6 MIN READ
This week on Writing Journeys, series editor Tom Robertson takes apart an older article of his, line-by-line, providing critical insight into what makes a good essay.
One of the ideas motivating this series is that writing strategies can be identified and learned. In this essay, I show some of my favorite writing strategies with examples. I do so with line-by-line analysis of an essay I wrote for Republica a few years back called 'Unnatural disasters'.
I give examples of the writing principles I value most: clarity, organization, and conciseness. I give examples of my favorite strategies: short paragraphs, quick transitions, short sentences, split quotations, lists of three or four, super-short sentences, and vigorous verbs. All are easy to learn.
Readers like examples. They like to see things in action. They like to see vague concepts made concrete. I follow this advice in my writing and in my writing about writing.
You will often hear that to be a good writer, you need to read a lot. That’s true, but it’s not enough. You also need to study effective writing – to pick sentences apart word-by-word. I try to help you do that with this essay.
“Read for both content and form,” says writing guru Roy Peter Clark in Writing Tools (one of my favorite books about writing). “Examine the machinery beneath the text.”
Btw, in case you are wondering: When I first wrote this article, I think I did five drafts. Only then was it ready to show a friend for comments. (Thanks again, Peter Gill!) Then I revised it one last time.
Tom’s Tips in The Record
Recent Writing Journeys in The Record
Tomsir's Mitho Lekhai: Videos on How to Write Like a Pro
मीठो लेखाइ — नेपाली भाषामा भिडियो — अंग्रेजी र नेपाली उदाहरणका साथ ।
Writing Tips in Nepali:
Tom Robertson Tom Robertson, PhD, is an environmental historian who writes about Kathmandu and Nepali history. His Nepali-language video series on writing, 'Mitho Lekhai', is available on Youtube. His most recent article, 'No smoke without fire in Kathmandu’, appeared on March 5 in Nepali Times.
7 min read
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