Being an author requires one additional skill that they don’t tell you about in writing school.
It’s a skill perfected by political speechwriters, but self-help gurus are famous for it, too:
The ability to produce writing that’s quotable.
What makes a piece of writing quotable, and how can you develop that skill yourself? Here’s what I’ve learned.
Quotable writers excel in short, pithy sentences.
They use simple devices like parallel structure and alliteration to come up with statements that pack a punch.
You’ll often find quotable sentences at the end of a paragraph, where they sum up the preceding argument in one simple declaration.
Quotes are almost always deeper than they first appear.
I had no idea about what it took to produce quotable writing when I first began writing e-books.
Crazily enough, it was not any great tutor or friendly word of advice that turned me on to the potential of being quotable. Rather, it was our graphic designer.
At the time, our graphic designer was laying out our e-books in a very simple style. He’d add content to a page, then he’d scan the words for a sentence or phrase that seemed to stand out. He put that sentence in a little red box on the right-hand side, where it served to highlight and summarize the page’s message.
Unfortunately, our graphic designer wasn’t the best at picking out suitable phrases. He was under strict time constraints, so he often picked sentences hastily, without reading the whole page.
In order to help him out and reduce editing time, I began highlighting suitable sentences and phrases for him as I was writing the book. It made his job easier, and it made me more aware of the need for clarity.
Having to produce a quotable phrase on every page transformed my writing style.
I began writing sentences deliberately for the purposes of quotation. I reduced long-winded explanations, eliminated unnecessary words, and played more with metaphor and allusions to popular culture. My goal was to make my writing snappy.
It’s amazing to me how few words are necessary to express a concept. Time is money, and reading takes time. Modern readers are notorious skinflints.
So, if you’re interested in being more quotable, make brevity a priority in your writing.
Each time you finish a paragraph, see how well you can sum up what you’ve said in just a few words. Say it out loud to get a taste for it on the tongue. You’ll develop the knack with practice.
And find great quotable writers for inspiration. “Success is more expression than impression,” says Alan Cohen. Express yourself, and trust it will make the right impression.