Hit the Bestseller List: How to Style Your Words Like a Bestselling Author

Jodie Archer and Matthew Jockers, the authors of The Bestseller Code, give some quick tips on how to style your words like a bestselling author.

Jodie Archer and Matthew Jockers, Writing for
4-minute read
Episode #536


In The Bestseller Code, Jodie Archer and Matthew Jockers, who have backgrounds in publishing and text-mining, worked together to create an algorithm that aims to identify novels that will become bestsellers. Each chapter of the book cracks open a bit more of the code, from character, to topics and the emotional rhythms that work in fiction. Today, we’re going to look at some aspects of style that could improve your chances of hitting the bestseller lists.

Go easy on adjectives and adverbs. Decorate your nouns and verbs sparingly and with caution. In other words, no Christmas tree sentences! Stick with the simple pine tree in its natural state. Readers don’t want “Clive observed that the elegant and beautiful Josie Matthews was sitting in her brown wingback armchair, typing carefully while humming prettily to herself.” Instead, try “Josie sat typing, humming an old tune. Her beauty was not lost on Clive.”    

Readers hate an exclamation point if it really isn’t necessary. Exclamation points kill nuances in tone and can turn a tense action scene into melodrama. Not! Everything! Need! Go! Bump! And as for the irritating trend for double or triple exclamation points!!!—please, never, ever do it. The triple exclamation turns up way too often in self-published manuscripts. Remember, this is fiction, not a text to your BFF. Save the exclamation point for the rare moment you want to show volume or surprise or that something borderline in tone is indeed intended to be funny and not critical. Sometimes an exclamation point can turn a potentially cold and sarcastic remark into a more friendly and smiling comment.