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Good writing looks effortless

Last updated on January 18, 2023

A few weeks ago, someone pointed me toward Recently Rejected, described as “a curated graveyard of good and bad ideas.” You see book covers, album sleeves and various ad campaign artwork created by graphic designers.

When you look at these rejected projects, you can see the work that went into them: the time and the detail. The depth of color. The brushstrokes in the painting. The painstaking detail of the pencil sketch. Good or bad, right or wrong for the project, you can still see the work that went into it. The effort is visible.

Good writing looks effortless. This is why it’s the afterthought to the design and visual storytelling.

Those 20 words on your homepage that perfectly express what your company does? That takes time. The subheads in your document that summarize the paragraphs below? They’re only a few words long, but doing it right takes effort.

But it’s more than just the time that went into the project itself. It’s the years of experience that help a good writer distill complex ideas into their essence. It’s knowing what words resonate for the audience, both for native speakers and those approaching the text with English as their second, third or fourth language.

Those 20 words took 20 years of experience, plus the time mulling over the project on a run, plus a search of competitors’ positioning, plus several iterations that the client never sees.

You may not see the brushstrokes that bring the depth and complexity to a writer’s art, but you’d notice if they weren’t there.

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