Guest post by Barbara McNichol
Authors have a unique expertise to share with the world. Often, their most recent book represents their seminal work—their life’s work.
That’s true for a nonfiction book I recently edited, Excellence in Execution by Robin Speculand. For more than a decade, I’ve witnessed how Robin has skillfully brought together a myriad of elements he’s developed to teach leaders how to implement strategies. He’s at the top of his field!
In a book that’s pivotal for an author’s career, the value of having clear, consistent writing comes through. This needs to be reinforced in all published books, articles, online content, and marketing materials.
Across all these platforms, two effective writing techniques will make a huge difference:
- Relying on bulleted lists to complement points made in prose
- Making sure all bulleted phrases follow a clear, consistent style
What’s considered a clear, consistent style of bullets? This list provides the answer:
- Use bullets often. Why? Because people skim pieces of writing rather than read word for word.
- Keep the number of words to a minimum (as in all effective writing, take out unneeded adverbs and adjectives to make each word in the sentence count).
- List the shortest line first and the longest last when possible so the bulleted list looks attractive on the page.
- Start each bulleted phrase with the same part of speech, be it a noun, gerund, or verbs but never a mixture.
I especially emphasize starting with the same part of speech to prevent the reader’s brain from flying in a variety of directions. In the following two lists, you’ll see how using the same part of speech in the second list makes the bullets easier to follow than in the first.
The points in this first list on how to format a manuscript start with different parts of speech:
- Single space between sentences, not two (starts with adjective and noun)
- Change any straight quotes to curly quotes (starts with verb)
- Ending period goes inside a quotation mark (starts with adjective and noun)
- Subheads if appropriate (starts with noun)
- It’s good to indent bullet points 5 spaces (starts with pronoun)
This second list uses the same part of speech to start each bullet:
- Use a single space between sentences, not two
- Change any straight quotes to curly quotes
- Put ending period inside a quotation mark
- Add subheads if appropriate
- Indent bullet points 5 spaces
Can you see how much easier it is to follow the second list? When you do it consistently, your writing will gain the clarity and consistency of authors at the top of their field.
Barbara McNichol is passionate about helping authors add power to their pen. To assist in this mission, she has created a Word Trippers Tips resource to quickly find the right word when it matters most. You’ll improve your writing through excellent weekly resources in your inbox, including a webinar, crossword puzzles, and a Word Tripper of the Week for 52 weeks. Details at www.WordTrippers.com.