William Zinsser on Simplicity

Here are some excerpts from Zinsser’s ‘On Writing Well’, which I mentioned in yesterday’s post: … the secret of good writing is to strip every sentence to its cleanest components. Every word that serves no function, every long word that could be a short word, every adverb that carries the same meaning that’s already in the verb, every passive construction…

Clarity. Simplicity. Focus.

I’ve been reminded about the importance of clarity and simplicity by three books in the last week: Don’t Make Me Think, Steve Krug’s classic on web usability. Made to Stick, Chip and Dan Heath’s great (so far) guide to how to make ideas memorable and impactful. On Writing Well, William Zinsser’s brilliant and very funny book on… writing well.  They…

Small promises

It’s been five whole days since I quoted something from Seth Godin, so here’s something: we build trust by keeping our promises. Well-placed trust makes everything better. We feel safe with people we trust. So we can relax. We feel better. We do better. We can be better. We can be more honest, and we can share more of ourselves. We’re…

Setting the bar high

You’ve got to set the bar high too. Set the bar high in the big, important things: What am I working for? Who am I working for? How can I make things better… now? What fruit will this produce in a day, a year, ten years from now? How do I treat the people who have the least in each…

Setting the bar low

If a job is too big, if standards are too high, it will never get done. It might never even get started. Setting the bar low, on the other hand, is a great way to get started. A drop in the bucket, a brick in the wall at a time – sooner or later you’re talking about something concrete. A…

Being prolific

How many ideas have you lost out of pure inertia? I don’t just mean all the ideas you’ve had that you never did anything about – you lost those too, but many of them probably weren’t that good anyway.  Doing something with an idea is often the fastest way to check if it’s important. You might do a bit of…

A small thing that might be useful

Here’s a small thing that might be useful: a link (or better, if I can manage it, an embedded video) from Derek Sivers about getting on with making small things that might be useful to someone and that they’ll actually pay for for, as opposed to waiting for the chance (i.e. money) to build something huge and tremendous. This blog post…

Possibility: learning to see

This morning one of my sons was trying to put a new water bottle in a bottle holder: “It doesn’t fit.” I laughed at him, because I’d put the same bottle in the same holder a day before. I told him. He tried again. It fitted easily. We’re often terrible at looking for things unless we know that they’re there.…

No Guru

I love gurus. The feeling of hope and promise of new efficiency, productivity and meaning that a good one brings. Insights. Ideas. The catch is how easy it is to end up chasing the feeling and not the ideas.  Or to chase the ideas, and not the difference they might make. A weekly in-person meeting with your favourite guru would…

It’s not for you

It’s so easy to want everyone to love what we do. When we’re writing, we want everyone to think it’s great. In our work building a service or product, we want everyone to buy in – to join us, or support us in some way. This leads to problems: By trying to make something that pleases everyone, we end up…