Monthly Archives: September 2015

21 Expert Writing Tips

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Great content attracts links, builds credibility, and stimulates social media activity. Too many Internet publishers skimp on content because of costs. They forget that the cheapest way to publish great content is to write it themselves.

Some Internet publishers aren’t great writers though. That doesn’t mean they can’t improve. Sincere writing with a few mistakes trumps grammatically correct fluff any day, though. And by paying attention to these 21 expert writing tips, even struggling website publishers can improve their writing.

  1. Use shorter words instead of longer words. Don’t use the word “obtain” when the word “get” is available. Shorter words make your prose easier to understand. Longer words make your writing sound stuff.
  2. Stop trying to sound smart. This is similar to the first tip. “At this point in time” is a fancy way of saying “now.” It has the opposite effect of what you intended. Trying to sound smart just makes your prose boring and unclear.
  3. Avoid adverbs. Most adverbs don’t add much meaning. Not all adverbs end in “-ly” either. The words “very” and “extremely” add no real meaning to an adjective, so leave them out. Want to describe something that’s “very ugly?” Write “hideous” instead. Is someone in your post “running quickly” to catch the train? Try using the word “sprinting” instead.
  4. Avoid the passive voice. Here’s an example of the passive voice: the passive voice should be avoided. Sentences should have a subject that does something to an object. An object that has something done to it by the subject isn’t as direct or as easy to read.
  5. Eliminate the phrases “there is” and “there are” from your writing. For example, “There are multiple ways you can improve your writing” reads much better as “You can improve your writing in multiple ways.”
  6. Write shorter sentences. Longer sentences are fine sometimes. Amateur writers produce lengthy, convoluted sentences, though. Shorter sentences are more direct.
  7. Write shorter paragraphs. Longer paragraphs work great in books. Internet writing is more like newspaper writing, though, and three sentences is long enough for a paragraph on the Internet.
  8. Use fewer “to be” verbs and more “action” verbs. Your sentences need to have someone or something doing something to someone or something else. “Gambling is addictive” isn’t nearly as strong a sentence as “Gambling addiction ruins lives.”
  9. Use stronger nouns and fewer adjectives. This is a corollary to many of the earlier tips in this article. Don’t use two words when one word is just as clear.
  10. Be specific. Vague writing is boring. I see freelancers write long introductory paragraphs about a specific topic, but they start by writing about something so general that it’s almost off-topic. Good writing includes specific facts, dates, and examples. Don’t write that Texas hold’em was invented in the 20th century. Write that poker originated in the early 1900′s and was first played in Las Vegas in 1967.
  11. Have an opinion. Don’t be wishy-washy. People want to read your intelligent analysis, so be direct and give it to them. This takes courage.
  12. Draft first. Then edit. If you spend your time laboring over every word and every sentence, you’ll take twice as long to write your article, and it will be half as good. Write your first draft fast. Then revise it.
  13. Practice. Writing is a skill. The more you write, the more you’ll improve.
  14. Read. Don’t just read crappy writers, either. Read poems. Read classic prose stylists like Hemigway and Vonnegut. For a change of pace, try Faulkner. The more you read, the better you’ll write.
  15. Read out loud. During the editing process, try reading what you’ve written aloud. You’ll find mistakes and clunky phrases and sentences that you might otherwise miss.
  16. Schedule your writing time. Anthony Trollope had the right idea. He wrote every day from 5:30am to 8:30am, and he used a clock to time himself–his goal was to write 250 words every 15 minutes. He became one of the most prolific novelists in history, and he did so while working a full time job at the post office.
  17. Provide examples. Don’t just state your opinion. Give examples. An example can make a point in half the number of words (or less) than an explanation.
  18. Use great headlines. My partner shared some ideas for headlines with me on Friday. I used one of them for this post. You can find plenty of good advice about writing catchy headlines by doing a quick search in DuckDuckGo.
  19. Use lists. They can make it easier to approach a hard subject. Lists are also more likely to be shared via social media channels. Readers enjoy lists.
  20. Get feedback. Develop a thick skin and ask people for constructive feedback on your work. They might give you lousy advice about how to improve your writing, but they might provide you with gold, too. Even if they give you lame advice, they still might share your writing with other people, and everyone wants more exposure.
  21. Consider your audience. When you approach a topic, think about what you’d like to read if you were researching that topic. Then do the research and write the article you’d want to find.

Those are just the first 21 writing tips I could think of. They’re based on my experiences editing the writing of freelance writers.

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