This post was originally published June 27, 2013, and updated on January 19, 2022.
Getting better at writing can be as fun and as easy as writing in six words. Yes, really!
A few years ago, a friend introduced me to the book Not Quite What I Was Planning: Six-Word Memoirs by Writers Famous and Obscure. I was smitten. I began to keep a journal with six word entries. I even started a blog that chronicled pictures of what made me happy and six word captions.
I loved writing in six words. I still do.
While I was teaching, I was constantly on the lookout for good icebreaker activities. Having students write down who they are in six words seemed like a good solution: it wasn’t a complex activity, but it did require them to think a little.
It didn’t take long before I realized that I could have my writing and grammar students use the same activity to get better at English. Writing in six words can be a powerful tool.
Here’s what it’ll get YOU to do:
Focus on your message
Six words to make your point.
Drop extra words
Don’t overload; fewer words are better.
Pack a lot into six words.
Learn which rules are breakable
To fit, some words gotta go.
Pretty impressive for six words, right? But when you only have six words to work with, you learn that every word counts, and you use every trick you’ve got to scale down your message.
And that translates to better writing.
When you write in six words, you must carefully plan your message. You give each word time and consideration: does this fit my message or would something work better? You move words around because you can say the same thing in a different way. You know which rules to break to make the biggest impact.
That’s what good writing is about.
When you write in six words, it makes your normal writing process deliberate. And anytime you make an unconscious process conscious, you dive deeper into the process itself. You understand it. And when you understand, when you know how words fit together to create meaning, you’re well on your way to being a better writer.
So write in six words. Start a journal. Sum up books you read or pictures you take. No one ever said writing had to be a painful process.