A blank Word document is a minefield of temptation. It invites you to indulge all sorts of writing sins, from showing off to overpromising to simply being lazy. To fend off such temptations, we rely on one of our writing principles:

Tell the truth.

Your bond with readers is fragile: Once they read something that isn’t true, you’ve lost them.

Service journalism routinely falls short of the truth. We’ve all seen articles with headlines like “Improve your credit score with these simple steps.” The steps often aren’t simple—especially for a stressed-out consumer with bad credit. The result: Readers feel you’ve wasted their time—maybe even lied to them—and they tune out.

A truer headline might read, “Follow these steps to start improving your credit score.” The distinction is subtle, but telling the truth demands attention to subtlety. The reward for that work is that readers trust you. And when readers trust you, they engage with your writing.