Who are you writing for?
Tim Radford, a journalist with The Guardian for more than 30 years, has come up with 25 rather brilliant writing commandments. And the message he hammers home is think about your reader. Always.
Here are the first three: 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.
Get a cup of tea and take five minutes to read the rest of them. It’ll be well worth it.