How can I improve my writing? It’s a question I’m often asked. In my work over the years, first in PR and then as a book coach and ghostwriter, I’ve had to review and edit thousands of pages of copy written by clients. Aside from spelling and grammar errors, you’d be amazed at how often I see the same issues in client copy. I thought that it would be helpful to share them with my audience – and my top tips for better writing. I know that you can improve your writing and I’m going to show you some simple tips that anyone can use.
Issue 1: Not writing for our audience
It can be soooo easy to end up writing for ourselves, rather than our audience. Before we put pen to paper, we need to go back to our customer avatar (you do have one or two of those, right?) and make sure we know exactly what to write to meet our audience’s needs rather than our own. I’ve created an article framer here that you can download to help you find your story’s angle and make sure you’re on the right track. If there’s one thing to remember from this article, it should be this: your readers need to be able to answer the question, “what’s in it for me” within the first sentence.
Issue 2: Too many words
Folks, I need you to know that writing a lot of words does not make you sound more knowledgeable about your subject area. It bores people and turns them off. Keep it punchy and make sure that every single word and sentence gives your readers something. We want to give our readers as much value as we can in everything that we write. Every time I write anything, I go back, re-read it and then take out anything that is not absolutely necessary and adding something to the piece. If in doubt, take it out!
Issue 3: Using exclusive language
And I don’t mean exclusive in a good way. I mean as in excluding people. This problem is closely related to issue number one. There can be a tendency for people to think it makes them sound clever if they use technical vocabulary, acronyms, and jargon. It doesn’t, it makes your readers switch off and move on. Unless you are writing for your peers and you’re sure they will know exactly what the industry terms you’re using mean, then leave exclusive language out. In general terms, we need to be writing things like blog posts, press releases and articles so that the average 11-year old child can understand them. That’s why we need to write punchy sentences and make our meaning crystal clear through our vocabulary choices. Aim for engaging, relevant and accessible copy.
Don’t go all David Brent on your readers, please!
My Top Tips For Better Writing
I know that everyone can become a better writer, because I’ve seen it happen over and over again. Here are some simple things that you can do to improve your writing:
- Put yourself in your audience’s place. Make sure that your writing is giving them what they want and need to know, not what we’d like to tell them.
- Strip out every word and sentence that isn’t absolutely necessary.
- Avoid jargon, unless you’re writing for peers.
- To improve your spelling and grammar, use a tool like Grammarly or Hemingway.
- MS Word and WordPress SEO plugin, Yoast, both offer readability statistics. Start keeping an eye on yours and you’ll quickly work out the writing quirks you have that make your writing harder to read. Trust me, it’s an eye-opener!
- Use read-aloud functionality in MS Office and Google Docs to listen to your work, particularly if you are dyslexic. My other half, who is dyslexic, has found this to be a game-changer for him. He can pick up mistakes that would have slipped through normal spell-checkers when he hears his text being read out.
I hope you’ve found this article useful and that you feel some have some new tools to improve your writing. Please get in touch if you would like to have a chat with us about your business book idea. You can book in a free, no-obligation call with us here.