These writing tips aren’t new, but we all need a reminder from time to time.
Here’s why your writing matters
- Long, complicated and passive content may make you seem pretentious and inaccessible. Or, it may make people question if you understand the topic yourself.
- Clear writing doesn’t need interpretation. It’s more likely your message will get across.
- We receive more content than we can consume. If you want people to pay attention to you, you need to show them your content is worth reading. Otherwise, they’ll tune out.
It’s easy to improve your writing — here are some tips
1) Remember who it’s for
The first step of any writing project is to think about who the content is for. There’s a good chance you want someone else to read your writing.
This means it’s not about you. It’s not about showing off how smart you are. It’s not about patting your own back. It’s about solving a problem for your reader or providing some value.
2) Use common words
Always use the simplest word to communicate your point. You can add interest by varying sentence length or combining words in unusual ways.
I’m often challenged on this by non-communicators. They’ll want to use words like commence instead of start or utilize instead of use. They think, somehow, these words will make them seem smarter or more credible. In fact, they can do the opposite.
If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.
3) Keep sentences short
Shorter sentences are easier to read. You can shorten sentences by removing unnecessary words. Try cutting adverbs (which modify a verb, adjective or another adverb and often end in ‘ly’). Or, try breaking longer sentences into two or more smaller ones.
4) Use active language
Active voice puts the emphasis on the subject of your sentence. Sentences tend to be shorter and are easier to read.
5) Use headings and bullet points
Many readers skim content, especially online. Headlines and bullet points help people find the information that’s relevant to them.
6) Cut 10 percent
When you’re done writing, check your word count and edit the content to cut 10 percent. It’s possible, I promise. As you practice this, you’ll start to notice you’ve made the same point in various ways.
7) Read it in reverse
Reading your writing in reverse is an editing trick I picked up in PR school. Start at the end and read each sentence on its own. This will help you spot errors you may skim over otherwise.
8) Use online tools to check your writing
I’m a fan of the Hemingway Editor for checking my writing. It highlights passive voice, sentences that may be hard to read and words that have a simpler alternative. It’ll also tell you the reading level of your content. I aim to achieve Grade 8 or lower. This blog is a Grade 4.
9) Sleep on it
There are three situations when I publish content immediately:
- When I’m working on an urgent situation that requires real-time response
- When I’m replying to an email (although depending on the situation, I will save a draft and come back to it)
- When I’m writing captions for my Instagram posts (and even then, sometimes I pre-write ideas to use later)
Otherwise, I write the content and sleep on it for at least one night. For example, I drafted this blog post on a Saturday, and I will post it on Thursday.
Let some time pass and reread your writing. You will find more ways to improve the content.
Writing is what I do
I enjoy writing. I always have. I have a gift for making complex topics clear and can empathize with the audience. That’s why I decided to make writing the focus of my communication business. If you need help with writing, I’d love to chat. Check out my services and get in touch.