Over the years, James Altucher has written and published 19 books.
Along the way, he picked up a host of techniques and strategies for becoming a better writer.
These are simple tips anyone can use to make their writing better (and, in turn, more profitable).
In today’s issue of Money & Crisis, you’ll find James’ top 10 tips for becoming a better writer — and some casual dating advice from his old college friend, Sanket.
All the best,
Editor, Money & Crisis
P.S. You can turn James’ simple tips into a passive income that makes money while you sleep. Just click here and James will show you how to turn your passion into thousands of dollars a week — from your couch… at the beach… or anywhere in the world. Find out more.
10 Unusual Tips for Being a Better Writer
Back in college, Sanket and I would hang out in bars and try to talk to women. But I was horrible at it.
Nobody would talk to me for more than 30 seconds and every woman would laugh at all his jokes for what seemed like hours. Even decades later I think they are still laughing at his jokes.
One time he turned to me and gave me this piece of advice:
“The girls are getting bored when you talk. Your stories go on too long. From now on, you need to leave out every other sentence when you tell a story.”
We were both undergrads in Computer Science. I haven’t seen him since but to this day, this is the most important writing (and communicating) advice I ever got.
Here are 10 other tips to be a better writer I’ve picked up over the years:
- Don’t ask for permission
In other words, never say “in my opinion” or “I think.” We know it’s your opinion. You’re writing it.
- Write a lot
I spent the entire ’90s writing bad fiction. Five bad novels. Dozens of bad stories. But I learned how to put two words together. And every day I got better.
- Write with the same voice you talk in
You’ve spent your whole life learning how to communicate with that voice. It comes natural to you. Why change it when you communicate with text?
- Be honest
Tell people the stuff they all think but nobody ever says. If you aren’t being honest, you aren’t delivering value. Be the little boy in the Emperor Wears No Clothes.
- Don’t hurt anyone
I don’t like to hurt people. And I don’t respect people who get sales by breaking this rule. Don’t be the bad guy.
- Don’t be afraid of what people think
For every single person’s opinion you worry about, deduct 1% in quality from your writing.
Everyone has deductions. I have to deduct about 10% right off the top. Maybe there are 10 people I’m worried about. Some of them are evil people. Some of them are people I just don’t want to offend.
So my writing is only about 90% of what it could be. But I think most people write at about 20% of what it could be. Believe it or not, clients, customers, friends, family, will love you more if you are honest with them. We all have our boundaries.
Try this: For the next thing you write, tell people something that nobody knows about you.
- Be opinionated
Most people I know have strong opinions about at least one or two things… write about those. Nobody cares about the things you don’t have strong opinions on.
Barry Ritholz told me that he doesn’t start writing until he’s angry about something. That’s one approach. Barry and I have had some great writing fights because sometimes we’ve been angry at each other.
Notice that many of these rules are about knowing where the boundaries are.
Most people play it too safe. But if you’re taking a risk and the reader senses that, then you know you are in good territory.
I know I’m on the right track if after I post an article, someone tweets, “OMFG.”
- Use a lot of periods
Forget commas and semicolons. A period makes people pause. Your sentences should be strong enough that you want people to pause and think about it. This will also make your sentences shorter. Short sentences are good
- 10. Let it sleep
Whatever you are working on, sleep on it. Then wake up, stretch, coffee, read, and look again.
Rewrite. Take out every other sentence
Sanket didn’t want to go to grad school after we graduated. He had another plan.
“Let’s go to Thailand,” he said. “And become monks in a Buddhist monastery for a year. We can date Thai women whenever we aren’t begging for food. It will be great and we’ll get life experience.”
It sounded good to me.
But then Sanket got accepted to the University of Wisconsin and got a PhD. Now he lives in India and works for Oracle.
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