How to write the perfect sentence

I’m a writer.

I like to write about writing.

And I love to talk about writing in person.

So when I was given the opportunity to talk to The New York Times best-selling author and TEDx speaker, Michelle Alexander, about how she manages her writing life, I knew that I had to ask her how she does it. 

Michelle Alexander, author of Black Skin, White Masks: Race, Class, and the Politics of Whiteness, shares her secrets for writing the perfect sentences. 

This was a great conversation about how you can become a better writer, and a perfect sentence, that can be a powerful reminder to all of us to keep writing. 

1.

Make your sentences as short as possible. 

When writing your best-sellers, your most memorable lines are usually the shortest.

You want your best selling point to be a sentence that is as short and easy to follow as possible, so that it feels natural to the reader.

The shorter the better. 

2.

Take your time. 

There are lots of things that you can do to speed up the writing process, but you have to be mindful of the fact that you have already spent a long time on the page. 

I recommend you take your time and get your sentences down to a minimum of 3,000 words, and you should also avoid long sentences.

They just seem to drag on. 3.

Don’t use words that people have said to describe you. 

The same advice applies to using words to describe people.

People have said things about you, but they have also said lots of other things about people who have similar characteristics to you.

If you want to sell books, for example, use the words you describe your character to describe the people who are buying your books. 

4.

Use a lot of different words to talk. 

You want to be as clear and concise as possible in your writing, so try to avoid any words that are vague or unclear.

Instead, try to use a few sentences that are clearly linked to one another.

For example, you could say something like “the company was a major beneficiary of tax breaks under the Clinton Administration” or “the city had a $7 billion tax-credit program to support the city’s workforce”. 

5.

Use an appropriate adjective. 

If you want your sentences to be clear, your adjectives should be clear.

They should have a definite meaning, but also an adverbial meaning.

So if you want people to read your book and know that you write about a certain group of people, you might say, “I write about the people of the Black, Hispanic, and Asian American communities in the U.S. ” Michelle Alexander explains how to write an adjective.

She explains: “I’ve spent most of my life working in writing for black, Latino, and other minority writers.

I’ve also been writing for other minority groups as well.

When it comes to writing about minorities, my favorite adjectives are the one-word adjectives.

When people ask, ‘Where do you come from?’ my answer is, ‘I come from a poor, Black family.’

I also find that an adjective helps people to distinguish you from other people.” 

6.

Use the right words to connect the story. 

In a story, words are not just a way to tell the story but also a way for the reader to connect with the story and connect with their own identity.

In a sentence, a word can be used to connect you to a specific group, like, “She is a member of a Black American women’s rights group.”

If you can’t connect the two, you should not use the word “woman.” 

7.

Avoid adjectives that imply race. 

While it may seem obvious to some people, some people might find it difficult to wrap their head around how you should use an adjective when describing something. 

Black writers tend to use more than one word to describe their characters.

Instead of saying, “A Black woman has a complex relationship with her father” or, “Black people in general are good people,” you should say, “A Black American woman has an understanding of her own race.”

8.

Be specific. 

Being specific is important to you and it’s also important to the people reading your book.

When you’re writing about a topic, like a political figure or an issue in a particular community, you want as many details as possible about that person, the issue, and their history.

You also want as much detail about the way that person is viewed by others. 

9.

Try to avoid words that suggest race.

“He’s black, and he is in the United States military,” for example. 

 “She is the first black woman to lead the African-American community in the White House,” is an example of a word that might not be clear enough to say to the person reading your story.

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