5 Easy tips for instantly improving your writing (and why that’s important)

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As content manager here at Millo, I see a lot of writing.

  • I help guest authors improve their writing to the Millo standard.
  • I work with regular authors on bettering their existing style.
  • And I read a lot of advice telling entrepreneurs (and creatives, and the general workforce) they don’t need to be good writers to succeed.

I’ll agree you don’t have to be amazing, but I’ll also argue that poor writing skills hurt your chances of success. (And isn’t the deck stacked against us enough some days?!)

And no matter how amazingly well (or not) you write, you can always improve.

Why does that matter?

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Better writing allows you to do things like:

  • Hone your marketing message
  • Stop paying for copywriting services
  • Publish guest posts for increased exposure
  • Communicate exactly what you mean to say
  • Make readers want to read your text (a hard task these days!)
  • Educate others and become a trusted expert

But when you think about improving your writing, you think of what a MASSIVE undertaking it is, don’t you? You don’t even know where to start, and with all of the other things you have to do each day, realistically, it’s not even on the list anymore.

Am I right?

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What if I told you I can improve your writing today? Like right now, forever, going forward.

And you don’t have to memorize what an adverb is, or when (or not) to use a preposition. 🙂

Here’s how:

1) Show me, don’t tell me

Which one is more interesting?

“Her long hair is red.”

“Fire sprouted from her scalp in flowing auburns and oranges, kissing her elbows as she whirled around the room.”

This example might be a little over-dramatic for business purposes, but no matter what you’re writing, paint a picture in their minds.

Be expressive. Evoke emotion. Make your audience feel exactly how you want them to feel.

Pro tip! Not sure if you’re showing or telling?

Use this little test: if you can act it out / perform it, you’re well on your way.

  • Can you “is” something? No.
  • Can you “explode” (or “explode” something)? Oh yes.

2) Be concise

Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.

– Antoine de Saint-Exupery, French writer

Nobody reads anything carefully anymore, especially online. Chances are you’re even skimming / scanning this post.

That’s why it’s important to get to the point quickly and shut up. 😉

Here’s how:

  • Avoid long sentences
  • Cut out all the fluff you used to use to make your college essays longer “In order to,” “with the expectation that,” “in the event that,” in the process of,” etc.
  • Jam-pack your sentences with information. Make each word important.

3) Format text well

Sometimes it’s not the message, it’s the delivery.

Make your content as easy and painless to read as possible. Your audience should be able to quickly identify key points and important information.

Try these tips:

  • Break up long paragraphs (if I see a wall of text, I’m out. How about you?)
  • Create enough leading (or line-height, in CSS)
  • Use bullet points for lists just like this
  • Select an easy-to-read font
  • Judiciously use bold and italic (remember, if everyone is screaming, no one is)
  • Justify text appropriately (talking to you, centered paragraph!)
  • Create enough contrast if you’re getting creative with colors
  • Use short “milestone” sub-headers

This way, your skimmers don’t have to read your anecdotal nonsense / intros / conclusions, but they still get the “meat” of your content.

And whenever you get bummed that no one is really reading your content, remember: the other option is they skip your writing altogether.

4) Get rid of “that”

That falls flat.

– Mr. Dahlberg, 11th grade English

It’s like an unexpected speed bump in your reading, and 9 times out of 10, removing “that” from your sentence will improve it.

5) Be suggestive, not pushy

When you’re sharing advice or marketing, this can be a very fine distinction. You want to guide your reader without making them feel like their mother is telling them what to do. 😀

So how do you tell someone to do something without telling them to do something? Remove “you” from the sentence as well as demanding words like “need” and “must.”

  • So go from “You need to learn Photoshop.” to “Learn Photoshop.”
  • And “You must update your website.” to “Update your website.”

See how the second version doesn’t feel like someone is wagging their finger at you or singling you out from the crowd?

