Effective writing is one of the best skills to develop, no matter what industry or field you’re in.
Concise, clear communication looks easy, but often isn’t. Gifted communicators are prized for good reason.
Five quick ways to improve any piece of writing:
- Eliminate (or minimize) exclamation marks. Exclamation marks should be used sparingly, if at all. Too many make you look like an amateur who’s excited about everything.
- Is there a shorter, simpler way to say the same thing? Use it. Too many words complicate our meaning, and lead to misunderstandings.
- Be direct. Unless you’re delivering bad news, being indirect wastes time and makes it difficult to figure out what you’re trying to say. If you’re concerned that direct = rude or blunt, add a pleasant/polite opening and closing. When I can tell someone wants something from me, sugarcoating it is just annoying — get to the point. Don’t pretend you want to know how I’m doing.
- Add a call to action. What do you want people to do after reading your article, post, or email? Ask.
- Vary your sentence structure. Simple subject-verb construction (I did this; I did that; I did this other thing) is easy to read, but boring. Liven things up a little.
And five bonus tips:
- Never use all caps in any kind of writing, including fiction. There’s no need to scream at your reader.
- Always, always proofread, even a simple email.
- Don’t rely on programs like Grammarly or Word’s spell-and-grammar check to do the work for you. No program is infallible.
- Avoid comma splices (joining two complete sentences with a comma). Semi-colons are your friend.
- Break up big chunks of writing into shorter paragraphs. People are busy. Don’t send them an intimidating wall o’ text.
That’s it. Wasn’t that easy? By following these tips, your writing and communication will vastly improve, helping you earn the respect and appreciation of your readers, co-workers and supervisors.
If you found this post helpful, you might like Five Tips From a Frustrated Editor.