Stop scowling at your readers: 5 tips

Here are a few ways to avoid writing off-putting text. Unaware you write with a scowl? Read on.

A recent York University study found that people who performed small acts of kindness—five to 15 minutes every day for a week—increased their happiness and self-esteem.

I may have to surrender my credentials as a grumpy ex-journalist, but I agree. It’s not just the whole catch-more-flies-with-honey-than-with-vinegar thing. It’s also that kindness tends to beget kindness.

This jump-started my thinking. How can one be kind in writing? Sounds funny, I know, but here are five ways to turn that literary frown upside down.

1. Write the way you talk. Don’t use highfalutin language, complicated syntax, or five-syllable words to show off your smarts. When I was in the newspaper business, we used to call this “smoking jacket language”—the kind of pompous talk used by someone wearing a velvet jacket, holding a cigar, and swirling brandy in a snifter. You don’t ever talk like that, you say? Let’s consider the common phrase: “In my humble opinion…” Huh? How about saying “I think” or “I believe” instead?

To read the full story, log in.
Become a Ragan Insider member to read this article and all other archived content.
Sign up today

Already a member? Log in here.
Learn more about Ragan Insider.