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How to Write Usefully

The writing process

  • Write the first draft of an essay fast, trying various ideas. Then spend time rewriting it very carefully.
  • If you write a bad sentence, don't publish it. Delete it and do it again.
  • If a sentence seems clumsy, ask why it doesn't seem right. By asking this, you'll usually find the replacement right there.
  • Be considerate to the reader: say things as simple as possible.
  • Be humble. If you know you're an expert on some topic, you can admit when you learn something you didn't know.

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How to Write Usefully

How to Write Usefully

http://paulgraham.com/useful.html?fbclid=IwAR0Yzz2My9-hrtgMRDShJX_fI__aww2TGnr5PupRveE_PQRBKpn4MqP62R8

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Key Ideas

Components of a good essay

Many people think a good essay is persuasive. But more importantly, an essay should be useful.
There are four parts to a good essay:

  • correctness
  • strength
  • importance
  • novelty

Correctness

An essay should be correct. However, to be correct is not enough if it is vague. 

Don't publish anything unless you're sure it's worth hearing. Write the first draft of an essay quickly, trying out all sorts of ideas. Then rewrite it very carefully, being sure to sift out anything that you're not sure of, or that is not true. Useful writing makes claims that are as strong as they can be without overstating it.

Strength

Strength comes from two things: thinking well, and the skillful use of qualification.

Qualifications can express many things: how broadly something applies, how you know it, how happy you are it's so, even how it could be falsified. As you try to refine the expression of an idea, adjust the qualification accordingly. The more you refine an idea, the less you'll need to qualify it. However, don't underestimate qualification. Learn to use its full range.

Importance

Make something you yourself want.

The reader is not entirely unlike you. If you write about a topic that is important to you, it will seem important to many readers as well.

Novelty

Telling people something novel doesn't always mean surprising them. It could mean telling them something they knew unconsciously but were unable to put into words. In fact, those insights are often more valuable because they are more fundamental.

The way to get novelty is to write about topics you've thought about a lot. Anything you notice that surprises you will probably also surprise many readers. If you don't learn anything from writing an essay, don't publish it.

The writing process

  • Write the first draft of an essay fast, trying various ideas. Then spend time rewriting it very carefully.
  • If you write a bad sentence, don't publish it. Delete it and do it again.
  • If a sentence seems clumsy, ask why it doesn't seem right. By asking this, you'll usually find the replacement right there.
  • Be considerate to the reader: say things as simple as possible.
  • Be humble. If you know you're an expert on some topic, you can admit when you learn something you didn't know.

SIMILAR ARTICLES & IDEAS:

Jordan Peterson Writing Template
Jordan Peterson Writing Template
Jordan Peterson, a psychology professor at The University of Toronto, created a template for his students that takes them step by step through the detailed process of writing an essay.  
Jordan Peterson
Jordan Peterson
"Thinking makes you act effectively in the world.  Thinking makes you win the battles you undertake...If you can think and speak and write you are absolutely deadly!  NOTHING can get in your way.  That's why you learn to write...It's the most powerful weapon you can possibly provide someone with."
The Levels of Resolution

An essay exists at multiple levels:

  • The choice of words
  • The formation of sentences
  • The arrangement of sentences in a paragraph
  • The arrangement of paragraphs in a logical progression, beginning to end
  • The essay as a whole

A good essay works at every one of those levels simultaneously.

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What is a speech?
What is a speech?

Just like essays, speeches have three main sections:

  • Introduction
  • Body
  • Conclusion

However, unlike essays, speeches must be written to ...

Tips on How to Write a Speech Essay
  • Determine the type of speech you're writing. Is it to inform people? Persuade? Entertain?
  • Craft a creative speech introduction with an attention-grabber, statement on your topic and a strong transition to the body.
  • Determine the flow of the body of the speech depending on the information consisting the body.
  • Write a memorable speech conclusion by restating the main points and ending with a memorable speech.
  • Address the key objectives by using some clever quotes, inspirational stories, meaningful transitions and a good ending.
Types of Speeches
  • Informative and Instructional Speech - Used to inform people about a certain topic, event or area of knowledge.
  • Persuasive Speech - Used to persuade people to join one side of an argument.
  • Entertaining Speech - Used to entertain audience, and topics may not be practical.
  • Special Occasion Speech - Used in special occasions to entertain or inform audience such as graduation, toasts, etc.

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Speed and transfer

Consider at what speed you should try to do things in order to improve performance.
We can often learn something quickly, but without attaining a master level (like getting good at esti...

Failing to Reach an Ideal

There are two problems you can encounter when you're trying to learn something.

