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Psychology gives you 6 tips to write better

Psychology gives you 6 tips to write better

October 21, 2020

Reading is one of the great pleasures of life , what doubt fits. A few days ago we made echo of our particular ranking with 50 essential books that you have to read once in your life, and today we come back for more, although from another point of view.

Writing and psychology, much in common

We are constantly communicating with written words; they are part of our life and our cultural heritage. We all have felt at some point the need to write our thoughts or our stories, and that is that writing can become therapeutic.

Maybe we are not geniuses of literature as Gabriel Garcia Marquez or William Shakespeare , but the claim of the paper and the pen (or of the keyboard for the digital natives) usually appears to us often. However, to put on paper the ideas and reflections that go through our mind can be a complicated business, and if not, ask the writers and their feared "blank page syndrome."

Steven Pinker brings us the psychological keys to write better

One of today's most renowned psychologists, Steven Pinker, a linguist and cognitive psychologist at Harvard University, has some answers to help us make progress in the art of writing.

In his book The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person's Guide to Writing in the 21st Century (Sense of style: The thinker's guide to writing in the 21st century), published in 2014, Pinker advises us and offers us a complete guide for those who want to improve as writers .

In addition, his suggestions and teachings are based on a multitude of scientific investigations in the field of neuroscience and cognitive psychology: Pinker review the findings in the functioning system of our brain and it teaches us to improve our ability to write. The author proposes a series of techniques and strategies that aim to understand how our mind works so that we know how to get the most out of it, in this case to be more creative and efficient at the time of writing.

The 6 psychological tips for writers

Next, we have summarized the six points on which the teachings of Steven Pinker are based. If you want to be a writer and improve your stories, this can help you.

1. Put yourself in the skin (and in the mind) of the reader

Readers do not know what you know . This seems a very obvious point, but it is not so obvious. If there are people who do not understand well what you are trying to convey to them through your texts, the problem is not yours, but yours. Sorry.

The psychological reason for this failure at the time of writing is that our brain tends to take for granted many knowledge, data and arguments because you already know, but do your readers know them as well as you? Probably not, and this is a frequent problem and that you have to know how to face, with self-criticism and with reflection.

Steven Pinker calls this error the "curse of knowledge", and it is the inability many writers have to understand that others they do not know what they know . This leads to unclear texts, where things are given for granted that dislocate the reader. In his book, Pinker states that the best method to avoid falling into this error (which incidentally is one of the most common according to the editors) is to get a draft of the text to a person without specific knowledge, and ask if he understands everything, or not.

2. Use a direct style, with images and conversations

Cognitive psychology does not tire of repeating that More than 30% of our brain has functions associated with vision . Pinker also emphasizes that there is a lot of scientific evidence that shows that readers understand and are able to remember more elements of the text that have to do with a language that evokes images.

In addition, it is convenient to use a conversational style and to conceive the reader as a known person: this will make him feel part of the story and the inner world of the writer. However, says Pinker, a writing with a style focused on impressing the reader achieves the opposite effect, and the reader can feel overwhelmed and notice a lot of distance about what the author wants to convey.

In fact, an investigation found that many college students deliberately used a highly complex vocabulary to look smarter . In fact, the simplest texts at the lexical level coincided with authors of a superior intelligence.

The trick to find a good harmony between reader and author, according to Pinker, is that as a writer imagine that you are in a conversation with someone who has a cultural level similar to yours, but who has some knowledge less than you in the field about the one you are talking aboutIn this way you will be able to guide the reader and getting him to discover some things that you already know but that he does not yet.

3. Put the reader in context

It is necessary that you explain to the reader what is the purpose of the text, why are you telling him something, what will he learn with it? . An investigation reported that readers who know the context from the beginning of the reading are better able to understand the text thoroughly.

Pinker himself emphasizes this point, and points out that readers must know the background to be able to read between the lines and connect all the concepts and arguments in a more intuitive way. This means that the reader is located in the text from his previous knowledge, and that helps him better understand what he is reading. In fact, if you do not find any reference to contextualize, the reader will be unable to adequately understand the lines in front of you, it will be a superficial reading.

The advice is clear: As authors we must locate the reader, show him / her what is the theme of the text and what we want to explain to him / her . Although some writers refuse to do this because they do not remove suspense and mystery from the text, the truth is that it seems much more reasonable to conquer the reader from the start and keep them attentive and interested throughout the reading, not trusting that, Without being able to contextualize, it will manage to finish even the first paragraph.

4. Creativity (but common sense) when following the rules

With this we do not mean that we should not respect the rules of spelling and grammar, but when we are writing we should also leave some room for creativity and improvisation. The dictionary is not a sacred book, says Pinker. It is more: the publishers of dictionaries are the ones in charge to translate in each new edition the tendencies and uses of certain terms, and that only is obtained being connected with the society, that is the motor that goes endowing of sense to the language.

That's right: you need to know the rules well so you can break them from time to time with a good dose of creativity . Creativity, of course, must be a sign of quality, not an opportunity to show that we have wanted to "go smart". If you do not fully understand the rules of writing a language, it is better not to try to reinvent the wheel and stick to some orthodox canons in your texts. There will be time to innovate, later.

5. Never stop reading

This and other writing guides are interesting and valuable tools, but if you want to improve as a writer it is necessary that you read a lot, day by day .

The vision of Pinker is very clear: to be a writer of great quality, one must immerse himself in books and varied texts, trying to know new languages, literary resources, new terms and phrases made with which to grow as a thinker and, therefore, as Writer.

It's simple: keep learning and research, is one of the keys to expand your mental horizons and, consequently, your writing skills.

6. Review the texts thoroughly and with patience

To be an excellent writer it is not advisable that you try to write magnificent texts to the first one, against the clock. In fact, that is a skill that few, very few, master. Actually, It is much better that you spend a lot of time and effort to review and reconstruct your texts .

Steven Pinker thinks that revision is one of the keys of good writers. "Very few authors are self-demanding enough to capture the exact words that best explain what they want to convey. Less is more. This is achieved with the ability to know how to review and refine each paragraph, each phrase. When we write, we need to review and reformulate to make the message clear and reach the reader properly, "Pinker argues.

One last reflection

The ability to communicate through texts and books is something that can be learned. It is only necessary to practice and start our talent.

These strategies and techniques to improve the writing that Steven Pinker has given us can help us empathize with our readers and ensure that our message arrives in the best possible way. Write!

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