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Improve Writing Skills: Want to Do It In The Next 10 Minutes?

Steven 26 responses Blogging

One of the things about writing is, sometimes if you focus on it too closely or worry about it too much you just make yourself write that much worse. You’re so worried about using just the right words and getting all the punctuation right that you forget you’re just talking to real people. It’s like people who have a fear of public speaking. They can’t get past the idea that everyone in the crowd is staring. Want to improve your writing skills in the next 10 minutes? Quit thinking about it and just write!

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Every new blogger gets “stage fright.” It’s natural. You’re worried about making a good impression and you want to sound like and expert but your words just sound so incredibly dull and boring. Then you get even more stressed trying to come up with colorful words to make your content more interesting. You can drive yourself nuts.

I had this same problem, too, when I first started blogging and here’s what I did to to solve it: Sit down and talk to a friend.

No, I don’t mean you should literally sit down and talk to a friend, although, if that’s possible and it helps then go for it.

What I mean is, when you sit down to write your next blog post, imagine you’re sitting across the table from one very best friend. You both have coffee and a plate of croissants. (Or beer and nachos if that’s more your style!) Now, imagine your friend has just asked you whatever the question is you plan to answer in your blog post today.

Picture yourself having a friendly discussion with your friend as you explain your point of view and answer his questions. What words are you using? Are you using those hoity-toity words you’ve been trying to work into your blog posts? Probably not. And that’s a good thing. Because the best way to “talk” to the readers of your blog is exactly the same way you’d address a close friend during a normal conversation.

Your readers aren’t expecting Shakespeare. In fact, if you think about it, most people hate Shakespeare. They also don’t like being talked down to which is what they feel like when you use those 14-syllable words they don’t understand, so quit trying to work them into your content.

Go read some of your favorite blogs and read some of those high-ranking blogs you find so intimidating. The one thing they’ll all have in common is that they “speak” to you at your level, and they “talk” to you as if you were a friend.

Don’t try to be someone you’re not. Don’t kill yourself trying to write award-winning prose. Focus on spelling words right, using the basic rules of grammar and formatting your text so it’s easy to read. And the – stop worrying about it. Imagine you’re explaining something to your friend and then just sit down and write.

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26 Comments

  1. Sean Mc Namee

    I just started a blog about Content Marketing. This had to be the most intimidating thing I have ever come into contact with. I spent hours and hours designing and developing my theme just so I didn’t have to start typing. For two full weeks I stared at my dashboard. I would write a bit then quickly delete it. “That’s not good enough, that doesn’t sound right”. Eventually my girlfriend persuaded me to just start it.

    I definitely agree with your post. I can only get better I suppose!

    1. Hey Sean! It reminds me a lot of me when I was just getting started :)

      I am glad to see that you finally got started! Keep up the good work.

  2. Kris

    I’ve been blogging for seven years and I’m amazed at how often I get write fright.

    I can feel it in my bones when I’m not writing in my own voice. It does help to imagine I’m talking to a few friends at dinner. I do still obsess over grammar, but it also helps if I wait until the words are on the page to do so!

    1. Hey Kris, thank you for sharing your personal experience with me. Writing as if you are speaking to a friend really does wonders :)

      Regarding grammar, I realized that writing like there is no tomorrow, then editing, is the best way to write long pieces of content. If you stop every 4 words to correct a typo, it disrupts your flow…

  3. Jacob Curtis

    Couldn’t agree more with you! Aside from Blogging I’ve had the same experience with producing videos. I like to term it “Getting too close to your project”

    You start nit-picking everything about it trying to make it perfect and end up wasting more time and energy then you’d like to admit.

    I like your idea of “talking to a friend” even if they are imaginary. I’ll give that a try, may work better than talking to myself. :)

    1. Hey Jacob, another good way to handle your projects better is to work on 2 projects at the same time. It might seem counter-intuitive, but it will help you focus on the core of each project while letting the nitpicking for later.

  4. It amazes me how formal and stuffy some writers can sound. I come across this a lot in my editing work. It’s like they’re trying so hard to get it right technically and sound intelligent that it’s completely unrelateable. I’ll be passing on this article to my writers for sure. We forget sometimes that we don’t have to stick to the rules to prove we know them. I like writers to loosen up their grammar a bit. I’m like the antieditor!

    1. People forget that blogging is not news or journalism. People want you to have a voice they can relate to! Thanks for your comment Kris.

  5. Absolutely. This is the same mistake I did during my early days which seem to have been rectified now.

    My blog is an extension of me. So, should I try to portray myself as someone who I am not? Be real, be human … keep writing.

    1. I couldn’t say it better: be yourself, write in your own voice. Don’t try to please everybody, or you’ll end up pleasing nobody.

  6. Billie Crooks

    Thanks for the tips, I’m new to blogging and the imagery of talking to a friend was very helpful. It works to just sit back and let it flow, sort of like and easy conversation. These tips are easy and I plan to share with others.

    1. Thanks Billy. I’m glad if that was of any help to you! :)

  7. A. Wannabe Travelwriter

    Great tips. I often make the mistake of talking to myself, instead of an imaginary friend. Luckily, a dope slap from the wife-person usually brings me back to “reality.”

    1. Thanks for the comment!

  8. Dawn Abraham

    Brilliant!! Keep it real and Keep it simple. You Rock Steven!! XOXO

    1. Thanks a lot for the positive words Dawn :)

  9. Thanks for the enlightenment. I have always wanted to write as professionally as possible but at times, i found myself sound very boring, just like what you’ve mentioned in this article. You’re right. I’ll just write as if I am talking to a friend. I’m sure it’ll help make my articles more interesting to read. :)

    1. It’s all about practicing on a regular basis, writing almost every day, and your writing will get better over time.

  10. Shelly-ann Roper

    That friendship in writing makes all the difference – happened to me too. When I just started out, I wrote with an academic style. Lets just say, mistakes are there to learn from so they are useful. Then as I started to relax the writing just seems more fluid and real. When ppl are relaxd so will others around them. Thats true in real life contact and its true in writing.

    1. That’s so true… A blog is not a newspaper, you are not just stating facts.

  11. John Obidi

    Great, article, man. I just started my blog and I had the same challenges. It’s one thing to be knowledgeable about a topic and an entirely different matter to be able to articulate that on paper (or on screen). Hopefully, this article should help me out.

    1. Thanks for your comment John! Good luck with your new blog.

  12. Kim Maiers

    Have any of you considered dictating your blog and having a Virtual Assistant transcribe it for you. This way you aren’t losing any creativity to grammer and spelling.

    1. I personally didn’t think of that, but I might consider it in the future. Thanks Kim

  13. Write something you would be proud to show a friend. Difficult? You bet.

  14. Malika Bourne

    I happen to love Shakespeare. I had an extensive vocabulary, however,if I wanted to care for my patients as a nurse, I had to use a vocabulary on their level. My job was to teach, as nurse, not try to impress people how smart I am.
    this is how I try to write my blog; like I am talking face to face with someone who needs the information I have. Experience tells me that they are feeling stressed. I try to put them at ease.
    Now, if only my typing was up to snuff.