5 tips for more powerful writing

Here’s how anger, stories and surprises can strengthen your writing.

Now that we’re all publishers, writing has become a core skill for marketers. I love good writing, and whenever I get the chance to teach it I share these five tricks I’ve learned to make anyone’s writing better:

1. Write in pictures

Former Wall Street Journal feature writer Bill Blundell recommended this tip in a seminar about 15 years ago, and I’ve never forgotten it. It’s the single best piece of writing advice I’ve ever heard.

Human beings think visually. The words we read continually conjure images in our minds, so why settle for ordinary words when we can use vivid images?

Consider this passage from a Journal story about the declining popularity of Grape Nuts cereal. Describing the factory in which the century-old breakfast staple is made, reporter Barry Newman writes (emphasis added):

“All day every day, objects with the proportions of hewn firewood and the heft of cinder blocks hurtle along a conveyor, dive into a steel chute, disappear down a black hole—and emit what sounds like a startled scream.”

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