Writing Improvement: 5 Easy Steps to Get Better Today

Steven8 responsesBlogging

Let’s face it, blogging’s all about the writing. You don’t have to be an award-winning author. You don’t even have to able to define the word “prose.” But you do need to get comfortable with the idea of putting your thoughts onto “paper” because you’re going to be doing it for a very long time. Here are five killer ways to improve your writing and make you feel more comfortable right now.

1. Eliminate unnecessary words

I’ve mentioned before that Stephen King is one of my favorite authors and I got this tip from his book, “On Writing.” I figure if it works for Stephen King and he’s willing to share it, we should probably listen up.

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When you’re done writing your post go back through it and remove all unnecessary words, words that add nothing of value and only distract the reader from your message. Remember, online readers only absorb about 240 out of every 400 words, so it’s important to make every word count.

2. Use active voice

This goes hand-in-hand with using the words “I” and “You” because it sounds more conversational. Active voice is the voice you use when you’re speaking with a friend, and it shows, well, action, and that’s what helps keep your reader on the page. For example, which sentence would you rather read:

  • Passive voice: The blog was created by Bobby and launched yesterday afternoon.
  • Active voice: Bobby created a new blog and he launched it yesterday afternoon.

The active voice not only sounds more natural, it’s easier to read.

3. Eliminate all adverbs

Adverbs are words used to modify verbs. In almost all cases you can eliminate adverbs and use a different verb to make your message more meaningful.

For example, instead of saying, “The dog ran very fast across the open field”, you’d convey the same message with “The dog ran fast across the open field.” Fast is fast and there’s no adverb you can use that makes it any faster.

However, if you said, “The dog ran swiftly across the open field” or “The dog ran as if all the demons of Hell were nipping at his heels as he raced across the open field” your reader gets a stronger visual impression from your language.

4. Read it out loud

It might sound silly but sometimes it helps to read your posts out loud before you publish. At the very least you’ll discover spelling and grammar errors you might have missed. But your words can sound different when you’re reading them in your head as opposed to reading them out loud. Give it a try and hear what your readers hear when they read your posts.

5. Mix it up

You learn all kinds of grammar rules in high school. The proper way to construct a sentence and the proper way to construct a paragraph. Pick up a book by your favorite author and chances are he’s tossed most of these rules aside in favor of writing a story that sounds like it was written by, and for, real human beings.

When you’re speaking with your friends you don’t worry about whether or not you put the topic sentence at the beginning of your paragraph and followed it up with three properly constructed sentences for explanation. Sometimes you just blurt out words.

Sometimes they make no sense.

Sometimes they’re not even words!

Quit worrying so much about all those rules and just have a normal, engaging conversation with your readers. That’s the easiest rule to follow if you want to improve your writing skills.

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8 Comments

  1. Even when you think some writing you’ve done is perfect, there is always room for improvement, right? Thanks for the tips! I’m always trying to improve my writing, and blogging is sure making me focus on it.

  2. Ryan Biddulph

    Hi Steven,

    Using active voices snares your reader’s attention quickly. I learn this more each day, as I release the passive writing habit. Smart tips here. If you are eager to improve your writing style be a diligent blogger. Practice.

    Write in a conversational tone. Maintain present tense. Do this and you are golden. Your low energy writing habits arise. Release them, and read your posts out loud. All awkward wording jumps out at you.

    Be patient. Your writing skills improve over time. Practice. OK Steven, you convinced me to write another blog post now buddy ;)

    Thanks,

    Ryan

  3. Arwad Khalifeh

    Hi Steven,

    Thanks so much for this informative and interesting read. I write exactly the way you mentioned above, and my sister thought it wasn’t appropriate, but I’m so happy that I’ve read your blog which confirmed that the way I write is actually the “good” way of writing :)

  4. Annie Keeling

    My fav – get rid of unnecessary words! That’s all I have to say to that. :)

  5. I’m with @Annie. Taking out unneeded words is a great idea I need to work on a little more. Thanks for the great post.

    I always write my post in three steps. I write it separate from WordPress (word, google docs, oneNote). Then I copy it to WordPress a couple days later. Usually I change a lot because the post isn’t going where I originally wanted it to. Lastly I look at it the day it’s scheduled to go live. By then I’ve found any mistakes and make any changes I feel appropriate. It takes longer but the rewards are worth it.

  6. Sherman Smith

    The active and passive voice really stuck out to me. I’ve heard about this but didn’t really know the difference and how I would use it in writing.

    Also taking out adverbs is new to me too. It makes sense that people don’t care how “fast” your going. They just need to know that you went either fast or slow. Thanks for sharing these great tips!

  7. K.singh - Web Designer, London

    And lets not forget the power of images. I generally try to stick to the basic rule of including at least one image per article. Of course the image should be relevant. In addition to making your posts more appealing, it also increases the potential of being shared on Pinterest.

  8. Sharon Roth

    Thanks, Steven. One would think an English teacher would be a great blogger, right? No! I am and I’m not! I like all your tips. My bad habit is adverbs. Love the picture you painted of the demons of hell nipping at the dog’s heels! I’m such a stickler, I would never have used that because dogs don’t have heels! But it worked for you and for me! I’m actually an inchoate blogger! I learned this word yesterday (day#2 of my blogging life). Just beginning, partially formed, imperfect!

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