September 16th, 2016
Writing help from Hamilton.
By Brokaw Associate Creative Director/Copywriter, Mark McKenzie
Why do you write like you’re running out of time?
– Aaron Burr, a few songs before he “chicka-braghs!” Alexander Hamilton
In Hamilton, the incredibly well-written, Tony Award-winning musical that everyone should at least listen to, “writing like you’re running out of time” describes Alexander Hamilton’s ambition, his non-stop productivity, and, of course, his looming death because, you know, Aaron Burr and duels and stuff.
But it could just as easily describe how people write these days: WITH MAXIMUM HASTE. I’m as guilty as anyone. Ask any of my double-digit number of friends who, thanks to my speedy texting, think I have “bad mono” instead of being a “bad mofo.”
The point is, all this hurry has diminished the quality of our writing. And writing, man, it’s important. It’s not just how we express ourselves, it also helps define the personalities of our brands. Plus, it exists forever for people to judge you by until the end of time:
In that spirit, here are some quick, baseline, Hamilton-inspired tips to help us improve our writing prowess. It’s what the Founding Fathers would have wanted.
1. “Slow down.”
– Hamilton, ironically, to his son Philip
Going to go out on a limb and assume that nobody reading this is the President (for safety: Hi, Barry). Which means we should all have a few spare moments to slowly re-read and ask: does this make sense? Is it spelled correctly? Contain the correct form of there/their/they’re so as to avoid the grammar police?
2. “Talk less. Smile more.”
– Aaron Burr revealing the title of his unpublished colonial-era self-help book
Good writing is re-writing. A little writer trick is to jot down your idea in the dumbest possible top-of-mind terms and then rewrite until it’s more succinct and persuasive. Then, you know, smile a bunch.
3. “Why do you assume you’re the smartest in the room?”
– Burr, again, to Hamilton
Good writing is relatable. So respect the time, attention, and intelligence of your audience. Don’t talk down to them. But also don’t just dash something off and assume they’ll get the gist. Find that nice, comfy middle ground.
4. “He started retreatin’ and readin’ every treatise on the shelf.”
– Burr re: young Hamilton. (SPOILER: Burr has a big role in this play.)
Read! Read books! Or long-winded e-newsletters! Or the lyrics from the Hamilton soundtrack! Guarantee: if you read more, the quality of your writing and your speaking will improve by a trillion percent. (No guarantee for math skills.)
Want more non-Hamilton-related writing tips? Click here.
Want to read great books as determined by an algorithm? Click here.
Want to read great books loosely tied to advertising? Click here.
Want to stop reading now? Then let’s end with a nerdy, Hamilton-y inside joke!
We have the honor to be Your Obedient Servants,