August 1, 2016
We have all heard the typical do’s and don’ts of writing:
- DO: Include graphics.
- DON’T: Use clichés.
- DO: Have a consistent voice.
- DON’T: Write in the passive voice.
While these are all valuable pieces of advice, we have five of the more fundamental, yet overlooked tip to improve your writing. Whether you are a novice or a professional writer, following these tips will benefit your writing.
- Start in the middle.
Ernest Hemingway, when asked what was the most frightening thing he ever encountered, answered: “A blank sheet of paper.” There are times when words come easily and times when we it feels like our brain is empty. Don’t let that discourage you.
Get some words on the page—it doesn’t matter if you start in the beginning, middle, or end of your piece. Don’t worry about perfecting your writing at this stage. Once you begin, your main points will reveal themselves buried a few paragraphs down.
- Stop being wishy-washy.
When you’re done writing, go back through your copy looking for weak words and phrases. Delete any attempts you made to justify what you are saying. You are allowed to have an opinion. These are some other common offenders:
- In my opinion
- I believe
- I think
These act as unnecessary fluff, and they weaken your voice. Be confident and use decisive language.
- Read it out loud.
Make sure your writing sounds natural. The goal is to write the way people talk in everyday conversation. Don’t try to get fancy with your vocabulary. For example, don’t write:
- Accordingly if you mean so
- Commence if you mean start
- Utilize if you mean use
- In close proximity to if you mean near
- Facilitate if you mean help
Good writing is simple, clear and concise. As Mark Twain said, “Don’t use a five-dollar word when a fifty-cent word will do.”
- Walk away.
There is a difference between struggling to make your point and fixating on minor details to the point of actually making your writing worse
When you’re stuck down this rabbit hole — you have written way more than you need, your sentences aren’t making sense, and your words are jumbled — there’s only one thing you can do: Take a break. Focus on something else. Do anything except write. Step away from your computer, and return after some time has passed.
- For the love of God, get an editor.
Yes, you need an editor. Why? It is so much more difficult to edit a piece of writing that you are familiar with. You need a new set of eyes, a fresh perspective on your work.
An editor is worth your while. Don’t just believe me, take it from these professional writers:
“Pay for an editor. Not just to fix the typos, but to actually make your ramblings into something that people will choose to read.” —Seth Godin
“Editing turns something great into something even greater.” —Neil Patel
“Use an editor. Editors are not optional. Period.” —Ann Handley