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It doesn’t take a ton of work to improve your writing. Honest.
A few tweaks will help you rise above the “blech” that’s prevalent in everything from blog posts to books. You don’t have to aim for a Pulitzer, but you can certainly do better than blech. You can be really, really good.
And when you’re really, really good, you connect to your readers and communicate your message. You make a difference.
Incorporate these 7 Writing Tips into your routine, and you’re bound to see results. Let me know what works for you!
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 that simply lack punch. As in: “It was a super hot afternoon.”
And while “It was scorching hot” or “It was sweltering” are certainly an improvement, they still don’t capture it.
Remember “Show, don’t tell?” from English class?
Instead of telling the reader it’s hot or scorching, show them. Describe the bead of sweat dripping off the tip of someone’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 post so far is 33 words. And that’s arguably pushing it for the online space (physical books are a different matter).
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.
Two to three sentences is usually plenty! Think visually for a blog or story, scanning the page to see how the text looks and whether you have enough white space. Again, a hard copy book is different, but even then, it’s a good idea 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 book, “Fumblerules” by William Safire.
There is rarely a time when inflated language is useful. Most of us are not writing academic articles.
Don’t make the reader reach for a dictionary … because they won’t. They’ll click to something else.
And think of it this way: the smartest writing is simply that which best conveys your message.
5. Use active voice most 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 as 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.
Related Reading: A Beginner’s Guide to Writing a 1,500-Word Blog Post
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. Let’s take the subhead 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! Please chime in below with any of your own favorites.
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