Writers today have been allowed, maybe even encouraged by some mediums, to throw out their style guides and grammar books. When it comes to today’s content, originality is often considered more important than good writing.
Still, it’s important to deliver content that’s effective and will resonate with readers. Here are nine simple best practices that will help make your writing better at a time when rules are made to be broken.
Nine Tips to Make Your Writing Better
1. Use a Direct and Powerful Tone
No matter the personality of your brand, your writing should always be strong and deliberate. You can do this by eliminating “weak” words like:
Using these “hedge” or “qualifying” words minimizes the impact of your content. It takes what you’re saying and makes it seem like you’re backing away from it. Have confidence in your writing and what you’re communicating. Don’t qualify it because it only makes readers feel less confident about you and your content.
2. Cut the Fluff
Much of today’s content gets read on a smartphone. That’s why it’s important to keep your writing style tight. It’s hard to read long paragraphs on small screens. Most people don’t have the patience to scroll endlessly. Add to this the fact that people’s attention spans are getting shorter and shorter all the time.
Challenge yourself to cut unnecessary words and ideas from your copy. Keep paragraphs short. Doing so will encourage people to read your content, and keep reading all the way through to the end.
3. Keep Calls to Action Simple
If you’re writing content, you want people to act on it. Keep your calls to action simple, direct, and concise. It will make them more powerful and compelling and get people to click on them. View This Video is far more compelling than You Must Check Out This Video Now.
4. Go Negative
In most cases, when you’re writing, staying positive is the best approach. Negativity turns people off. However, that’s not the case when it comes to getting people to act. In most circumstances, Don’t Miss This Video will get more clicks than View This Video. FOMO or fear of missing out is a powerful motivator.
5. Read Your Own Writing
Or have someone — or automated voice software — read it to you.
If you’re not willing to read your own writing, how can you expect others to?
Always make it a point to somehow listen to what you’ve written. It will help you identify awkward passages, language, and constructions you may not be aware of. Keep revising your writing until you can read it out loud clearly and confidently.
6. Explain the Value of Taking Action
Learn More and Check it Out are lazy calls to action.
The first thing you should ask yourself when you write these things is: Why?
After all, it’s the question your readers are going to ask.
Instead, come up with a call to action that explains the value of taking the action and what readers can expect when they do. Good examples of benefit focused calls to action:
Don’t miss out on earning more revenue
Get started losing weight
Click to add $500 per week in income.
Aren’t those promises you’d act on?
7. Write as You Speak
When you talk, you’re probably pretty interesting and engaging.
So why should you allow your writing to become boring?
It’s a common issue with many writers. They’re eloquent and charming in person, but become stilted and boring on the page or screen. They use:
Long sentences with no breaks.
Limited punctuation guidance.
Use different tones and emphasize things when you write, as you do when you speak. Use italics, bolded text, ellipses, parenthesis, dashes and more to shake things up and guide the eye. Take time to find the right balance. You don’t want to overdo it and leave readers feeling confused or anxious. Too MANY WORDS IN ALL CAPS or exclamation points (!!!) may make readers think you’re yelling at them and it frankly looks unprofessional.
8. Get the Simple Stuff Right
Always spell check your work. There’s no reason to publish anything that has misspellings. They’re too easy to catch.
Make it a point to have everything you write proofread by two different people. This will help ensure grammar, punctuation and other errors get caught. Plus two fresh perspectives will help ensure everything you’re trying to communicate is understandable to others. Make sure links are checked that they connect to the correct websites and pages as part of the proofreading process.
9. Always Think Like Your Reader
Empathy is an important character trait for writers. You’re not writing for yourself. You’re writing for your readers. It’s important to be able to put yourself in their position.
Before you write something, take time to read a persona or profile of the people you’re writing for. Ask questions about them if anything’s unclear. If you’re not sure whether a piece you’re writing will resonate with readers, ask someone similar to them to review it.
Before you publish anything, go back to the persona or profile. Read it, then review your copy. Make sure the completed piece will speak to them. This final step will help ensure your content will meet their expectations and prove to be a valuable read.
In the end, rule breaking content is often the best content. However, applying a few simple best practices could make it even better.