As writers, our goal is to communicate. As readers, our goal (and expectation) is to benefit from the communication of writers. Thus, the exchange between writers and readers is fundamentally one of value: in exchange for time, energy, and attention, readers receive information, knowledge, wisdom, and ideas (or entertainment), the application of which should solve for them some problem, improve some circumstance, or otherwise enrich their lives. So how can we as writers improve the quality and utility of our writing, thus increasing the value of our stories for our readers?
First, be courteous. Be mindful of the potential personal and professional responsibilities of your readers, as well as the potential demands placed on them and their resources, and get to the point of your stories as quickly as possible. This does not (necessarily) mean that you must get to the point immediately, but that you must get to the point as quickly as possible. Tell your readers what they’re in for so that they can determine if your story is worth the exchange of their resources. Usually, the best way to do this is with an introductory paragraph that states the purpose of the story and establishes appropriate expectations for reading it.
Second, be concise. If you can say what you’re trying to say in fewer words, then say it in fewer words. This will tighten your logic, clarify your meaning, and strengthen your message. It will also demonstrate to your readers confidence, competence, and respect.
Third, have something to say. Simply saying something is distinct from having something to say; whereas the first requires only words, the second requires words and insight. Thus, if you lack insight for a topic, then avoid writing about the topic; instead, write about topics for which you do have insight. And in the unlikely case that no such topics exist, then simply dedicate time to researching and reflecting, as well as to gaining experience by engaging in activities relevant to topics that interest you — and then come back and tell us what you discover.
Fourth, edit. If the goal of writing is to communicate, and the goal of reading is to receive the communication, then the goal of editing is to ensure that the communication can be understood. Sometimes, this means adding words; other times, it means subtracting them. Sometimes, this means reordering paragraphs; other times, it means leaving well enough alone. Usually, this just means cleaning up — correcting spelling, inserting punctuation, removing spaces, resolving inconsistencies, etc. Whatever it means for you, approach the task of editing with objectivity, criticism, and dispassion, as doing so will enable you to make important (and sometimes even difficult) decisions about your writing. And let every decision be in service, not of yourself, but of your readers, to enable an understanding of your ideas.
Fifth, cite sources. Although it may seem unnecessary to do so in an (relatively) informal space such as Medium, citing sources has, in general, become increasingly more important online as misinformation threatens our understandings of each other and the world. So if information in your stories is not self-evident or cannot be classified as general knowledge, then include citations for this information, even if doing so means simply linking to Wikipedia pages. By so doing, you will demonstrate integrity as a writer, thus earning the trust and respect of your readers.
And that’s all I have for now. I hope you found these quick tips useful, and that they both enable and encourage you to improve the quality of your writing, thus increasing the value of your stories. If you have questions about writing, editing, or citing sources, just send me messages and I’ll be glad to help.