How to Write Damn Good Sentences

By Jerod Morris

Well look at that.

Can you believe this is already the fourth installment in our 11-part series on the essential ingredients of a blog post?

Time sure does fly when you’re having pure podcasting fun … and churning out a new bite-sized episode each week.

We’ve already explained how to write a magnetic headline, discussed how to nail your opening, and (hopefully) convinced you about the importance of using persuasive words.

Today, we take it one step further.

Demian Farnworth imparts his vast wisdom to teach you what makes a good sentence a damn good sentence.

In this episode, we discuss:

  • The importance of showing versus telling
  • Why you should trust your reader
  • How thinking about the 5 W’s (and the H) can help you write sentences
  • Active versus passive voice
  • Why reading Hemingway is one of the best lessons in sentence writing you could ever give yourself
  • Tips to improve your writing that you can implement today

Listen to The Lede …

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The Show Notes

The Transcript

Click here to read the transcript

Please note that this transcript has been lightly edited for clarity and grammar.

The Lede Podcast: How to Write Damn Good Sentences

Jerod Morris: You’re listening to The Lede, a podcast about content marketing by Copyblogger Media. If you want to get a content marketing education while you mow your lawn or while you fold your laundry, this podcast is the way to do it.

I’m your host Jerod Morris, and in this episode we resume our series on the essential ingredients of a blog post. You are going to learn about sentences, but not average or okay sentences … damn good sentences. And who better than the Duke of Damn himself, Demian Farnworth, to explain how.

Demian, I like alliteration and I like giving credit where it is due, and so I have a new nickname for you: The Duke of Damn. It’s one that you have earned with damn fine blog posts about how to write damn good copy, how to write damn bad copy, and of course, how to write damn good sentences — which is the fourth in our rundown of the 11 essential ingredients of a blog post. You are a master at the art of the sentence, which is why I want to do a lot more listening than talking on this episode.

So let’s start with the obvious question: What is the difference between a good sentence and a damn good sentence?

Showing versus telling

Demian Farnworth: It boils down to this: the difference between showing and telling.

A good sentence would tell you what’s going on in a particular action. So I might say, “She is crying,” versus something like “She sobbed,” or “She was trembling.” It’s simply the quality of — you have a concrete, specific image versus a sort of vague, ambiguous instruction. See, what you’re after is this goal of allowing people to use their imagination, and I think it comes down to this idea of being able to trust your reader, to trust them to use their imagination. And they will. I think there’s some confidence that comes in enjoying, embracing that idea that people are going to. If you say, “She wept,” that’s going to be more powerful than “She was over there and her eyes were wet with tears.” It’s a lot more powerful when it’s short and sweet, and it’s powerful like that.

But it’s not easy, right? I’ll admit that. It takes years of practice, but what you’re thinking about when you’re trying to show somebody, what you’re after, is being specific and concrete. And one way that I use to get to that point is to think through the five W’s. So you’re thinking of the who, the what, the where, the when, the why, and even the H, the how.

For example, you want to write a damn good sentence, so you would say, “In Istanbul, the bullfighter liked to drink vinegar because it made him angry.” So you’ve got a pretty specific, concrete idea that would allow you to get a vivid picture of what’s going on in that … there’s life to that … and there’s imagination. I know that just by saying the word “Istanbul” that people will get in their minds a sort of exotic, far-away, ancient city. There’s a lot of stuff that’s sort of swirling around, and that’s really the power of choosing the right words, choosing those powerful words, using those words that generate and paint that picture.

For the next part, in getting to that point of writing a damn good sentence, is this idea of creating images, and I kind of already did that. But here I want to talk more about something like this idea of the five senses. That’s what I kind of did in that previous sentence. But if you want to paint an image, you want to think through the five senses, also. So for example, that same sentence, I talked about, what is the weather like there? Is it hot? Is it cold? I imagine …read more

Source: Copy Blogger


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