A 5-Part Guide to Writing Clearly

The Bull by Picasso

Pablo Picasso’s bulls are one of those things that once seen, you can’t seem to forget.
Created around the Christmas of 1945, “The Bull” is a series of 11 lithographs that depict the animal in various stages of abstraction.

The drawings are one significant investigation of the true “spirit” of the animal. Or maybe an attempt to answer the eternal question – “is the spirit equal to form?” Picasso's goal, it seems, was to find the “essence” of the beast in a series of progressively simpler images.

In the end, all we have is a stunningly simple line drawing that somehow still manages to capture the fundamental spirit of a bull.

Writing is no different.

To write well, you need to be able to capture the essence of your idea in the simplest of forms.


Below is 5 -part guide I use to unleash my inner Picasso whenever I write an essay….

The first draft – My first draft is all about writing. I pour all my thoughts out on paper or my word processor, grammatical errors and all. I also include all research, quotes and notes here. I am not worried about flow, form or structure with my first draft.

The second draft – By the second draft, I try to articulate my thoughts properly. Sometimes, depending on the essay, I start from scratch and rewrite my “best parts” of the first draft. By this stage, I now begin to arrange for flow and a logical structure people can understand while reading.

The third draft – The third draft is all about positioning. What is the purpose of the article? What sort of impact do you expect it to have?. At this stage, I usually end up deleting half of what I have already written down. On a podcast with Tim Ferriss, Neil Strauss aptly summed it up with this quote: “The first draft is for you. Second for the reader. Third for the hater.”

The fourth draft – Most writers focus on the fourth draft – grammar. At this stage, I am on the lookout for my common writing weaknesses. Specifically, I look out for passive sentences, unclear phrases and vague or wordy sentences. I then use Grammarly for spelling, punctuation errors, and grammar.

The fifth draft – My fifth draft focuses on the title of my essay. The title is everything, as its usually the first thing most potential readers come across. Tools such as Co-Schedule’s free Headline Analyzer and Sharethrough’s Headline Analyzer are some of the many tools you can use. I prefer to use Co-Schedule’s Headline Analyzer. It does a great job of analysing your headline for structure, grammar, emotion, power words and readability.

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