10 Tips on How to Write Less Badly

I have seen a lot of very talented people fail because they couldn’t, or didn’t, write. And some much less talented people (I see one in the mirror every morning) have done OK because they learned how to write. —Michael C. Munger, Chronicle

Here’s a tip that does a good job explaining a concept I’m trying to teach now.

6. Pick a puzzle. Portray, or even conceive, of your work as an answer to a puzzle. There are many interesting types of puzzles:

  • “X and Y start with same assumptions but reach opposing conclusions. How?”
  • “Here are three problems that all seem different. Surprisingly, all are the same problem, in disguise. I’ll tell you why.”
  • “Theory predicts [something]. But we observe [something else]. Is
    the theory wrong, or is there some other factor we have left out?”

Don’t stick too closely to those formulas, but they are helpful in
presenting your work to an audience, whether that audience is composed
of listeners at a lecture or readers of an article.