- Some light style rules about having no qualifiers e.g. words like "really significant" were banned
- Keep language super concise and non-flowery. Don't try to sound clever, Keep It Simple, Stupid for language basically
- Structure arguments a bit like the Minto pyramid was another one I was told while there
- No one cares how much work or effort went into your doc, or how clever it is, only the final artefact of your work/thought should make it into the doc no matter how concisely you can express it
In terms of spoken communication... I'd suggest looking into Toastmasters, and/or just volunteer to speak at user-group meetings and things of that nature. There are a number of good books out there on public speaking / presenting, but most of what I've learned on the topic came from online sources (like threads here on HN) and just practice.
Also, as somebody else said: read lots of books. Try blogging / writing in some context. The more you write, the better you'll get. Somebody, I think maybe it was Stephen King, said something like (paraphrased) "the best way to learn to write well is to read a lot and write a lot".
- Consider their audience
- Make use of structure
- Repeatedly edit what they have written before hitting send
The first and third items are things you can just decide to do: think of your audience, and spend time to read and adjust the content and format until it's great.
For the second item, consider this book: https://www.amazon.com/Pyramid-Principle-Logic-Writing-Think...
This book was recommended by a fellow HN'er a few years back in a different thread. I bought a copy and read it and was suitably impressed. I'm still working on integrating the ideas from the book, but I think it's worth reading.
Basically, the book teaches you to organize your thoughts (and writing) in a hierarchical, logical structure, and to present the most important idea first, and then branch out below that with sub-points and supporting material.
If you're interested in clear writing, I think this book is worth the money and time.
That is so true. I read somewhere once that a big reason many people don't try writing is because they read their favorite writers, and then try to write something, and when their words don't come out like, say, Stephen King, they give up. And the thing I was reading (sorry, don't remember the exact source now) was basically making the same point you just made. So, if you want to write like Stephen King, or Dean Koontz, or Haruki Murakami or Ernest Hemingway or whoever, you have to realize that their works didn't just flow from their fingertips in one continuous stream of perfection, from beginning direct to end. The great writers revise and revise and edit and revise and rewriter obsessively. Or so I hear. Koontz is notorious for saying that he only writes one page at a time, and he keeps rewriting that page until he's happy with it.
Because writing, at its most fundamental level, is the art of making your own ideas more clear to yourself. So how do you become a better writer? Become a more clear thinker.
That reminds me of another book that I see recommended here on HN quite often, and which I myself bought on such a recommendation. It's called The Pyramid Principle.
I'm only part way through it, but I think it's quite worthwhile. The basic premise is about logic and clarity and organization in thinking & writing.
If you need something to help encourage you to write, consider participating in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month).
Also, there are TONS of resources available for people who are working on getting better at writing. Just go down to any Barnes & Noble store and find the section with the writing books, and you'll find shelves full of books on "how to be a better writer". Some are aimed at fiction, some non-fiction, some specifically for writers of memoirs, magazine articles, etc.
It's sort of cliched to say, but The Elements of Style by Strunk and White is excellent, as is Eats, Shoots and Leaves.
I have been trying to improve my English a little but not having anybody to write to or any need to use English makes me believe that I will be stagnated in a low level profile, and that I will never will achieve the level of mastery and proficiency they show so well in their writing.
Maybe consider starting a blog in English, and just write about whatever interests you. It doesn't even really matter if you get any readers/followers or not, the important thing is just to write as much as you can.
All of this advice is predicated on the idea that you're more interested in getting better at written English. If you want to be a better public speaker the best thing to do is, wait for it... do a lot of speaking!
One good way to get yourself some practice speaking is to join a group like Toastmasters, if you have a chapter nearby. If not, there may be a similar group, but you may have to dig a little. Another option would be to find any local techie user-groups (Linux User's Group, Ruby Meetup, Java Meetup, whatever it might be) and offer to present there. These groups often struggle to find enough speakers to fill their calendars, and any volunteers of usually (in my experience) warmly welcomed.
Edit: I just remembered, there is another book, which I found recommended here on HN a while back, and just recently acquired, which I consider excellent. It's called The Pyramid Principle, by Barbara Minto. This book is less about language, and more about structure and organization, in terms of how you present your ideas. I recommend this one very highly.
It introduces a specific method to write concise, effective business documents. Then it shows how you can use the method to critique your own thinking.
There's two key things you could do to enable that:
1. Use headings that summarise the text below; currently, your headings are introductions to the text below rather than summaries. Of course you can't get everything into a 5-word heading, but looking at the heading, the reader should not only know what type of content is coming, but also largely what the conclusion of it will be. A really good book on this topic is http://www.amazon.co.uk/Pyramid-Principle-Logic-Writing-Thin...
2. Summarise the key points at the end. A lot of people scroll through, glance at the headings, then look at the conclusion, before they decide whether to read the article. Summarising your points will, paradoxically, get more people to read the full article (or at least dive into the points of interest to them).
I believe that if you want people's attention, you need to show that you're respectful of their precious and limited time.
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