How to Improve Your Writing Today
Whether you’re new to content-creation, you’re a seasoned writer, or you want to make a better impression with your clients, you can become a better writer today.
No matter where you start, there are 13 things, when implemented, which will improve your writing today.
Your writing is a first impression.
Whether you want to influence a new prospect, entertain a reader, or encourage new fans to join your tribe, the way you write matters.
Most of our communication is text-based. If you don’t communicate well, the reader will form an opinion of you and your work.
It doesn’t matter if you have the best intentions. If you bore us, or use weak sentences, we’ll assume the rest of your work carries the same message.
Don’t let your writing give the wrong message about your business. Implement these tips today and turn your writing around.
Stop Overusing ‘That’
We overuse that in our daily speech. But speech isn’t writing. Even the lost conversational writing styles must differentiate themselves from actual speech.
- Instead of writing ‘It’s important that we all band-together,’ write ‘It’s important we band together.
- Instead of writing ‘I heard that we should drink more water,’ write ‘I heard we should drink water.’
In most cases you don’t need the that. When you rid your writing of these extra words your writing will be tighter, immediately.
Start With A Bang
Whether you write an article, story, or book, it’s important to hook the reader immediately.
We don’t have time to wonder what your point is.
If you don’t engage us from the beginning we’ll likely scroll to another piece of content. Sometimes you only have a second or two to grab the reader.
The job of the first sentence is to get the second sentence read. The job of the second sentence is to get the third read.
Think of your writing like a greased chute, carefully guiding the reader to the end.
Engage the reader’s emotions and senses. It doesn’t matter if your write fiction or nonfiction. It’s the writer’s job to engage the reader, not the reader’s job to slog-through bad writing.
Avoid Excess Exposition
Exposition is the writing term for describing the scene to the reader. This is especially important with fiction.
While it might feel good to describe the way someone looks, or every decoration and detail in a room, if you go overboard you’re bound to bore the reader.
I like to use the rule: if the expiation doesn’t propel the story forward, or add to the context of the writing, cut it.
Your reader is intelligent.
Let your reader do some of the work and imagine the scene. Not every detail matters.
Does the Apple have to be red? Can you write ‘apple’ and let the reader’s mind choose?
Watch The Justs
Like that, we love to use the word just in our daily speech. Just takes the harshness out of a declarative statement, but is also takes the strength from it.
While just might feel good if you’re teenager asking for car keys (“I just need the car for an hour, Dad!”), use it sparingly if you’re not writing dialogue.
- Instead of ‘May I have just a minute of your time?’, write ‘May I have a minute of your time?’
- Instead of ‘Three weeks’ practice just isn’t enough,’ write ‘Three weeks’ practice isn’t enough.’
Avoid Passive Voice
You’ve heard this before, but passive voice removes strength from you writing. Sometimes writers choose a passive statement deliberately, but you’ve got to know the rules before you break them.
Try active voice instead.
- Instead of ‘Joe was walking to the library,’ write ‘Joe walked to the library.’
- Instead of ‘Your headlights were left on all night,’ write ‘I left your headlights on all night.’
With active voice, the subject of the sentence performs the action. When you use passive voice the sentences are longer, more vague, and struggle to show direct action.
There are many spoken phrases that repeat themselves:
- She shrugged her shoulders
- I stood up
- I bent over
- Larry nodded his head
- Tonya winked her eye
- Rocco waved his hand
- She shrugged
- I stood
- I bent/stooped
- Larry nodded
- Tonya winked
- Rocco waved
When you watch for redundancy you make for tighter writing. Tighter writing reads faster, is more condensate of the reader’s time, and takes all the duplication from a sentence.
Writing well is more about editing well than the writing itself.
Write to get your point out of your mind, but let the project sit and return to it later.
Re-read your writing with fresh eyes.
It helps to read your writing aloud. When you read aloud, your eyes won’t skip missing words. Sometimes our subconscious will fill in the blanks to keep a sentence going, without us realizing we forgot to type a word.
Rewrite the Beginning and End at Least Five Times
While you can’t avoid a good middle either, the beginning of your writing grabs the reader. The end leaves an impression.
Think of the last book you read. Maybe the book engaged you all the way through, but the writer phoned-in the end.
Instead of a positive feeling from 98% of the text, we leave the book feeling disappointed. This ending problem happens with movies too.
If you must choose where to spend the bulk of your rewriting time, spend it on the beginning and end of your writing.
Use Adverbs Sparingly
Choose a stronger verb instead. Sometimes we need to sprinkle an adverb, but in lost cases their better avoided.
Over-adverb-ing makes your writing sing-song-y, especially with dialogue tags. Show what happened instead of telling us what happened.
New writers tend to use adverbs to beef-up a sentence, but adverbs can make for lazy writing.
Critique the usefulness of your adverbs.
Go for stronger verbs and limit the use of adverbs unless absolutely necessary to describe the action.
Aim Your Content Towards Emotion, Not Logic
This is especially true for content writers trying to sell or persuade the reader to take some kind of action.
We buy based on our emotions. We take most initial actions based on our emotions. We want to know how your content will help us, not what it will do for you.
Later, we’ll justify these decisions with logic. However, if you lead your writing with logic and you haven’t hooked us emotionally, it’s likely we aren’t invested in what you have to say.
Design Your Writing to Be Read
Use short paragraphs, not large over-worded, black blobs of text.
Much of our reading is mobile. We get interrupted. We scroll before reading to make sure your writing is worth our time.
This means you need plenty of white space.
Make your writing easy to consume. If you bore your reader it’s your fault, not theirs. Ease of reading doesn’t mean lessen your message either.
Think in sound bites.
How can you shorten your paragraphs while delivering the same important points you intended?
The purpose of writing is to have it consumed by readers. Give them all the possible tools for
All writers are readers too. Consumer more content from a variety of writers you appreciate.
The more quality writing you consume the better your writing will be. First, we emulate the style of the readers we admire. Later, we meld their style with ours to create a new voice.
When you read more you’ll also keep your writing ‘voice’ more consistent.
We want a fluid experience for the reader, from beginning to end, without the piece feeling as if it were written by three different people.
Read more and you’ll become a better writer.
And don’t just read in your genre (there, I used a ‘just’). When you read outside your niche you bring a fresh perspective into your content.
You might get inspired by a new angle, or new idea, successful in another niche.
I don’t know of any successful writers who aren’t readers first.
The number one strategy to become a better writer is daily writing. Even if you write a few hundred words per day, you’ll get better faster, compared to writers who create in spurts.
As sci-fi author Ray Bradbury once said (about writing an entire short story a week), “No one can write 52 bad short stories in a row.”
If you write daily not only will you develop a prolific level of content, you’ll also become a better writer, faster.
I recommend you practice writing on your phone. There are many powerful writing apps. I wrote an entire novel on my phone.
We have our phones with us at all times.
Everyone is busy, but we all have those moments we can steal throughout the day. Waiting in line. Waiting on the train. Waiting at the dentist. These are all great places to do a little writing, even if you only write a sentence at a time.
The daily habit of writing, coupled with the practice of rewriting and tightening your word use, will make you a better writer faster. Plus, you’ll have ten times more content than you competitors, who struggle to create a new article each month.
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August Birch is an author, email expert, and entrepreneur from Michigan, USA. As a self-appointed guardian of writers and creators, August teaches indies how to make more work that sells and sell more work once it’s made. When he’s not writing or teaching, August carries a pocket knife and shaves his head with a safety razor.