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Benjamin Franklin: His Ageless Writing Tips

If Ben Franklin were alive today, he would be...uh, very old. But his writing style would be as current as e-mail, yet as timeless as the man himself.

This great American championed succinct writing, and his epigrams became part of our national heritage. Before discussing his classic quotes, let's first examine how he grew into an acclaimed wordsmith.

Apprenticed as a printer's helper, Franklin studied the handbills and circulars his shop printed. When newsletters and newspapers began in the colonies, Franklin submitted letters or witty sayings under a pseudonym.

More and more of his short sayings began to appear. People enjoyed them, so Franklin decided to publish even more with the creation of "Poor Richard's Almanac." What attracted readers to him?

a. He wrote simply. He knew his audience, and focused on basic words and ideas.

b. He wrote briefly. The Almanac itself emphasizes frugality and brevity. "Silence is not always a sign of wisdom, but babbling is ever a mark of folly," Franklin said.

c. He used humor. Franklin's sayings are among the most quoted in history.

d. He spoke of moral truths, and offered valuable advice.

Next time you sit down to write, remember that the reader's very busy. So deliver your message simply and memorably.

Rix Quinn wrote the book "Words That Stick," which offers lots of writing advice for both students and professionals. It's available through your local bookstore, or Ten Speed Press. http://www.tenspeed.com/catalog/all/ite m.php3?id=1661

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