If you are writing anything that shows off your professionalism, it is crucial that the writing is rock-solid. It’s hardly effortless to write an impactful, relevant and creative piece consistently and often. Sometimes, people get into writing ruts and can’t express their thoughts and ideas quickly and clearly.
If you have writer’s block or are looking to improve your writing, whether an email, report, presentation, marketing material, or frankly, anything that matters, follow the quick tips below to get you going. They will help you avoid the bumps and get you back on the road to writing great work.
Follow this mantra, “Don’t be afraid to”:
1. Sound direct and upfront
State the purpose of why you are writing in the first paragraph. Everyone gets bombarded with communications, and the reader will tune your message out unless you tell them quickly why you are writing to them.
Saying what you want in the beginning is critical for web content. People have limited time and will click on an article that says upfront the information they need. Google also uses these opening statements (often called meta descriptions) for ranking web content.
If you are worried about coming across too harshly, it is hard to come across as arrogant in writing if you do not intend to have that tone. But, unfortunately, I run into people who are afraid to state the purpose for fear of offending the audience or coming across as too bold.
There is always the risk that someone will misinterpret what you mean to say in your writing, but unless you are using extreme language, more often than not, common sense will lead you in the direction of not appearing sassy.
Most people find it uncomfortable to ask for what they need. But I find that if you are not upfront with your wants and needs, the conversation never ends. More than likely, the discussion will turn into a pointless back-and-forth conversation without closing in on what you were asking for in the first place.
If you are comfortable being upfront with your costs or needs, go for the upsell. Find a way to build your relationship with the person on the receiving end by offering them not only your rates but an add-on service. If you are not asking for a sale in the first place, go the extra mile by adding something important to the person on the receiving end, such as commenting on their memorable vacation or remembering their child’s name.
At the end of your message, include a call to action (CTA). For example, you can see my CTA at the end of this blog. A CTA tells the reader what they should do at the end of your message. These are usually direct and simple statements that make your purpose clear. Again, all types of communications inundate people every day, so a CTA will help your reader quickly digest what you want them to do for you.
3. Use simple language
Nothing turns people off faster than when people employ de trop articulates as I did in this sentence. Complicated and uncommon words appear to the reader that a writer is unrelatable socially or is trying too hard to look smart.
Readers rarely have time to read an email, let alone look up the words you use in a dictionary. So, make your writing easy to understand. According to the United States Department of Health and Human Services (USDHHS), most Americans read at a 7th-grade level. So, it is okay to use simple and easily understood language in your writing.
4. Eliminate extra words
Conciseness is your best friend when it comes to writing. Find any way to get rid of extra words. Here are a few of the most common superfluous words I encounter in my daily editing:
- “as well as”; change to “and”.
- “really”; delete.
- “I think/ I believe”; delete.
- “in relation to”; change to “relating to”. This three-word combination sneaks up in other forms such as “in consideration of”/”considering”, “in addition to”/ “additionally” or “and”.
- “a lot of”; change to “many” or “much”.
- “in order to”; change to “to”.
- “just”; delete.
5. Change to action verbs
In grade school, you should have learned to avoid passive voice, linking/helping or the “being” verbs (such as can, may, has, be, were). Passive voice makes the writing less interesting and forces the reader to limp along while you present your points.
Action verbs pick up the reading pace and give the impression of a strong writer. Action verbs are critical in resumes, cover letters and profile descriptions.
Here is an example:
Passive voice: “The basic package is reserved for clients under $10,000.”
Active voice: “The basic package includes benefits for clients under $10,000.”
Don’t stress over every instance of passive voice. Aim to change as many as you can, but a few here and there won’t present a problem.
6. Change the layout
Experiment with different ways of presenting your material. Most people now read on mobile devices and have limited reading time. So, delivering the material quickly and easily makes it better for the reader. Some ideas to consider include:
- Larger font sizes
- Keep boldface to a minimum
- Shorter paragraphs
- More white space
- Bulleted lists
- Pictures if appropriate
If you want to make an impression, and if appropriate, try sending a voice message or presenting your ideas and thoughts in a video.
7. Ask for help
Asking someone to look over what you have written is the best way to break away from your writing rut. It is nearly impossible to see your own flaws, and another person’s perspective will usually make your writing stronger.
I work with different writing types, including full-length manuscripts, cover letters, marketing materials and legal documentation. I have seen it all. I can quickly understand the tone and purpose and bring it to the finish line. And, I believe a little extra help should not come with a hefty price.
These quick tips are only a shortlist of things to jumpstart your writing process or help clean up writing that’s finished. There are numerous ways to make writing more impactful that a blog post cannot cover.
One of the best ways to see the “geek to chic” makeover of your writing is for me to get my hands on it. So, I encourage you to contact me with your writing and editing questions. The writing does not have to be pages and pages long. It only has to be important to you.