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Do not be afraid! It doesn’t take a ton of work to improve your writing.
(It would take a ton of work — and honestly, a lot of God-given natural ability — to be amazing. But we’re not talking about that. So relax.)
For now, we’re just talking about making those tweaks to your blog or story that will help you rise above the “blech” that is so prevalent. To help you convey your message with clear, concise writing that draws the reader in and moves them along.
Feel free to print out this handy chart — or better yet, Pin it to your favorite Pinterest board or Tweet it! (Shameless plug.)
Incorporate these 7 Tips into your writing routine, and you’re bound to see results. Let me know what works for you!
(And if you want a laugh after all of this seriousness, check out my post with 11 GIFs all writers will understand.)
1. Ditch stinkin’ unnecessary adjectives
One hallmark of weak writing is an attempt to beef up a sentence with adjectives that don’t serve a purpose or simply lack punch. You know: “It was a super hot afternoon.”
And while “It was scorching hot” or “sweltering” are certainly an improvement, they still don’t capture it.
Remember “Show, don’t tell?” That’s what I’m talking about here.
So instead of telling the reader it’s hot or scorching, show them. Describe the bead of sweat dripping off the tip of a character’s nose, his tee-shirt sticking to his back, the crunch of brown grass that hasn’t had a drink of rain in weeks.
2. Short sentences. Use them.
The longest sentence in this blog so far is 34 words. And that’s probably pushing it for the online space.
While it’s true that you should juggle sentence length to avoid being choppy, you also want to keep your writing crisp — and that’s accomplished with short words, sentences, and paragraphs.
Whoops. 30 words.
But see how we brought it back again? The short sentences provide pacing and a breather from the longer ones.
3. Short paragraphs. Use those, too.
I’ll keep this short: two to three sentences is usually plenty! Think visually for a blog or story. A book is different, but even then, you’d like to break up the text so it’s not overwhelming.
4. Use plain language. Eschew obfuscation.
I saw “Eschew Obfuscation” on a bumper sticker and laughed for days. #NerdAlert Turns out I had seen it years ago in the classic, and uproariously funny, Fumblerules by William Safire.
There is rarely a time when overblown language is useful. Most of us are not writing academic articles.
Really, when you bust out the thesaurus and try to sound smarter, you’re more likely alienating the reader. Don’t make them reach for a dictionary … because they won’t. They’ll click to something else.
And think of it this way: the smartest writing is that which best conveys the message, right?
5. Use active voice a majority of the time.
I think of passive voice as a writer getting tired or lazy, like when we get fatigued at the gym and our form breaks down.
Active voice gives your sentences oomph. It propels them along and makes them clearer. Passive tends to muddy and weaken them.
Play it again, Sam
It would be played by Sam again
6. Edit the sh*t out of your work.
It is backwards to think of your writing like a blank canvas upon which you will paint a masterpiece.
Instead, think of it as a piece of marble, ready to be chiseled in order for the beauty to be revealed.
In that vein, go ahead and write anything at all. Just babble, scribble, get a whole bunch of words onto paper or screen. Then whip out your chisel and chip away until it looks the way you’d like.
7. Be rid of lots of extra kinds of words.
I jest. But seriously, a lot of writing out there is just … chewy.
That’s how a former editor of mine would describe a sentence that was too wordy. And then he’d start lopping words off.
Try it now. How about we take the header here for Example #7 and rephrase: “Use fewer words.”
Much better, eh? Save the chewiness for warm chocolate chip cookies.
I hope you enjoyed these tips! If you’d like even more, grab a copy of my free ebook that contains 21 Tips to Energize Your Writing. And please chime in below with any of your own thoughts.
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