Learn to Write Like Ben Franklin

Ben Franklin wasn’t born a gifted writer. He had a rigorous and demanding method to improve his writing that you can use too.

A writer, a publisher, and the founder of America's first circulating library, Benjamin Franklin was one of America's most brilliant influences on the printed word. Franklin's articles in his newspapers and almanacs are still read and quoted today.

But like everyone else, Benjamin Franklin had to take time and effort to learn his craft. He didn't go to Journalism school to learn how to write well. He taught himself to write for publication in a rigorous manner that any aspiring writer can emulate with success today.

Franklin would start by choosing an exceptionally well-written article by a respected writer, and studying its style and subject carefully.

After studying the article thoroughly, he would rewrite the original article, mixing up the order and arrangement of the material.

Then, without referencing the original article, he would reconstruct it, trying to make it as good or better than the original.

After he was done, he would compare the original article with the one he had just written to discover where he had failed. If he had omitted an important point, or if the words and phrases he had chosen weakened the meaning of the original, or if he had turned a witty exclamation into flat prose, he would make a note of his errors.

Then he would write the article over again, without reference to his notes or the original, and once again compare it to the original, making notes of any new errors or flaws.

He would continue to rewrite the same article, over and over, until his version was as good or better than the original by his own exacting standards.

If you are an aspiring writer who uses your lack of J-school or university credentials as an excuse for failure, use Ben Franklin's method. Pick an article from the magazine you'd most like to get your articles published in, and write, rewrite and rewrite it again until you can produce prose that meets or exceeds the standards of that publication.

Wendy Woudstra

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