Lindsay McMahon
"The English Adventurer"

In today’s episode, Lindsay interviews Lane Greene from The Economist.

Lane shares where people often go wrong with their writing.

Listen in and get three concrete things you can do right now to improve your writing level.

Lane Greene

Lane Greene is the language columnist and Spain correspondent for The Economist.

He won the journalism award from the Linguistic Society of America in 2017.

Additionally, he is a former professor of global affairs at New York University.

He’s currently based in Madrid.

He has lived in London, Berlin, and New York.

He has a great variety of interests in language and has been writing for 10 years.

He recently wrote a column about people using their hands in communication.

This is a really fascinating topic and shows you the difference in language all around the world.

He is interested in how culture intersects with language and what it means for human connection.

He also wrote a book entitled “Writing with Style.”

It is a new edition of a previous writing style text updated for current trends.

Lindsay asks about common errors people make when writing.

Lane says that using overcomplicated words when writing is the most common mistake by most when writing.

Three ways to write with style

Lane Greene shares three tips on how to improve your writing and create your own style.

Take notes and apply these to your writing!

#1: Use common and basic words

Lane advises using the old dramatic Germanic words of the English language when writing.

These are the earthiest and basic words like help, stop, water, fire, etc.

These are words that everyone is familiar with.

There is a power of immediacy when using them and when you use a technical term, it will stand out.

This will help you with emphasis because surrounding basic and clear language around hard words is powerful.

Here are examples of basic words and their complicated counterparts:

  • Earthy = Terrestrial
  • Hearty = Cordial

If you use fancy words, it just creates distance from the reader.

If you want to create a connection, you must use words that apply to everyone and easy to understand.

#2: Use proper phrasing and imagery

When writing, it’s usually best to use the most common phrasing you’ve heard.

As a beginner at writing, it can be tempting to fall into the trap of cliches.

You must be creative and put yourself in the head of your reader.

You can come up with your own imagery, and you can communicate very directly.

Lane compares these words to shiny jewels.

When you have technical terms, you can think of them as shiny rare jewels that shine even better when you put it in a simple setting.

Here are some cliches Lane advises not to use too often:

  • Blue sky
  • Thinking out of the box
  • The elephant in the room
  • The 800-pound gorilla

Making the effort to write creatively will help you push yourself and improve your language skills.

You have to put in constant effort to think and put out fresh and original imagery and language.

#3: Use a lot of periods

This is the most powerful punctuation you can utilize.

This keeps your sentences crisp and direct.

When writing, you don’t want to create problems with complex sentences when you don’t use a period.

It will make your reader confused and they will have a hard time understanding you.

When a period arrives in a sentence, you give your reader time to pause and think about your meaning.

If you keep continuing without a period, you will wear your readers out.

Lindsay shares that she is reminded of legal documents where sentences are so long and winding.

American vs. European academic writing

Lindsay asks Lane about the difference in style between American and European academic writing.

It can be different everywhere but Lane reiterates that the Germanic style of words is valuable in both.

Use very basic words so that your writing is easy to understand.

This will definitely increase your writing skills in the English language.


You may get a copy of Lane Greene’s book “Writing with Style with the style philosophy of The Economist.

It will teach you how to be an intelligent layperson in writing, sharing your argument clearly so it is easy to understand.

The point of writing is to connect with your reader and not to flaunt the flowery big vocabulary you know.

Always prioritize connection above all.

Lane’s bio

Lane Greene is the language columnist and Spain correspondent at The Economist. He won the journalism award from the Linguistic Society of America in 2017 and is a former adjunct professor of Global Affairs at New York University. He is based in Madrid currently and has lived in London, New York City and Berlin. 

What is your writing style?

We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

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