6) Remove Captain Obvious

How many blog posts about web design have you read that start out with something like: “The internet is an essential part of business these days.”

Or “In this digital age, an online presence is key to your success.”

YOU DON’T SAY?!

Be more creative to captivate your audience by using examples of problems or solutions pertinent to their world.

7) Avoid the Curse of Knowledge

Don’t make the mistake of assuming your readership can jump from point A to point B.

If you’re the expert giving advice, most of the time they can’t. That’s why they’re seeking your advice!

Statements like, “The benefits of good project management software are obvious.” are not really obvious at all.

Refer back to tip #1: show me what the benefits are, don’t tell me benefits exist.

And if it is that obvious, refer to tip #6. 🙂

What can you add?

Are you a fellow copywriter or wordsmith with a simple writing tip to add? Share your “quick fix” that instantly improved your writing. I’d love to hear from you.

Want more on better writing and communication?

Read more here:

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About April Greer

April is the Director of Projects at Reliable PSD, a design-to-code company for designers, by designers. She’s the glue keeping everything together, organized, and right on time, and giving everyone a fantastic experience while she does it.

 

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Comments

  1. Obie Akpachiogu says:

    Good read!

  2. Excellent advice. My achilles heel is “is.” Bah! See?! Another one I am really guilty of is (oh brother, there I go again) I/I’m/I’ve etc. It just ends up sound like I want to talk about myself more than the project itself. I’m really not that ego-centric. I hope.

  3. That’s some really good advice. My issue has always been length of sentences. Whenever I see long sentences creep up, I consciously shift to a “journalism” mindset– a remnant from my college years. I also imagine whatever I’m writing appearing in newsprint. The column inches always help visualize if sentences or paragraphs are getting out of hand.

    • Great tip on envisioning it in newsprint! 🙂

      Long sentences, especially in small spaces, really feel cumbersome. This is why I occasionally intentionally break the “never start a sentence with ‘and’ or ‘because'” rule from elementary. Because I want to break up long sentences but have the same effect.

  4. Stephen Mayall says:

    Good tips, writing is such an important yet underestimated skill in business and marketing. I came into marketing a little later in life as such writing wasn’t something I excelled in. Then I worked for a creative agency as there marketing director and worked with a couple of very talented writing, who taught me a lot. Some of the best advice I’ve had in relation to improving your writing skills is to – read more. And so now I make sure I read blogs such as Copyblogger, Boost Blog Traffic etc on a regular basis.

  5. Deborah Tolley says:

    April, thanks for these outstanding tips! “Never stop learning” – it’s my motto. So I will try to get rid of my writing mistakes. Besides, in content marketing original content is a king.

    Therefore, using a duplicate content checker as Unplag.com or ContentRescue.org is logically based tip from me.

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  1. […] 5 Easy tips for instantly improving your writing (and why that's important) I’ll agree you don’t have to be amazing, but I’ll also argue that poor writing skills hurt your chances of success. (And isn’t the deck stacked against us enough some days?!) […]

  2. […] 5 Easy tips for instantly improving your writing (and why that’s important) I’ll agree you don’t have to be amazing, but I’ll also argue that poor writing skills hurt your chances of success. (And isn’t the deck stacked against us enough some days?!) […]

  3. […] 5 Easy tips for instantly improving your writing (and why that’s important) I’ll agree you don’t have to be amazing, but I’ll also argue that poor writing skills hurt your chances of success. (And isn’t the deck stacked against us enough some days?!) […]

  4. […] 5 Easy tips for instantly improving your writing (and why that’s important) I’ll agree you don’t have to be amazing, but I’ll also argue that poor writing skills hurt your chances of success. (And isn’t the deck stacked against us enough some days?!) […]

  5. […] 5 Easy tips for instantly improving your writing (and why that’s important) I’ll agree you don’t have to be amazing, but I’ll also argue that poor writing skills hurt your chances of success. (And isn’t the deck stacked against us enough some days?!) […]