👋 Hi, I'm James.


I occasionally write about lessons learned on the journey to live a healthier, happier and more intentional life. 


📍 Austin, TX 

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  • James von der Lieth

The 3 Word Secret to Writing School Doesn't Teach You

This tweet by Ryan Hoover got me thinking...

School Gets Writing Wrong

The real challenge of writing effectively is distilling a subject to its true essence, not achieving a minimum word count. Most schools teach students the exact opposite.

Teachers enforce page minimums and incentivize students to copy and paste clutter. Since teachers inherently have a monopoly on students’ attention, many teachers never learn the hard lesson that the supply of people's attention is limited.

In the real world, every piece of writing is fighting for the audience's limited attention.

My Dad would quote this movie every time I asked him to review a paper.

"HALF AS LONG" the Dad in the movie would say. The son went onto become a great writer. My Dad would do the same thing with my work (without the dramatic ripping up of the paper). It actually helped tremendously. No one at school had ever told me to cut the fluff.

I wish schools taught kids the following:

  1. No one in the real world has time to read your long winded essays or academic papers

  2. No one cares about your writing unless they think it can help them

  3. Use word maximums instead of page minimums

  4. If you don’t have a grabbing headline with an emotional appeal, no one will read it

  5. When in doubt, write bullet points, lists, or short paragraphs

  6. Although, big words have their time and place, aim to simplify, not pander to academics

  7. How to properly use commas.

  8. No successful writer uses "In conclusion" or "In summary" in every piece they've ever done.

  9. Proper grammar and spelling doesn't matter if no one reads it

  10. Attention is a limited resource. You should feel lucky if someone besides your teacher is reading your paper. And by the way, the only reason the teacher is reading it is because it's their job.

  11. The best way to become a better writer is to study and mimic the writing you love

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