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10 minutes to more readable writing

An avid reader with too much pride to ever have invested in the Coles Notes of anything, I nevertheless appreciate it when someone smart effectively encapsulates the essentials of a course, degree or philosophy in a 1,000-word treatise. So I heartily salute Guardian journalist Tim Radford for not only writing, but posting online his “Manifesto for a simple scribe.” It consists of 25 valuable tips sure to help any writer — established or aspiring, academic or popular — to do a better job of engaging readers.

They’re all good, but numbers 3, 4 and 5 are short and compelling enough to include here:

3. So the first sentence you write will be the most important sentence in your life, and so will the second, and the third. This is because, although you – an employee, an apostle or an apologist – may feel obliged to write, nobody has ever felt obliged to read.

4. Journalism is important. It must never, however, be full of its own self-importance. Nothing sends a reader scurrying to the crossword, or the racing column, faster than pomposity. Therefore simple words, clear ideas and short sentences are vital in all storytelling. So is a sense of irreverence.

5. Here is a thing to carve in pokerwork and hang over your typewriter. “No one will ever complain because you have made something too easy to understand.”