I like to credit my writing in the Tribune to the fantastic editors that work tirelessly behind the scenes to make my stream of words sensible; however, there are a multitude of ways to improve your writing. Here are eight of them.I challenge you to go through your website and look at your content in light of these rules. Fixing any issues may just make a big difference to your conversion rate.
Write When the Urge Hits
If you speak to professional writers, they’ll tell you that they sit down for a full day every day and write those articles. The rest of us aren’t that lucky. I find that I can only really write well when I’m in the mood. Sure, I can write even when I’d rather not be; however, I’m sure it shows when it’s forced.Know when you’re in the zone to write and when you’re not. Choosing to write when you’re up to it will improve most people’s writing considerably.
Simplicity is Key
Just like a new designer who uses ten typefaces on a simple graphic, many new writers believe they need to use complex words to look smart.All that does is make your writing hard to read. It’s okay to use a thesaurus to vary your word usage, but don’t forsake a good, descriptive word for a more difficult one.
If you can take a word out without changing the meaning of the sentence, do it. Take this sentence, for example: what unnecessary words could you possibly remove? Let’s try that again now. Take this sentence, for example: what words could you remove?Notice the difference? Brevity, especially in business communications, is like a breath of fresh air. Readers will appreciate you for it.
Write Concise Sentences
Once you’ve written your piece, read it aloud. You should be able to read a sentence without gasping for breath. In business writing, people prefer shorter sentences. So as well as removing unnecessary words, aim for concise writing.
Keep Paragraphs Compact
People tend to scan websites, rather than read from top to bottom like they do with a newspaper. If you’re writing for the Web, limit the length of your paragraphs, and your readers will keep coming back for more.
Use an Active Voice
This is not about exercising your vocal cords. Active sentence construction uses more direct language than its passive cousin, with stronger verbs that inject energy into the action. Compare the following:The website was built by me.I built the website.In the first sentence, the subject is the website, which is being acted upon; it’s in the passive voice. In the second sentence, I’m the subject that performs the action. Sometimes it’s a case of what needs to be emphasized, but more often the directness of active construction is preferable for clear English. Not only is the sentence now shorter, it’s punchier and reads better.
Spell-check, Spell-check, and then Spell-check
There is nothing worse than seeing spelling errors in business communications. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve watched a presentation with errors in the slides, or lost confidence in a business because their website is littered with misspellings.Sure, use your spell-check software, but beware of homophones, when a correctly spelled word is placed in the wrong spot; for example, two, too, and to. Read it again slowly, and even ask a colleague to read it, if that helps.
Keep on Writing
The more you write, the more you’ll improve. I find that regular writing does more for me than reading books on editing and the like. Warm up by writing a short piece, and then tackle the bigger jobs. Before you know it, you’ll find yourself writing better without the agony.Best of luck adopting these rules, and embracing writing as a challenge not a chore. With a little preparation and forethought, you’ll be crafting better content and correspondence in no time at all!
If you want to read more from Miles, subscribe to our weekly web business newsletter, The SitePoint Tribune.
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