‘However’ is NOT the most commonly used word used in the English language
Lots of authors – particularly writers in nonfiction – overuse ‘however’. There are two forms of abuse of the poor ‘however’.
1. When authors are trying to qualify a point …
Establishing and operating a business from home is not a prospect that should frighten you. However, the set-up can be a minefield.
Find another way to say what you want to say without relying on the ‘however.’ That does not mean removing the ‘however’ or substituting ‘although’. Think of ways to rephrase. E.g.
Whilst setting up and operating a business can be a minefield, it’s not a prospect that should frighten you.
2. To legitimise transition, even when there’s no causal evolution. E.g.
You are reading this blog. However, your dog has just metamorphosed into a butterfly.
There’s no logical connection between the two statements. But the use of ‘however’ makes the evolution feel logical. It’s not. It’s lazy.
Finally, the use of ‘however’ is striking. Sometimes, it’s unavoidable that you need to use it. However, when they keep popping up, they become an eyesore and disrupt the narrative.
Don’t undermine yourself
If you’re communicating a message, then believe in that message. Don’t be wishy-washy. E.g.
One of the best practices I’ve found is every night, I make a list up of what I have to do the next day. Of course, this mightn’t be for you.
Then why are you telling me? Why are you wasting my time with a suggestion that you’re not even enforcing? If you have a set of practices that help you, then assert those practices. This is what your book’s about.
There’s absolutely no point – in fact, it’s insulting – to offer a message, and then in the next sentence suggest it mightn’t be what the reader’s looking for. If it mightn’t be for the reader, then it probably has no place in your book. Do this often enough, and people will wonder what’s the point of reading your book if your ideas amount to ‘take it or leave it’.
This doesn’t mean you have to shout at the reader, YOU MUST DO THIS! You don’t have to browbeat them. But neither do you have to undermine yourself.
Your book is meant to be a guide, not a list of offhand suggestions. If you don’t have confidence to insist on what you’re proclaiming as advice, then why will the reader have confidence in you?
Watch your exclamation marks!
Sure, you might think every line you’re writing is emphatic! And that’s fine to be passionate! But there comes a point when the use – well, the overuse – of the exclamation mark is distracting! Worse, it’s one of these things we do unwittingly! Look back through your work, and see if you’re overusing the exclamation mark! You might just be surprised!
Your first draft is NOT gold
Writing isn’t just about writing. It’s also about rewriting. Your first draft is likely to be rough – the outpourings of somebody with lots of energy, lots to say, but often lacking focus. This is the way writing works: it’s an exploration of ideas.
Sometimes, that exploration becomes a wander as we try to find our way. It’s like trying to find your way all across town to somewhere new – there’ll be wrong turns, there’ll be detours, and whilst you might inevitably arrive at your destination, it’s not the course to take all the time. You find a better and direct route to get you to the same place.
Go through your writing with the pointers from this three-part blog in mind. See what can be revised, revised, revised. Then, revise it!
Finally … be YOURSELF
Tell your story exactly as you would tell me, if we were sitting across a table from one another at lunch. Don’t use big words (if you don’t normally) because you think it’ll impress the reader. Don’t wax lyrical, and try to impress everybody with your knowledge. Don’t fire off jokes if that’s not usually your thing.
There is something in writing called VOICE. Every writer has one. It’s the way the book talks to the reader. If you’re putting on airs to write your book, then you’re not being true to your VOICE, and the disingenuousness will show in the writing. It won’t connect with the reader. It won’t be you.
So be YOURSELF.
You are unique.
You are special.
You have your own message to deliver.