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I never thought I’d be giving writing advice. I was always the worst student in my literature class in Russia. I never received a grade higher than a C on any Russian essay I ever wrote. I have a theory that my teachers got sick of reading and grading my horrible essays, so they stopped and automatically gave me a passing grade out of pity. I don’t blame them.
When I came to the U.S., my grades in English class in college were not spectacular either; in fact, English was the only class I failed in college and actually had to retake my senior year.
Seth Klarman Tells His Investors: Central Banks Are Treating Investors Like “Foolish Children”
"Surreal doesn't even begin to describe this moment," Seth Klarman noted in his second-quarter letter to the Baupost Group investors. Commenting on the market developments over the past six months, the value investor stated that events, which would typically occur over an extended time frame, had been compressed into just a few months. He noted Read More
My writing has improved slightly since then – and you, my loyal readers, get to be the judge of my scribbles. However, if the prequalification for giving writing advice was based solely on quantity – on how many words have blackened a perfectly fine white screen or besmirched innocent paper – then I am more than qualified. I have been at it for exactly a decade.
My writing “career” started in 2004 when I was hired as a writer by TheStreet.com. I was not hired because I was good – I wasn’t. But I had an investing background, and TheStreet.com was not very picky; it needed warm bodies (ideally with CFA next to their names) to comment on the markets and stocks. TheStreet.com paid almost nothing, and it was overpaying me.
I had zero experience, but I was ambitious. I took writing very seriously, and therefore my articles were serious. They were filled with big words, and, quite frankly, they were enormously boring. In addition, I was extremely self-conscious about grammar. Sentence structure and punctuation drove me nuts, and I was afraid of confusing words that were spelled similarly but had unrelated meanings (like comma and coma).
This brings me to the first lesson that I want to impart about writing, and it’s one that will drive English teachers insane: Don’t worry about grammar.
Once I stopped worrying about grammar, I felt a huge weight lifted from my shoulders (as all those little punctuation marks emptied themselves from my brain). I completely gave up on a, an and the (my 12-year-old son, who was born here, does a great job fixing those for me), I stopped obsessing about commas (and comas), and I stopped trying to ferret out all the other marvelous secrets of English grammar. I let copy editors – who are very talented and oh so skilled at this – catch me out in all my little peccadilloes. Instead I channel my energy into making writing interesting and funny (if appropriate); this is Lesson No. 2. There are a lot of smart investors, and a lot of them write (just visit the web site Seeking Alpha), but only a small fraction manage to make their writing interesting (again, just visit Seeking Alpha) – and those are the ones who are read more than once.
As I mentioned, when I started writing, my articles were technical and boring. I still feel sorry for the people who read them and especially for my dear friends who felt an obligation to read them.
By Vitaly Katsenelson, read the full article here.