Friday, April 10, 2009

The Craft

For every writer, there are two prisms through which writing our words will be viewed. Readers expect us to be craftsmen. They trust we will have a fundamental grasp of the elements that constitute good writing. Researchers, for example, have found that sentences which exceed the ratio of one preposition for every eleven words are poorly written.

They sound first-grade-ish. (“Syntactically immature” is what the experts call such writing.)

The reader cannot flow through the sentence without encountering a verbal hiccup every few words.

Researchers have also found that sentences that contain more than fifteen words cause the reader to go back and read the sentence again to be sure they have understood the meaning.

Think about it—some of the most persuasive sentences of our time are short: “Just do it!” “Yes, we can!” “It’s the economy, stupid!”

Additionally, the successful writer knows her craft so well that grammatical errors don’t appear in it. Nor do clumsy phrases or a limited vocabulary.

But the successful writer knows both the technical matter and the techniques, has knowledge of the content but can also place it in the right context, has a message, and can find the perfect medium in which to place it. That’s where the art of writing comes into play.

The Art

Our language has a million words, and is growing daily. Contrast that number to the number of words in the native tongue of Arubans, Papiamento, which has only 500 words. We English-speakers have so many choices with which to hook our readers. We have infinite combinations that can intrigue our fiction readers and can persuade our non-fiction readers.

Your artistry is even more important when you are sending out query letters. After all, if you can’t persuade an editor to read your letter, let alone buy your submission, your readers will never get the chance to enjoy your artistry. Here are some Do’s and Dont’s to consider before you send off your inquiry.


Regard life as an experiment. Write that cover letter in three different ways and solicit input as to which is most effective.

Use audience awareness to convince your reader. Consider what elements will be most appealing to your various readers. Use words that matter to them.

Remove barriers that may stand between you and others. One barrier might be your unfamiliarity with the publication in which you want to be featured. Spend some time learning about its uniqueness. Another barrier might be the editor’s “I’ve-heard-it-all-before” syndrome.

Find ways to truly stand out from your competition.


Confuse persuasion with manipulation. Your efforts should yield mutually beneficial purposes.
Forget to consider the editor’s position. Editors are busy people. Make your query letters worthy of their time.

Neglect the questions that might arise in the editor’s head. Have answers incorporated within your query.

Your Love, Your Life, Your Lexicon

I often tell audiences I would rather write than do anything else in the world. (This may explain why I haven’t had a date since 1985!) If your passion matches mine, you are no doubt eager to expand your persuasive communications. Contact me about an e-book (Principled Persuasion) that will make your verbal expansion a pleasurable pursuit.

Dr. Marlene Caroselli ( is an author, keynoter, and corporate trainer. You can learn more about her via Google.

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