5 No-B.S. Tips to Make Your Writing Suck Less

If you’re reading this, you probably need them.

John Gorman
7 min readAug 31, 2022


Photo by Mike Tinnion on Unsplash

You know we’re scraping the bottom of the idea barrel when I’m back on my listicle bullshit. I’m not proud of it. I feel the way I would if I was posted up at Varsity Pizza in Syracuse, New York, holding court with a cavalcade of Newhouse students, taking a pitcher of Labatt Blue and half a large pie to the dome.

Yeah, this was the dream 20 years ago — oh, what dreams we dreamed! — but now I’m back on a journo junket, telling the youths to get off my corner as I yell at the TV and ponder if the Orange will ever crack the AP Top 25 again. (Probably not!)

Still, this tastes better than it feels, and the emblazoned zip-up hoodie still looks sharp and fits the same — even if I’m an L and not an M these days.

Lucky for you, one man’s dumpster-diving is another man’s archeological dig. And I’m here to unearth lost gems too beautiful to remain buried under another beer- and grease-soaked Varsity pizza box.

Anyway, school’s back in session. So let’s sit back, pay no mind to the hooligans scampering through the quad, and let’s cover the best bits of Writing 105 in a breezy eight-minute read.

№1: Start (And Keep) A Swipe File

A swipe file is just dope shit you find in the wild that you like and can draw from later for inspiration. Here’s an example. It’s commonly used in marketing and advertising, but there’s no UN resolution stating it can’t also apply to writing more broadly.

You can use Pinterest if you want to get cute and social with it, but it can be bare-bones AF and just as effective. When I wrote brand copy at an enormous tech company, I just dumped links and phrases into a notepad file. Yes, the flawless Ikea lamp spot was in there.

Your favorite writers on this platform — including your favorite writers to hate — all do this when they highlight other work they wish they’d written. [One ultra-prominent fuck-o’s entire back-catalog is also everyone else’s back-catalog, but he still hasn’t outed himself as a hack and a fraud, and he’ll threaten anyone who cares to … not that I speak from experience.]



John Gorman

Yarn Spinner + Brand Builder + Renegade. Award-winning storyteller with several million served. For inquiries: johngormanwriter@gmail.com