How can some people write so beautifully?

I think I've figured it out.

THREAD: The four elements of writing style:
Pardon me while I open a wormhole into your brain and thrust style advice into it.

See, that’s an example of style.

I could have just said: "And now let’s learn about style."
Four elements of style I'll cover:

• Your voice
• Your presentation
• Engaging the senses
• Engaging the imagination
Part 1: Your voice

Ask your friends what it's like to talk with you.

Perhaps they’ll mention your:

• Tone of voice
• Sense of humor
• Eccentricities
• Viewpoints
Convey those traits in your writing, and readers will recognize your voice.

In other words, voice is not your choice of words. Voice is your unfiltered self.
In early drafts, discard your reflex to self-censor. Talk vulnerably like you do with friends.

In later drafts, you can remove sensitive details.

Until that point, treat it like a confession.
*In*authentic voice happens when you read a lot of someone else’s work and absorb their style.

It also happens when you try to "write smart"—using words like "plethora" or “myriad.”

If you don’t use those in conversation, don't use them in your writing. It's out-of-touch.
Part 2: Poetry

Style also engages the imagination.

I personally define poetry as finding evocative, unconventional ways to say meaningful things.
For example, instead of saying "the day was hot," you could write “even the bugs were looking for air conditioning.”

In that example, we're describing the effect caused by the hot day—as opposed to directly describing the heat itself.
In other words, poetry is one step removed from a straightforward description of the events.

The more steps you can be removed while still successfully communicating the meaning, the more "elegant" your poetry feels.
Here's a full example.

A. A first-order statement is a plain description of the scenario:

"The day was hot."

This is how we commonly talk.
B. In a second-order description, you describe something by stating the effect it has on its environment.

"The day melted our popsicles."

The reader can imply that the day was therefore hot.
C. In a third-order description, you describe something by stating its effect but not mentioning the cause by name.

"Our popsicles melted."

There's ambiguity as to why our popsicles melted. But with a bit of *imagination,* the reader pieces it together.
Now we're engaging their minds.
However, our sentence isn't very poetic yet.

To get there, we can describe an effect that is unconventional, counterintuitive, or witty:

"Even the bugs were looking for air conditioning."
"Instead of telling us a thing was 'terrible,' describe it so that we’ll BE terrified."

—C.S. Lewis

In short, I personally define poetry as unconventional third-order descriptions.
Part 3: Engage readers' senses

One way to engage readers' senses is to be vivid.

To explain vividness, here are writer Venkatesh Rao's remarks on the vividness of author David Foster Wallace:
"His writing is looking at a pinprick-sharp photo—compared to my blurry ones. He picks words that work 100x better than mine. He has a 15 megapixel camera and a tripod, while I have a 3 megapixel point-and-shoot. A bigger vocab isn't enough. His skill: matching words to needs."
Here's an example of vividness:
Vividness isn't just detail. It's detail that resonates.

It's the articulation of the rarely articulated nuances of life—in a way that makes you remark, "Ahh, that’s how I'd put words to that feeling."
Finally, style is also our choice of *presentation*:

• Wait But Why uses cartoon drawings and analogies to explain complex topics.
• Maddox uses dark humor, crude GIFs, and videos to shock and entertain.
Would analogies, anecdotes, humor, or multimedia help better convey your ideas? 

If so, consider using them. You want your ideas to resonate.
Recap:

• Engage a reader's senses—paint vivid landscapes.

• Engage a reader's imagination—have them do a little bit of work.

• In non-fiction, try writing the way you sound. Your unfiltered self is a breath of fresh air amid all the online fakery.
The authenticity of who you really are, as opposed to who you wish everyone thought you were, is what your audience is looking for.

—C. Robert Cargill
This is an incomplete intro to style. There's a lot more to it.

Follow me for more writing threads 2x/week.

See my past threads here: @julian

🍌
i'll stop heaping praise onto tim after this—before i start sounding like a fanboi—but in retrospect i think it was @waitbutwhy whose work singularly convinced me to take julian.com writing seriously. before him, i didn't have a reference point for audience potential
By the way, these are my notes on style taken from my writing handbook. It's free—there's nothing to sell you.

julian.com/guide/write/in…

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More from @Julian

13 Feb
14 steps for acquiring your startup's first customers:
1. Pay to interview people who've successfully grown a startup like yours. You can find them via LinkedIn Sales Navigator.

2. Ask them which 3 channels (ads, SEO, etc.) you should prioritize for acquiring customers.

3. Ask for examples of companies who run these channels well.
Some channels to ask about:

• PR
• Ads
• SEO
• Influencers
• Sponsorships
• Organic social
• Word-of-mouth
• In-depth content
• Referral incentives
• Product-led invites (think Slack, Zoom, Dropbox)
Read 18 tweets
4 Feb
When you follow someone on Twitter:

You choose who influences your thinking.

Here are the people I'm testing out this month:
@sahilbloom

Brilliantly crafted deep dives into the fascinating parts of business history.

@kanjun

Her tweets are consistently thoughtful takes on topics I care about.

Someone who my IRL friends think of as "the smartest person they know."

Read 25 tweets
3 Feb
How to rewrite bad writing 👇

After rewriting 400,000 words on my site...

Advice for blog posts, tweets, emails:
Great authors’ first drafts are bad—no better than yours.

However, they aggressively *rewrite* those drafts.
Your first draft is for messily generating ideas.

Your second draft is for identifying the best ideas then making them resonate.

The enemy of rewriting is being precious about what you originally said and how you originally said it.

You need to be willing to destroy.
Read 31 tweets
30 Jan
I've helped 400+ startups acquire customers.

Here's the framework I teach them—for ads, content, referrals, and product.

Hope this helps! A thread:
Part 1. The growth trajectory

Steps I'm seeing startups follow in 2021:

1. Build an amazing product that naturally encourages word-of-mouth.

2. Then kickstart user growth with a scalable acquisition channel, such as ads.
3. In parallel, I'm seeing them spend most of their growth resources optimizing their user funnel + product experience.

At every step of the user's journey, they A/B test to maximize per-user revenue.
Read 26 tweets
27 Jan
If you want to write well, writing style is only 10% of it.

90% is actually having something to say.

Aim to think well.

Thread: Learnings from many years of writing...
"It's sad that smart kids want to be YouTube creators."

No, it's not. It's sad that kids ever wanted to be pro poker players or day traders—adding 0 value to the world.

YouTube: mastering writing, growth, storytelling.

This trains kids to be lifelong makers—not just consumers.
I never make new friends on Facebook.

I never book new work on LinkedIn.

Twitter, meanwhile, has brought me tons of both—plus it's sharpened my thinking.

The surprise of social:

People want to meet you based on your thoughts + content—NOT based on your connections.
Read 12 tweets
25 Jan
My day job is growing startups.

I've worked with a few hundred by now.

Here's how to grow your podcast, newsletter, blog, YouTube, and Twitter.

Hope this helps! A thread:
Growth marketing, a timeline:

2015: "We need to go viral."

2017: "Well, we raised $25m of VC. Let's dump it on Facebook ads."

2021: "Wow. We should have been focusing on content and building a great product."
How to grow a podcast:

• Be YouTube-first; do video
• Split eps into 8min YouTube clips with SEO’d titles
• Get guests that are searched for on YouTube
• Consider not publishing bad eps
• Exchange eps with other shows
• Niche is fine, but be widely accessible
Read 11 tweets

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