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Toronto, Canada

312 Adelaide Street West, Suite 301
Toronto, Ontario - M5V 1R2
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Forget What Your English Teacher Said, Here’s How to Actually Write

Written by Ryan Bolton

I know that’s a cocky subject line. But stay with me here.

I’ve written a lion’s share of essays. I’ve published hundreds of articles in online and print publications. I’ve made my living off of hitting a keyboard for the past eight years. I even got to interview the Jonas Brothers, so, you know, credibility. But truly, there’s no magic “formula” for good writing. You need to experiment. To find your own voice.

These writing tips, however, have always worked for me. Try them out. Just don’t half-ass them.

Get to the Point, Dammit

Make every word count. Make every word have a purpose. An impact.

Nail the First Line

The blank page is your enemy. Pierce it with one sentence. One good sentence to spoil its nakedness. Penetrate the procrastination. The rest will flow from there.

Know Your Audience

It’s the first rule of rhetoric. Abide by it. You wouldn’t talk to a professor in Urban Dictionary-esque slang. And you wouldn’t text your friends in iambic pentameter. (Or, maybe you do. In which case, as you were).

Clean, Clear and Under Control

If we cared about our writing as much as we do pimples, there would be a lot more young Mark Twains out there. Be clear with your writing. One thought per sentence.

Stop Using Any of These Words. Just. Stop.

Furthermore. Ergo. Hitherto. Albeit. They don’t make you sound smarter. You sound like a pompous ass. From the 18th century.

The Best Writers Are Also the Best Editors

First, just write. Don’t edit. Don’t even think about proper grammar. Write. Your first draft will be shit, and that’s ok. After you write, walk away. Go have a drink. Then come back and slice and dice.

Repeat After Me: “No More Padding”

You’re not fooling anyone. Especially your teacher. And none of this triple spacing and 14.5 font size business.

Write Drunk. Edit Sober.

Hemingway was right about a lot of things. Rum. Cuba. Simple and clear storytelling. Although this axiom is attributed to Hemingway, he didn’t actually say it. But I still like the essence. Especially the edit sober part.

*Opinions expressed are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Student Life Network or their partners.