💬 How to Write Usefully

Bookmarked How to Write Usefully

To start with, that means it should be correct. But it’s not enough merely to be correct. It’s easy to make a statement correct by making it vague. That’s a common flaw in academic writing, for example. If you know nothing at all about an issue, you can’t go wrong by saying that the issue is a complex one, that there are many factors to be considered, that it’s a mistake to take too simplistic a view of it, and so on.

Paul Graham reflects on art of essays suggesting what matters most is writing usefully. Sometime the most useful thing that you can do is abandon your ideas.

if you write a bad sentence, you don’t publish it. You delete it and try again. Often you abandon whole branches of four or five paragraphs. Sometimes a whole essay.You can’t ensure that every idea you have is good, but you can ensure that every one you publish is, by simply not publishing the ones that aren’t.

This reminds me of something that Joel Speranza recently shared:

This all highlights that who the writing needs to be useful for, which is first and fore-mostly ourselves. We are therefore the first and most important critic.

There’s a trick for getting importance too. It’s like the trick I suggest to young founders for getting startup ideas: to make something you yourself want. You can use yourself as a proxy for the reader. The reader is not completely unlike you, so if you write about topics that seem important to you, they’ll probably seem important to a significant number of readers as well.

The problem with all of this is that as a recipe it is both right and mad.

I believe the formula I’ve given you, importance + novelty + correctness + strength, is the recipe for a good essay. But I should warn you that it’s also a recipe for making people mad.

via Glen Cochrane

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