Captain Morgan Consulting LLC Internal Style Guide

freightTrainWrite like a freight train.

Try to remove “that,” “had” or any of its derivatives. “You’ll find that you can often live without them.” vs. “You’ll find you can often live without them.”

Actually, remove every word you can. You can live without them.

When possible, place adjectives and adverbs before the words they modify. Be on a continuing mission to boldly split infinitives which have never been split before.

A colorful word is better than a colored word. When possible, replace adjectives with meaningful nouns and adverbs with meaningful verbs. “It’s a big mess.” vs. “It’s a debacle.” “Fournette ran hard through the line.” vs. “Fournette muscled through the line.”

Deliberately use adverbs. Long, descriptive, meaningful chains of modifiers can subtly and delightfully overwhelm the reader’s working memory. If you want your readers to process with abundant attention, dutifully remove adverbs. If you want your readers to be gleefully hypnotized, happily unpack your favorite adjectives and adverbs.

Develop an allergy to passive sentences. The subject of the sentence is a woman. It comes first. Be chivalrous.

Avoid using the same word twice. Writers write well when they write with variety.

Active readers anticipate. When they’re correct, they pay less attention. Be unpredictable. Leave no phrase unturned, unless it’s literally your first rodeo.

Never use the word “this” by itself. “This confuses the reader.” vs. “This mistake confuses the reader.”

Start and end every paragraph with the most important sentences. They’re the only parts skimmers will read. The insides are the least important. Use this space to confess your regrets. I said those hurtful things because I wasn’t ready for a relationship. You know you’re gorgeous, girl. I’m ready to try again when you are. In technical writing, the reader needs to identify the section that answers their question. Give the people what they want. Be easy to skim.

Write simply. Call a spade a shovel.

Write often. The brain has limited space for works in progress. You can’t fill the queue until you’ve emptied it. Finish what you start and move on to the next one.

Write quickly. When I was younger, I used to wake up every morning, write for ten minutes and then literally burn the paper. I trained myself to believe the first draft doesn’t matter.

Edit carefully. Changing the formatting can help you freshly focus. Try printing your pieces or dramatically changing the font size.

Read often. You are what you eat.

Vary sentence structure. Simple sentences have one independent clause. Compound sentences have two independent clauses, and they’re usually separated by a comma and a coordinating conjunction. Complex sentences have both an independent clause and a dependent clause, a clause that can’t be a sentence on its own. Know the difference.

Simple sentences are read quickly. Quick readers can get bored.

If you compound together multiple complex sentences, then the reader will have to read slowly, and they can give up.

Don’t let your reader get too hot or too cold. Make them work, but not too hard.

When in doubt, ask: What would Ernest Hemingway do? Unless it’s suicide, do that.