Whether you maintain a humble personal blog or you are an aspiring novelist, this manifesto on writing can help you stay focused on the most important thing about writing: getting read. Compiled by former Guardian editor Tim Radford, these 25 "commandments for journalists" offer clear guidelines for anyone serious about writing.
Radford says that ultimately there's no other reason for a journalist to write unless you make someone read your stories. So his first seven rules are:
1. When you sit down to write, there is only one important person in your life. This is someone you will never meet, called a reader.
2. You are not writing to impress the scientist you have just interviewed, nor the professor who got you through your degree, nor the editor who foolishly turned you down, or the rather dishy person you just met at a party and told you were a writer. Or even your mother. You are writing to impress someone hanging from a strap in the tube between Parson's Green and Putney, who will stop reading in a fifth of a second, given a chance.
3. So the first sentence you write will be the most important sentence in your life, and so will the second, and the third. This is because, although you — an employee, an apostle or an apologist — may feel obliged to write, nobody has ever felt obliged to read.
4. Journalism is important. It must never, however, be full of its own self-importance. Nothing sends a reader scurrying to the crossword, or the racing column, faster than pomposity. Therefore simple words, clear ideas and short sentences are vital in all storytelling. So is a sense of irreverence.
5. Here is a thing to carve in pokerwork and hang over your typewriter. "No one will ever complain because you have made something too easy to understand."
6. And here is another thing to remember every time you sit down at the keyboard: a little sign that says "Nobody has to read this crap."
7. If in doubt, assume the reader knows nothing. However, never make the mistake of assuming that the reader is stupid. The classic error in journalism is to overestimate what the reader knows and underestimate the reader's intelligence.
It's the kind of list aspiring scribes should print out and review every now and then. See the whole manifesto at the link below.