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Writing for Profit, Issue #012, Word Power
July 27, 2003

Issue Number: 0112

Date: September 2003

Thanks for subscribing to the Writing for Profit Newsletter and welcome to my growing band of enthusiasts. The aim is to provide you with useful insights into the disparate aspects of writing for profit in your spare time and in this edition Im putting the spotlight on word power: how simplicity of use adds credence to style and execution.

If youd like to add something yourself by way of feedback for inclusion in a future edition please do contact me.


1. Spotlight on word power
2. Tip of the week
3. Featured guest article
4. Success story
5. Famous quotations on the subject of writing
6. Footnote


Word power is awesome. When you get it right the results are magic but when you go astray the results come back to haunt you. In the words of Aprocrypha: "Let thy speech be short, comprehending much in a few words.'"

Simplicity is the key to it all. Here is an example of what I mean:


Just as headings and subheads introduce the reader to strands of information, bullet points serve another useful purpose by highlighting and crystallizing core elements in the text of your niche non-fiction book. You can bullet key words or phrases and by so doing, you will stimulate the reader's interest. Compare this paragraph with the bulleted list immediately following.

"You can create unlimited profits from one-page web sites when you discover the real secret behind FFA link pages. Then as you unleash the power of your email list building, you will leave the competition standing. Finally, turn your fax machine into a cash machine and explode your web site hits"

- Create unlimited profits from one-page web sites
- Discover the real secret behind FFA link pages
- Unleash the power of email list building
- Drop your competition like a hot brick
- Turn your fax machine into a cash machine
- Explode your web site hits with this simple trick.

See the difference in impact when you bullet the benefits?


"Contrary to what some people seem to believe, simple writing is not the product of simple minds. A simple, unpretentious style has both grace and power. By not calling attention to itself, it allows the reader to focus on the message."--Richard Lederer and Richards Dowis, Sleeping Dogs Don't Lay, 1999


Brought to you by the Purdue University Online Writing Lab

Planning (Invention): When you start to write

You can try the textbook formula:

I. State your objective
II. Write an outline
III. Write the first draft
IV. Revise and polish - but that often doesn't work!

Instead, you can try one or more of these strategies:

Ask yourself what your purpose is for writing about the subject There are many "correct" things to write about for any subject, but you need to narrow down your choices. For example, your topic might be "dorm food." At this point, you and your potential reader are asking the same question, "So what?" Why should you write about this, and why should anyone read it?

- Do you want the reader to pity you because of the intolerable food you have to eat there?
- Do you want to analyze large-scale institutional cooking?
- Do you want to compare Purdue's dorm food to that served at Indiana University?

Ask yourself how you are going to achieve this purpose
How, for example, would you achieve your purpose if you wanted to describe some movie as the best you've ever seen? Would you define for yourself a specific means of doing so? Would your comments on the movie go beyond merely telling the reader that you really liked it?

Start the ideas flowing
Brainstorm. Gather as many good and bad ideas, suggestions, examples, sentences, false starts, etc. as you can. Perhaps some friends can join in. Jot down everything that comes to mind, including material you are sure you will throw out. Be ready to keep adding to the list at odd moments as ideas continue to come to mind.

Talk to your audience, or pretend that you are being interviewed by someone -- or by several people, if possible (to give yourself the opportunity of considering a subject from several different points of view). What questions would the other person ask? You might also try to teach the subject to a group or class.

See if you can find a fresh analogy that opens up a new set of ideas. Build your analogy by using the word like. For example, if you are writing about violence on television, is that violence like clowns fighting in a carnival act (that is, we know that no one is really getting hurt)?

Take a rest and let it all percolate
Take the dog for a walk, take in a movie or just plain take a break.

Nutshell your whole idea
Tell it to someone in three or four sentences.

Diagram your major points somehow
Make a tree, outline, or whatever helps you to see a schematic representation of what you have. You may discover the need for more material in some places.

Write a first draft
Then, if possible, put it away. Later, read it aloud or to yourself as if you were someone else. Watch especially for the need to clarify or add more information.

You may find yourself jumping back and forth among these various strategies.

You may find that one works better than another. You may find yourself trying several strategies at once. If so, then you are probably doing something right!


You may have read on my web site the snippet about Krishna Valdez and his niche non-fiction project: The History of San Francisco. Well, that little fragment of news has turned into a success story. Krishna emailed me recently with an interesting update. His text has been accepted for publication by a major New York publishing house and not by a local concern which is the target hed set himself. I took the opportunity of asking Krishna which section of my tutorial he reckoned was of most benefit to him in the preparation of his topic. He had no hesitation in responding. The chapter of preparing a proposal for publication; without that sort of guidance I doubt I would have had my book accepted.

Krishna is right: the preparation of a professional proposal is germane to success in placing your book with a responsible publisher. Chapter 10 of my tutorial Writing for Profit in Your Spare Time reveals the secrets.


Aprocrypha: "Let thy speech be short, comprehending much in a few words.'"

Christopher Buckley: "The best advice on writing I've ever received was from William Zinsser: 'Be grateful for every word you can cut.'"

Truman Capote: "I believe more in the scissors than I do in the pencil."

Winston Churchill: "Broadly speaking, the short words are the best, and the old words when short are best of all."

Samuel Taylor Coleridge: "Words in prose ought to express the intended meaning; if they attract attention to themselves, it is a fault; in the very best styles you read page after page without noticing the medium."

Albert Einstein: "If you can't explain something simply, you don't understand it well."


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