  1. You have a clear understanding of what you'd like to do and how you're going to do it, but you're unable to implement the approach you've chosen. Slow things down so you can pay more attention to every aspect of the problem.
  2. Speed learning is effective when you're not sure what the ideal should be and need more information to work it out. A good example of speed leading to move closer to quality is in entrepreneurial fields. Many fail because they picked the wrong problem to solve and wasted too much time trying to solve it.
Going faster vs doing it right

The balance between going faster and doing it right depends on what you're trying to achieve.

  • Faster feedback means more information to find out your key challenges and possible solutions.
  • Slower helps you focus on a strategy you've chosen, allowing you to execute it correctly.
Read widely, with maximum curiosity

The clearest thinkers tend to be those that draw from multiple disciplines.

Develop the habit of reading and eliminate/reduce the things that might stop you from doing that (e.g. mindl...

Put reality first and theory last

Confusing models with reality is a cardinal sin of clear thinking. 

If you believe too strongly in your models of the world, you can start to ignore evidence that your model is wrong.

Campbell’s law

The basic idea is that when you reward people for a particular measure — clicks, dollars, likes, etc. — people will find a way to “game” the system.

For example: If journalism is fueled by clicks, journalists are going to write sensationalist clickbait.

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Writing is intimidating. There’s this expectation of artful precision, mercurial grammatical rules, and the weird angst that comes with writing for other people. You start with a tidy nu...
Writing is Deliberate
Choosing the words to describe your work means you’re doing it on purpose. 

You’re going on the record as someone who thinks about why they do what they do, and understands how each decision affects the results. And developing this knack for critical thinking will also make you better at what you do.

Creative Thinking is a habit

Creative people are creative, not as a result of any particular inborn trait, rather, but rather through an attitude toward life. They habitually respond to problems in fresh and novel ways...

3 basic factors
  • opportunities to engage in it, 
  • encouragement to go after such opportunities, 
  • and rewards for doing so.

Creativity is no different from any other habit, good or bad.

Creative people do this habitually
  • Look for ways to see problems that other people don’t.
  • Take risks that other people are afraid to take.
  • Have the courage to defy the crowd and to stand up for their own beliefs.
  • Seek to overcome obstacles and challenges to their views that other people give in to.

one more idea

Two types of people
  • Those that can start things, but have trouble completing it.
  • Those that can finish things, but have difficulty starting.

You probably have a bigger problem with one or the ...

Struggling to start

Dismissing every reason to start is perfectionism. It manifests as procrastination.

Forget about passion and needing something to be perfect. Just start and keep going.

Struggling to finish

Maybe you are brimming with options. You find it easy to take action on almost anything set in front of you. Your challenge is to find the time to do it all or to maintain the interest to keep going.

Don't wait until you feel like doing it. Take action regardless and enjoy your feelings if you also happen to "feel like it."

Identify your interests

Just about anything that you love to do can be turned into a profitable career. The key to identifying your interest areas is figuring out what you would do had you not been doing the job you ha...

Do it free

Before charging money, it is recommended that you give people a taste of your services first if you want to turn your passion into profit.

For instance, if its photography, just offer to take photos for relatives for free. Surely, they would like to save money. This is how you establish yourself and prove your mettle to your potential clients.

Build a combination of skills

You should be able to combine your chief interests with the other skills that you might possess.

If you are let’s say, planning to sell cakes, what is that other thing you are good at along with being a great baker? If you are also good at digital marketing, you can blog about baking practices.

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The purpose of a resignation letter

A resignation letter is not to announce your departure. It is documentation of your decision, not the main event.

Have your resignation conversation with your boss first, then formali...

The resignation letter

A resignation letter should be short and unemotional. It is not the place to mention your frustrations or disappointments.

Your letter should be two to three sentences at most. It should indicate today's date, then confirm your decision to resign and when your last day of work will be. You might add a single sentence to fill it out.

Read to someone

One of the biggest obstacles to reading books we enjoy is that we think we should read books even if we don’t enjoy them—specifically, the idea that if we start a book, we must fi...

The To-Go Box Method

For a weight-loss hack, it goes like this: As soon as you order a meal at a restaurant, ask immediately that half of it be put in a to-go box once it’s ready and only the other half served to you. It’s basically a stricter version of portion control.

We can apply the same technique to get ourselves to read more.

Instead of 2 hours of Netflix each night, cutting it in half would still give you the satisfaction of watching Netflix in the evenings but also free up time to read as well.

Book Summaries

Preview the book in order to vet whether or not it’s worth investing your time in.

  • Use book summaries. Find apps that give accurate and concise summaries of many of the most popular books out there and are constantly updating their library.
  • Use podcast interviews with the author. Authors often go on the podcast circuit to promote their books. 

12 more ideas