There’s so much content out there these days; blogs, articles, reviews, advice, and that’s before we even get to the offline stuff such as books, magazines, newspapers! Whether you’re writing on or offline, be it an email or a letter, your main aim should always be to write clearly, concisely and directly to the needs of those reading.
Writing can be daunting for a lot of people, especially for those who don’t write on a regular basis. The good news is that it’s easy to polish up on your writing skills and improve the content you put out there for the world to read.
Become a bookworm, or a blogworm
The first step to improving your own writing, is to read other people’s writing. The more you read, the more you take in. You can learn a lot from reading a variety of other pieces. After all, for many of us, we may not have had any lessons on spelling, grammar or English for that matter, since our school days. It’s easy to forget things, so familiarise yourself by reading plenty again and getting to know words and grammar. Pick up that book you didn’t finish off on your last holiday and read a chapter. Take in the style of writing, the words, the punctuation. It’s even an excuse to sit and read a magazine, or some blogs online. All of these will use different writing styles, so take note and get some inspiration from a range of sources. The key is to read as much as you can, as often as you can. You won’t become an amazing writer just by reading of course, but it’s a great place to start. It’s also useful to have a notebook with you so you can jot down any inspiration you find too – but make sure you aren’t just copying other people’s work. No one will want to read your stuff if its just a copy of something you’ve read elsewhere online.
Practice makes perfect
Before you dive in to writing your first ‘proper’ piece, why not take some time to write a few other smaller bits just to get the creative juices flowing and to get some practice in. The more you write, the easier you will hopefully find it. Like anything, you need to work on it to improve yourself. Obviously, if you’re practising to write a whole book you may need get used to writing longer pieces quite early on, but for blogs or articles why not try a couple of hundred words a few times a week to get you going. Before you know it, you’ll be a pro, sort of.
Don’t get distracted
Yes it’s hard to do, but don’t let Twitter distract you when writing. Make sure you’re ‘in the zone’. Turn off the TV or radio, don’t have any social media accounts on the go in the background and definitely don’t have your emails popping up in the corner of the screen. Just focus on writing and get lost in the words. It’ll be easier to get some inspiration this way instead of accidentally singing along to your favourite song when it comes on and forgetting your train of thought. Make a writing haven; a clutter free desk or space where you can go and put pen to paper with zero distraction.
Remember your audience
Why are you writing what you’re writing? Who is it for? What gave you the initial urge to sit down as put this together? It’s easy to get carried away and lost in words when writing something, but it’s important to remember the reason you’re doing the piece and who will be reading it at the end. Think of your target readers as your customers; what is it they want? What do you have to offer them and why will they choose to read what you’ve spent hours writing? Make it relevant to them, even if this means doing some research before putting pen (or cursor) to paper. After all, you don’t want to put your heart and soul in to something you think is great, for no one to then read it.
Variety is the spice of life
Vary the lengths of the sentence, and the structures of the sentence. No-one wants to read lots of really, really long sentences. Do they? Use longer and shorter sentences to make sure you aren’t boring the reader; you don’t want them to get lost mid-way through. Yes there are times where longer sentences will be needed, but having a variation of these with shorter, more to the point sentences, is a better way of writing. Also use different structures; use questions, use one word sentences, change your punctuation and mix things up. Keep your readers engaged throughout.
Make it clutter free
Your first draft definitely won’t be the final one. It’s easy to get carried away writing lots of information, but it’s important that it’s relevant to the piece. Don’t ‘waffle’ as I would say. Read your copy again and again, each time cutting out any unnecessary words. Be to the point and be concise.
Use keywords and punchy headlines
Use ‘power’ words. There’s so much research out there explaining that using certain words really does make a difference, especially if you’re trying to sell something. They’re just as important though in creative writing. One of the most powerful words, honestly, is ‘you’. This word personally involves your reader, involving them in the conversation. Its best used early on in your copy so they feel involved straight away. The other word to think about using is ‘because’. Why? Just because. No, really it is a powerful word. It helps your credibility. Being specific about something and backing it up with a ‘reason why’ really does work. The easiest way to give a reason why, is to use the word because.
Headlines are important too. You click on a headline because something in that one sentence appeals to you. My last blog was on writing good headlines, so take a look at that for some tips and inspiration by clicking here.
Have some help at hand
It’s easy to rely on your spellcheckers when writing in a Word document, and even in most web browsers now, but don’t overlook the good old dictionary and thesaurus. Have one to hand and flick through when looking for something; it might even help you spot another word you can incorporate in to your piece, which Word can’t do for you.
Read it once, read it twice and again for good luck
It’s easy to miss things when you’re so close to something you’re working on. We overlook them; assuming that what we’ve written is correct. In fact, a lot of the time when we read our own work, we don’t read it at all or take it in. Our eyes skim over but we don’t take it in. Make sure you read it thoroughly rather than just looking over it. Even better than that; pass it on to a colleague or a friend to read it for you too, to check for anything you’ve missed yourself. You might have a blaring spelling mistake in there, or a sentence that makes no sense at all.
Hopefully these tips will get you on your way to writing your next masterpiece, or perhaps your next blog at least.