If I’m going to live with flair, I have to think about communicating with flair. Most of us will have thousands of occasions for writing in the next year: emails, text messages, resumes, blog entries, cover letters, articles, love letters, essays, reports, memos, or our next big novel. After ten years of teaching, after reading over six thousand student essays (I counted once), and after analyzing more grammar books than any person should, I wrote this book called “How to Write with Flair.” And then I thought about living with flair, and well, you know the rest.
But back to how to write with flair.
It’s easy. I know 5 tricks. Ready?
1. Choose a verb with flair. Eliminate feeble verbs (am is are was were has have had seems appear exists). These verbs don’t show anything happening. Use exciting verbs. I love verbs like grapple and fritter. Grapple with strong verbs to fritter away the feeble ones.
2. Toggle between the Big 5 punctuation marks: Semicolon, colon, dash, parentheses, comma. Here’s a paragraph that embeds these tricks.
When you want to create complexity and voice in your writing, try using the Big 5. To highlight a part of your sentence–like this one–use dashes. Dashes shout. On the other hand, if you want to whisper and share a secret with an audience (like this one), use parentheses. Parentheses whisper. Semicolons confuse most; they unite full sentences that belong together because the second sentence explains or amplifies the first. Commas help the reader along by following introductory clauses, or they combine two sentences when you want to use a conjunction like and, but, for, or, nor, so (We can talk later about this; commas are really hard unless you had grammar instruction as a kid). Finally, the colon designates that a list or definition will follow. So the Big 5 include: semicolon, colon, dash, parentheses, comma. Do you feel smart?
3. Vary the length of your sentences and change the way they start to create rhythm. See sample paragraph above.
4. Garnish your paragraph with some clever wordplay if you can. Common cleverness in writing includes: puns, repeated first words, self-answering questions, understatement, just being funny, just being YOU.
5. Engage your audience. Establish rapport by talking to them. Are you wondering how this works? Just notice them in your writing (like I just did). Make it obvious that you are talking to people.
Try these simple things to create some flair in your emails, newsletters, reports, or blogs today. Enjoy some written flair.
Guest Post Dr. Heather Holleman
Author of Seated with Christ and Guarded by Christ and several other books, Heather teaches composition and advanced writing at Penn State. She serves alongside her husband, Ashley, with Cru’s Faculty Commons.