Here are five easy ways to improve your writing. When most people write, content becomes the key focus, whereas style, usage, and presentation— the very tools that prove necessary to clearly and effectively convey the content— are often forgotten. When a reader is distracted by poorly written, disorganized writing, the purpose and message of the content unfortunately lose the spotlight. If the reader can’t easily understand and follow what you write, the action you were hoping to solicit through your writing will never be accomplished.
With a little practice and attention to these details, they will become automatic whenever you write, without any extra thought or time spent.
Print the information below and use it as a simple checklist to be sure you are presenting yourself in the best way possible when writing for business, professional, or personal endeavors.
“Five Easy Ways to Improve Your Writing” Checklist:
- Avoid passive voice: To avoid passive voice, be sure to limit your use of “to be” (and other linking verbs), including am, is, are, was, were, be, being, and been. Always have the subject completing an action rather than passively receiving an action and be specific as possible when choosing your verb. For example, instead of “Dan is getting a promotion,” start with who is giving him the promotion, so the sentence reads, “Management will promote Dan next month due to his successful research on recycling trends in the workplace.” This is a hard habit to break; however, it is well worth the effort because it instantly strengthens your writing. Notice, the example is specific because it also explains why, which leads to the next point.
- Say what you mean: Be direct and clear in your message. Be sure to make important, essential points first and don’t get lost in unrelated details; however, relevant factors are important to include. Readers like to know the basics: who, what, where, when, why, and how, so pay attention to providing answers to these. Always think to yourself, in this order, what am I trying to say, what do I want the reader to do, have I answered any anticipated questions the reader may have, and am I staying focused on my main point or idea throughout my writing? You must first know your own intention. Everything you include in your writing needs to support, clarify, and/or define your main idea, otherwise leave it out of the text.
- Choose word upgrades: Word choice is essential for improving your writing, as it lends credibility to you as a writer, grabs the reader’s attention, and infuses specific meaning into your message. A savvy writer uses a variety of words, avoiding repetition and basic words that are overused in general— sometimes, so much so that they have lost their meaning. For example, replace “good” with a more specific word choice, such as “superior,” “exceptional,” “valuable,” or “stupendous,” depending on the meaning you are conveying. Let the thesaurus become your new best friend. Whether you prefer a book thesaurus, a website (www.thesaurus.com is a good choice) or a phone or tablet application (again, thesaurus.com works well), the point is to actually use it. In time, this is another area of writing that improves as you go. You will get accustomed to using better word choices and these “word upgrades” will become part of your language, even when you speak (an added bonus).
- Vary your sentences: A reader can quickly lose interest in your writing if all of your sentences are long and hard to follow or short and choppy. The solution is to weave a variety of short and long/ compound sentences throughout your piece so it is easier and more interesting to read. Split run-on sentences into a couple of shorter sentences, and remember to connect short, choppy sentences using conjunctions, semi-colons, and colons. An online search on sentence construction or punctuating sentences should help with this area , and there are also many printed resources available at any bookstore. Also, start each sentence differently.
- Clean it up with COPS (capitalization, organization, punctuation, and spelling): This translates into careful proofreading and making sure you use a resource to check the rules of grammar and punctuation, when necessary. There is a wide variety of print and online materials for checking grammar, usage, spelling, capitalization, and punctuation. Just do an online search for any of these topics and choose your favorite. Also, your writing should be well-organized and flow in a logical order that is easy for the reader to navigate without getting lost. Often, there are discrepancies and exceptions to the rules
from resource to resource, but always remain consistent in your writing.
Remember, All About Writing is here to help with the writing process, from initial brainstorming all the way through to editing and final proofreading. We offer a free, half-hour, in-person consultation in the Howell area to get your project started. All About Writing also provides writing tutoring for all ages to help clients develop solid, independent writing and editing skills.
Previous blogs by All About Writing under the categories “Helpful Writing Tips” and “Business & Professional Writing” extend further assistance with your writing. Be sure to take a moment to read through the topics. I am always available to answer any questions you may have, so reach out, if you like.
Learn more about All About Writing and owner Christa Riddle at www.allaboutwritingconsulting.com. Remember, with All About Writing, writing help is just a call or click away! Call us today to schedule your free consultation and get your project underway. We are here to assist with any phase of the project.
-by Christa Riddle