Have one point

Does your writing get your point across clearly and effectively? If not, then here is a writing tip guaranteed to help. When I say "guaranteed," I mean "very helpful but not actually guaranteed." And yet, "guaranteed” sounds much more powerful and thus increases the odds that you will keep reading. Oh, darn - I'm wasting words again, which sort of is my point, but I made it too quickly, without giving you the backstory. Let's try that again...

It is a well-known fact that no one knows more about effective writing than comedians who play the banjo and become directors. That's one reason I drew my inspiration for this tip from Steve Martin's very amusing book of his tweets.

I originally bought Steve's book thinking that after a quick read, I, too, would become a very funny guy and attract a few million Twitter followers. That did not happen. After I closed the book, there was an uncomfortable silence in the room. Not one funny tweet emerged from my laptop, and I eventually returned the book to its honored position in our bathroom.

But Steve's title stuck with me. It is The Ten, Make That Nine, Habits of Very Organized People. Make That Ten. The deliberate confusion got me thinking about how easy it is to get confused when you write. Instead of figuring out what you really want to say, you might tend to cram too much information into one document, whether that happens to be a memo, report, or presentation.

Here's the rub: if you toss too much into one document, your primary message will get lost, mostly because you do not have a primary message.

The most effective way to get your point across is to focus on just one point.

To help me make my case, I went back into the bathroom and got Steve's book. To be funny, Steve's tweets need to focus (like a laser) on one idea, such as...

I just downloaded eleven hundred books onto my Kindle, and now I can't lift it.

Steve did a whole series of tweets about Creepy Guy. One went...

Creepy Guy here fixing basement. Odd that he has to tie me up to do it.

Truth is, I don't know how Steve managed to compose enough funny tweets to fill a book, although I suspect it has something to do with once having a "profession" that mainly consisted of trying to make grownups spew half-chewed food out of their nostrils.

In any event, Steve and I do have one thing in common. We think it is best to have one point, and to focus on getting it across effectively. Steve tweeted it this way...

Advice for writers: if you're a writer, a real writer, a really, really real writer, like, REALLY a writer, you should not write a sentence like this one.