How to Write Big Ideas

The Big Idea in Your Business and Writing
In the past 12 months I've been making a big deal about having a big idea in your business. It allows you to stand out in crowded competition. This goes for your writing, too. But you must be clear in your communication about your big idea. That's how you create content that matters. Today, our mentor, Mark Ford, who has written over a dozen books, under the pen name "Michael Masterson", shows us how to write well and with clarity about our big ideas.

Craig Ballantyne

"To develop the creative attitude, analyze and focus on the wanted SOLUTION; seek out and fill your mind with the FACTS; write down ideas, both sensible and seemingly wild; let the facts and ideas simmer in your mind; evaluate, recheck, settle on the creative ideas." - Bruce Lee ============================================== =======

How to Write Well: The Big Idea and Clarity

By Mark Morgan Ford I spend at least half of my time teaching writers how to write better. I'm speaking of writers who work for the information-publishing companies I consult for and for other publishers who pay me to help them make more money.

Over the 30 odd years I've been doing this, I've developed many complicated theories about good writing. But now I use a brief, straightforward definition. And it applies to every sort of non-fiction writing that I can think of. It applies to writing books, magazine articles, and direct-mail sales letters. It applies to business correspondence, telemarketing scripts, and speeches.

and then motivates them to do or think what you want them to do or think. My income is based almost entirely on writing. And their income gets better too. And re-explain. "I never thought of that before!" Or. I mean a "big idea" that makes the reader think. much better. It can do the same for you. that's interesting!" Or. And eventually some of them get it.neither political correctness nor any other kind. "Boy. It doesn't matter if the proposition you are making is well reasoned or even factual. . And when they do... And knowing this secret about good writing has given me a very rich life. What does matter is that your writing engages your readers emotionally. Let's go over that definition in detail. their writing gets much.Here it is: Good writing is good thinking expressed clearly. When I say this to writers. expressed clearly. "I've got to remember this!" Good thinking has nothing to do with correctness -. I get incredulous looks. That's it. And then I explain. By good thinking. It has two parts: Good writing is good thinking. "How could it be that simple?" I can hear them thinking.

" And then you need to be able to support those ideas rationally by providing proof that they are "true. you must be able to come up with good ideas. There is factual proof. To discover big ideas that are emotionally compelling is the main thing. And if you don't know how to do it. American Writers & Artists Inc. Those who make millions from their writing are those who know how to touch their readers on an emotional level. If you want to be a well-paid writer (or a successful businessperson). because it appeals so immediately to the emotions. who disagrees strongly with my view on this. comes in many shapes and sizes. There is anecdotal proof. Buttressing them with rational proof is important.factual and non-factual -. that arrest and charge up your readers and make them think. And so does proof." Anecdotal proof is very powerful. If you buy his argument.that support an idea by "showing it" instead of "telling it. I say "Good luck to you.I have a friend. of course. You must be able to recognize ideas that are emotionally compelling. Anyone with an Internet connection can find all the factual proof he needs on most any topic if he knows how to do online research." Most of the "rational" writers I know are writing academic and legal tomes that nobody reads. but it comes second." The complete writer. of course. "That's good! I never thought of that before. (AWAI) is developing a product that will teach you. he argues. Anecdotal proof includes stories -. a retired copywriter." Truth. He insists that good writing has more to do with reason than with emotion. that we persuade. don't worry. • . • Factual proof is easy to come by if your idea has been well researched. knows how to do both. The rational mind is willing to listen to reason only after the emotional mind has said "Okay. It is through reason. And there is social proof.

why would you want to hide it from them with obscure words and references? The best tool I have found to help writers keep their language clear and uncomplicated is the Flesch-Kincaid Readability Test. if you have gone to the trouble of coming up with a really good idea. So that's how you incorporate "good thinking" into your writing." I e-mailed back. and other data. a good way to support your ideas with social proof is to use testimonials and expert endorsements. how many syllables there are in each word. • Social proof refers to the influence that other people have on our opinions and behavior. The result is a score that indicates how easy the text is to read.. Their purpose is to be entertained. as the writer. getting bigger. grabbing the best deals out there. beating up their little brothers... a strong advantage. Now let's talk about the second part of my definition of good writing: clarity of expression.3 billion and not even using up all the cash it's been hoarding to take advantage of opportunities in the marketplace. And it's doing what big bad companies should be doing. Simon is big and flush with cash. that he had a good idea in his mind. Here's what he sent me: "Simon Properties is making good on its promise to swallow up the minnows. But he had failed to identify the core of . This gives you.which means the average seventh-grader should be able to read and understand it easily. I had asked him for a brief summary of the "big idea" for his next essay.People are not critical when they are reading a story. At ETR. telling him that I could see. By that I mean the ease with which your readers can "get" your big idea. After all. by reading between the lines. It's buying mall owner Prime Properties for $2.5 -.. What follows is a paragraph by a seasoned financial writer. The FK (as it is known) looks at the length of your sentences. and capturing market share from other companies... As a writer. our policy is to keep the FK under 7. Let me give you an example of what I've been talking about here.

To make it emotionally compelling. something that would launch an interesting discussion. He wants to know more. you would need to prove to your reader that. you might have said. Here's what I said in my e-mail: "You say that Simon Properties is a good buy because it is buying up smaller. bullies are good investments.even if they both mean the same thing.preferably in a single phrase -that he could repeat that night at a dinner party. What researchers have found is that a simpler statement has more credibility than a more complex one -. "For example. but it's not a compelling idea. Among other things. 'There are companies -. You have to give him an idea -. a writer sends me a paragraph rather than a sentence.' "That is an engaging idea. you have to find something that would make your reader sit up and take notice. it studies the effect of simple language on readers. This is a sound proposition.without even reading it -. there is a new science called Cognitive Fluency.that he hasn't identified a truly compelling idea.that outperform the market by three to then I know he's off base. It's really just an assertion. The reader gets it immediately. "In short. the scientists say. that our brains are hardwired to trust simpler (and familiar) . I know -. And if that paragraph contains long. You have to find the idea behind your idea.I call them bully companies -. cash-starved businesses. "But to make this work. By the way. He had failed to turn it into a "big idea" that he could base his essay on. having asked for an idea. It appears. Only after you have done that will he be interested in your assertion about Simon Properties. complex sentences. in today's market. you have to make it both more universal and more unique." When.

If that one-sentence idea doesn't impress me. I send the piece back without reading it. Since recognizing the two key components of good writing -. .a "big idea" and clarity of expression -.things.I've insisted that all essays or promotions given to me for review have at the top of the page a one-sentence explanation of the main idea and the FK score.

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