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  • Writer's pictureDavid de Souza

On Writing Well: 80/20 Summary

Updated: Feb 10, 2022


Mental Models from the book:

'On Writing Well' can be summarised into 11 mental models:

1. Association

  • Find a concept that connects with people. For example: A childhood game.

2. Catalysts

  • The last word of a sentence stays in the reader's ear and gives the sentence punch.

3. Equilibrium

  • At the end, use a quote or bring the story full circle.

4. Evolution: Adaptation

  • Your best writing will often relate less to the subject than with its significance. It's not about what you did in a situation but how that situation affected you and shaped who you became.

5. First Conclusion Bias

  • At the beginning, grab the reader using a provocative idea.

6. Language Instinct

  • Don't say something was fascinating. Describe how it was fascinating.

7. Momentum

  • Verbs are the most important tool of a writer. They provide momentum.

  • Use active verbs. "Joe saw him" is better than "He was seen by Joe"

8. Scarcity

  • Readers can only process one idea at a time, in a linear passage. Therefore, each sentence should contain one thought.

9. Specialization

  • "Every successful piece of nonfiction should leave the reader with one provocative thought". Decide on the one point you are trying to make.

  • Use precise verbs. The president "resign/retire/fired" vs "stepped down".

10. Trust

  • Qualifiers dilute your style, persuasiveness and trust. Remove qualifiers related to: Your thinking/feelings/what you saw.

11. Vividness Bias

  • What made your experience different from everyone else's? The reader doesn't want to hear that the grand canyon was amazing They want to hear if someone fell off the Grand Canyon or something out of the ordinary.

  • Reduce an abstract principle into an image that can be visualized.

  • Sentences with concept nouns don't contain people and are strange as the reader can't visualize anybody


Mental Model Mind Maps

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