This essay originally was published on November 4, 2021, with the email subject line CT No.101: "F*** This." Two more essays on writing in the series followed:
Despite the Grammarlys, Hemingways, spell checks and other software designed to improve writing, the internet bulges at the seams with bad writing, courtesy of both humans and computers.
I'm not getting up-in-arms about commas or apostrophes because that would be a jerk move. I'm not gonna police grammar because we need far less policing in our lives. The English language is hella complicated, and people of all abilities and levels get punctuation, usage and spelling wrong on occasion.
But I enjoy reading original writing, and I especially like writing that reads like someone cared about their craft. I loved the advice from Bill Murray's editor character in The French Dispatch: "Try to make it sound like you wrote it that way on purpose." Good content is intentional.
Since they're designed to rely almost exclusively on old-fashioned text, B2B tech, media and marketing newsletters should be more intentional in writing technique, more of a pleasure to read.
We are asking people to pay for the privilege of reading our rambling paragraphs, yes? At the least, we want our audiences to devote 5-10 minutes of their days to consume our words.
Let's care about syntax and structure at the sentence level. Let's not write like we're still in college, finishing a paper at the last minute, waiting for a grade. Let's write like words matter, since words are our medium.
*If becoming a better writer interests you, Ann Handley is kinda the queen of well-written business copy, so get her book.
Internet and business writing tip #1: Reconsider "this."
The demonstratives "this" and "that" serve as both modifiers (adjectives) and independent subjects or objects (pronouns). I have no problem using demonstratives as modifiers; this technique narrows focus on the modifier's subject without excessive flash.