This is the Preface to Write Like An Adult, an informal treatise I wrote and self-published mid-2013.
This older Michael (c.2023) is more bothered by some choice words and phrases than its lack of commercial success. Nonetheless, the book dutifully reflects my thinking at the time and stands as my own among the (literally) hundreds of offerings on the subject of writing… few of which are far better value for your money and time. Most are not.
Write Like An Adult can be yours to own in eBook format for $2.99 (or $0 with Kindle Unlimited) and can be read in under an hour.
After ten years in the workforce I’ve concluded that:
- a surprising number of adults can’t write,
- the problem is getting worse, and
- I should do something about it.
Like folding a fitted sheet, writing is something adults ought to be able to do without too much trouble… but it takes practice to get right.
Mercifully, most writing is transactional and conversational: relaying ideas, managing logistics, and other short-form communication. The longer, harder, stand-alone expositions are often now reserved for special occasions (like hate mail) or are the responsibility of professional writers.
And yet, many adults struggle with basic short-form transactional writing.
Some fault lies in our education
In academia, when writing matters it’s formal, structured, and long-form. Its primary intent is to demonstrate command and mastery of a topic rather than communicate or sell the author’s unique ideas. Essays and exams are graded for clarity and content. Beyond coursework, most students receive virtually no feedback on effective writing.
What’s more: the Five Paragraph Essay—forever etched into students’ minds before finishing puberty—is an unwieldy format for selling an idea in modern times. In my experience, it is an unfortunate choice for new graduates often deploy in business communications; as the adage goes: “When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.”
For those of you who weren’t traditionally schooled (or if you’ve forgotten), the Five Paragraph Essay looks like this:
Paragraph 1: Introduction of your thesis (i.e. What’s your point?)
Paragraph 2: Evidence to support thesis
Paragraph 3: Evidence to support thesis
Paragraph 4: Evidence to support thesis
Paragraph 5: Recapitulation of the thesis with, perhaps, further topics to consider or preemptive rebuttals to conflicting evidence.
Or, as grade-school teachers jest: “Tell them what you’re going to tell them, tell them, and then tell them what you’ve told them.”
For essays, this is sound advice.
Here is better advice: Tell them.
This book will show you how.