Every writer worth his or her salt always wants to know how to write better.
Writing is a skill that few possess and many more don’t use to its fullest capacity. It is an art that requires finesse and passion for it to flow naturally and seamlessly.
Like with any other art form, a few tips and pointers will ensure the end product is flawless, a great piece. Here are 14 of them.
1. Get Rid of the Comma Splice
This is when you use a comma to split a sentence into two or more parts yet it’s unnecessary. It comes almost automatically because most of the times that is how you talk. Cut it out and break the sentence into two. You can also add a conjunction like and, or, but.
Work should be something you enjoy, your employer should make it possible.
Work should be something you enjoy. Your employer should make it possible.
Work should be something you enjoy and your employer should make it possible.
Work should be something you enjoy; your employer should make it possible.
2. Use Strong Verbs
I may be walking very fast but the one who is walking briskly seems to be doing a better job, no?
You can’t avoid verbs but there is always a better option you can replace it with to capture your audience. Always go for a verb that will bring your sentences to life.
For example, consider these two sentences:
He ran to the shop to buy a new pen.
He raced to the shop to buy a new pen.
In this case, raced is a stronger verb than ran, making the second sentence sound better than the first one.
After completing a write-up, read through again to insert some strong verbs and you’ll soon know how to write better.
3. Know How to Write Better by Avoiding ‘that’
Many use ‘that’ a lot in sentences such that there is no telling that that is the real story. Get it? It may be inevitable sometimes but if you can eliminate ‘that’ and the sentence still makes sense, get rid of it.
The way my mother talked to me wasn’t nice.
The way that my mother talked to me wasn’t nice.
4. Avoid Meta-comments
Meta-comments are those words you include when you stop your current train of thought to comment about what you will say next, but still being vague about it.
It’s a waste of words unless you are using it to give structure to your content. It, however, proves very useful when doing a long piece.
You can throw in a phrase such as ‘here is what it looks like on the inside’ to build your readers’ anticipation.
5. Keep it Fluff-less
The easiest way to learn how to write better is to avoid fluff.
Adding unnecessary words to fill up the word count will not add value to your piece. You don’t always have to be wordy to pass your message across either.
Phrases like in order to and ‘in the process of’ just aren’t necessary. Add to that words like very, absolutely, actually, honestly and all those you can think of that end with –y.
6. Watch Your Sentence and Paragraph Length
Reading begins when you first set eyes on the piece, not when you take note of the first word. Long paragraphs immediately get you exhausted and you find yourself already prejudiced against the piece.
Keep your sentences short but when you need to say more don’t hold back. This applies to paragraphs too. Make them about five sentences long.
7. Maintain Simplicity
Miners are prone to fortuitous occurrences at work. They must adhere to austere regulations to ensure their safety.
Did you have to get a dictionary to understand that? Leaving your reader feeling dumb as opposed to informed is bad practice and detrimental to your search for a bigger audience.
Use words that aren’t too big and if you can, always explain any jargon you use. But why not just use the explanation and leave the jargon alone?
Show your readers that you know how to write better by using simple English.
8. Ditch the Cliché
Some phrases have been used since you were a child and they are now worn out. Take for example a tip of the iceberg, have your cake and eat it too, putting pen to paper (or was it pen to ink?) and but, at the end of the day…. As much as everyone needs you to think outside the box (that’s another one to avoid), keep common phrases far from your text.
It was silence you could hear the pin drop (another stale one). Why not try something like it was as silent as a nun’s prayer. Now that’s interesting, isn’t it?
They make you sound like you’re not up-to-date. We’ve all heard about such clichés a million times by now.
Rule number one, if you would like to know how to write better: ditch the clichés.
9. Break it Down
We mentioned shorter paragraphs but as long as the writing is continuous your mind seems to tell you that it’s going to be long and boring. Remedy this with relevant subheadings.
Have at least three in a 500-word article (and do the math for longer articles!) Use numbered lists and bullets too whenever you can.
10. Have a Working Title and an Outline First and Then a Killer, Final Title
What direction will your article take? You need to decide before you start writing. Once you have an idea write down a relevant title.
Then write an outline of what you will cover in each of the segments. This allows you to have a good flow of ideas and shows your maturity as a writer.
You can spice up the title later if need be.
Titles have the power to bring more readers instantly or chase them away. A title should show promise in the article so ensure it is inviting. This will pique reader’s interest, have them read to the end and maybe even drop a few comments.
11. Let Your Content Be Useful and Relevant To Your Audience
Your purpose as a writer should be to reach and satisfy your reader. Whatever you are writing about should be useful to your audience.
If, for example, the title of this piece remained the same but there was minimal information about how to improve your writing. How would that benefit you as the reader?
Whether you set out to entertain or educate doesn’t matter. Just make sure you do it. This calls for research and major sifting skills because not everything you find on the internet is useful.
12. Keep Your Grammar in Check
As a writer and a frequent user of the English language, the first thing I notice – even when someone is speaking – is bad grammar. Your reader struggles to understand what you are trying to say and they lose interest pretty fast if your grammar isn’t correct. In an instant, you will have lost a potential client because they felt like they had to do double the work.
Your audience will also take you less seriously and may not bother to read your work to the end next time. Remember to always keep your grammar in check. You can use special tools like Grammarly to help you out just in case the spell check on your word processor misses something.
13. Use the Correct Punctuation
Commas, question marks, and apostrophes are among the punctuation marks that are misused. A small change makes a huge difference with punctuation marks. Be sure about what meaning you want to pass across and use punctuation marks appropriately.
14. Use Contractions
What is a contraction?
It’s a combination of two words, usually a noun and a verb, connected with an apostrophe to form one, shortened word.
While English teachers tell us never to use contractions in formal writing, the truth is the English language has been using contractions for 1,400 years. Besides, they’re also used in scholarly content.
So, if you think contractions are a twenty-first-century invention, alluding that the English language is going down to the dogs, you couldn’t be more wrong.
What are examples of contractions I should be using? I’m glad you asked:
A list of contractions:
I am = I’m
She would = She’d
Cannot = Can’t
They are = They’re (should not be confused with their or there)
You are = You’re
Do not = Don’t
Is not = Isn’t
It is = It’s (not to be confused with the possessive, its)
Going to = gonna
I will / I shall = I’ll
I have = I’ve
You can access the entire list of contractions here.
So, should you use contractions in your writing?
I’ll say if you’re writing formal essays in college, high school of graduate school, you should probably not use contractions. So, you don’t ruin your grade.
But if you’re writing creative content for humans such as an engaging blog post, a fiction ebook, or the About Us page, you need to use contractions.
These may look simple but the work is all in the implementation. You’ll need to consciously apply these tips and proofread, thrice if you have to, just to make sure.
If you find it interesting and catchy and would read it again without someone putting a gun to your head, so will your audience.
If these tips have helped you to learn how to write better, please hit the share button so your friends can know it as well.