
I want a man who knows what love is all about. You are generous, kind, thoughtful. People who are not like you admit to being useless and inferior. You have ruined me for other men. I yearn for you. I have no feelings whatsoever when we’re apart. I can be forever happy – will you let me be yours?
I want a man who knows what love is. All about you are generous, kind, thoughtful people who are not like you. Admit to being useless and inferior. You have ruined me. For other men I yearn! For you I have no feelings whatsoever. When we’re apart I can be forever happy. Will you let me be?
Apologies if you’ve seen this before. I came across it again recently. It’s from Lynne Truss’s book, Eats Shoots & Leaves (Profile Books 2003).
Colons and full stops before a list
Q: If you have the word following in an instruction before a list, do you use a colon or full stop? I was taught you must use a colon.
Please answer the following questions.
Please answer the following questions:
A: I think you can use either a colon or a full stop if the points in the list are full sentences. What do you think? Email email@example.com.
A reader asked me to write about formatting (e.g. fonts etc.). I’ll write a blog about this next month – if you have views on this topic, please let me know. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Interesting articles about writing
Why we care about some kids in danger and not others
An interesting perspective on the Thailand cave rescue.
In praise of (occasional) bad manners
This article argues that politeness is often a veneer.
On semicolons and the rules of writing
This article states that semicolons increase the range of tone and inflection at a writer’s disposal.
The man who created the worldwide web has some regrets
Find out what they are.
The commas that cost companies millions
A good reminder about the power of the comma.
Quote of the month
‘The sun shone, having no alternative, on the nothing new.’
Opening line by Samuel Beckett in Murphy.
Read 29 more great opening lines in literature.