5 writing takeaways from terrible drivers

The same sorts of annoyances you see while commuting can nettle readers. Here are examples of roadway cloggers and their linguistic equivalents—with solutions for the latter, at least.

Writing tips from terrible drivers

Your morning commute would be a breeze—if it weren’t for all those other people.

Even with all the traffic lights, stop signs, turns and on- and off-ramps, just cutting out 50% of the other vehicles would afford you a free flow to your destination, wouldn’t it?

OK, so now apply that mindset to your writing, clearing the way for readers to reach your message.

Let’s consider the linguistic counterparts to these five vehicular vexations:

Moseying mopes. These slowpokes wait for a solid five seconds after the light turns green before they even consider pressing the gas pedal. They also dawdle their way toward an intersection, thwarting your chance to make the green light—yet they glide through the yellow-turning-red signal, leaving you stuck and costing you time and souring your cheery mood.

Start your copy strong, and keep driving it forward to take your readers on an exciting ride. Use high-octane verbs to get your text firing on all cylinders.

Pedal pumpers. Some drivers speed up. And then slow down. Race furiously to an already-red light. Then stop short. Over. And over.

Many writers perpetrate this sort of choppiness, too, to nauseating effect. Have mercy on the poor reader, and embrace compound sentences—or at least complete ones.

Lane drifters. Perhaps distracted by texting (or coffee or a favorite song on the radio), these oblivious sorts blithely sway across the dotted line with little regard for where they’ll end up.

This happens, too, when writers lose focus and go off on tangents. That salient anecdote to illustrate a particular point all too often billows into bombastic bluster that goes on for paragraphs at a time. Stick to your point, and move forward with purpose.

Non-signalers and errant signalers. Turning without signaling, signaling without turning—both can cause havoc on busy roadways.

Likewise, misdirection of your readers can confuse them and send them off on another route—to someone else’s blog or website, that is. In a list article, keep your elements consistent and aligned. If you offer seven things not to do toward a specific end, avoid offering five don’ts and then tossing in two do’s.

Also, double-check words’ spellings and meanings for clarity.

Road sign ignorers. Yield signs, No Turn on Red signs, Stop signs? All are meaningless to this cadre of hazards.

The rules of the road are there for a reason; so are the rules of grammar, syntax and punctuation. Galumphing along, paying no heed to basic linguistic tenets, could result in a six-paragraph pileup, and no one wants to start a day like that.


2 Responses to “5 writing takeaways from terrible drivers”

    brad shorr says:

    This is an excellent , excellent post, and your analogies are spot-on. A couple further thoughts:
    1. It’s ironic that a lot of the bad driving you describe is caused by people WRITING while they are driving – text messages, emails, etc. That, however, is no laughing matter.
    2. My personal “favorites” are the Left Lane Lollygaggers, who clog Chicago expressways like giant blobs of HDL cholesterol. As writers they would never get to the point, because they don’t have one and they don’t mind wasting the reader’s time.

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