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Six Very Official Ways to Improve Your Writing

shannon.jpgLooking to improve your blog writing? Today Shannon Paul ( @shannonpaul) from Very Official Blog gives her very official tips on the topic.

I love blogs. Before I started blogging seriously, I read a lot of other blogs and was very engaged as a reader. I commented a lot and began honing my ability to craft a statement quickly in response the ideas presented in the post. I’m still very engaged with other blogs in this way. However, if I’m being totally honest, most blogs I encounter are downright unreadable.

Now, I’m not going to run down the usual list of rules and grammar, but rather a list of things I think make me a decent writer.

1. Stop Trying to Sound Intelligent

You already are smart so stop trying to sound smart. So many people craft elaborate sentences with bigger words than they would ever use in conversation. If you have to use a lot of flower language, jargon or adjectives, you’re trying too hard. Choose your big words wisely. Blogs are not publications, they are conversations. Good writing is simple, but it’s hardly simple to write simply. Unlike speech and other forms of non-verbal communication, writing is a wholly unnatural activity unnecessary to human development or evolution. Give yourself a break and know that good writing is a process that must be practiced to be mastered.

2. Give yourself permission to write garbage

Do what you need to do to get your thoughts out — lead with some insipid quote from Albert Einstein, use a definition or some other tired cliche to get the words flowing and then take great pleasure in hitting delete or crossing it out when the time is right. Learn to let go…

3. Be a Ruthless Editor

Even the best ideas don’t always serve the overarching goal of the piece — get it out of there and save it for later if it’s really that good. Nine times out of ten, words like that and which can be crossed out without altering the meaning of the sentence one bit. By hacking away the extra, you’re making it much easier on the reader. Stop thinking of writing as putting words down on a page… writing is editing.

4. Use MIGHTY verbs

My journalism teacher would scream and writhe in agony in the classroom when we used what he called, “plankton verbs”, also known as “bottom-of-the-food-chain verbs”. Plankton verbs include: is, was, are and were. He would go so far as to restrict us from ever using these in an article and I don’t recommend you take such drastic measures when you’re writing, but it’s definitely something to keep in mind. Writing that lacks strong verbs gets boring fast.

5. Read aloud before posting

Another easy trick is to read what you write out loud. Things may seem self-explanatory in our head, but these are your words. If you find yourself stumbling over the words you just wrote, chances are you’re demanding too much work from your readers. Pare your sentences down.

6. Do what works for you

Everyone has his or her own process. I know a lot has been written about writing killer headlines and choosing keywords, but good content is at the soul of any great blog. Killer headlines may get the click, but good content will get people to stay awhile and maybe even choose to come back without the assistance of future keyword shenanigans.

Your Turn

By sharing these tips I thought I could clarify some of my own writing process and help others along the way. Since writing remains at the core of generating content, how do you hone your skills in a way that helps you clarify your voice for an online audience?

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. I am a ruthless editor. But it takes a lot of time to edit as much time for me as to write the article itself!

  2. @Shannon

    Thanks for your response, I’ve been exploring the subject of ‘power verbs’ etc. this afternoon, very interesting stuff! I tend to write in what I perceive as a very factual and ‘to the point’ style . . . most of the time, as you can see and with no waffle whatsoever, which is just as well when you think about it because . . . just messing!

    My aim is to impart information accurately and to make people smile and/or question life.

    @MJ Doyle

    Thank you for your comments, very helpful indeed.

  3. Frank says:

    I thought this was very helpful information and gave me a new perspective on how to approach my blog posts when I write. I do agree that when you write, it should be the writer getting your ideas out on the page!

  4. I find the best way to edit anything that I have written is to read it out loud and slowly.

  5. Thanks for this great article.

    #1 Sometimes I don’t type my articles at all. I speak them. I use a speech recognition software in an attempt to make my posts sound more conversational and less “smart.” It usually has a little more editing required but makes for a very smooth article.

    #5 I always read my articles out loud. It helps me to get a feel for the flow of the paragraphs. Sometimes I also catch words that I accidentally left out and God forbid that dangling participle.

    Don’t get caught up in the mechanics of it all. The best article is a thoughtful article that gets published. You can’t get readers without content and you can’t get content unless you publish it.

    Blessings,
    Wendy

  6. Very useful tips…
    I have seen when people write about product they try to prove it to be best and never talk about the downside of the product..
    I recommend write the pros and cons of anything and that will be very helpful…

    Apart from re reading what you have written will be very useful….

  7. Dan Long says:

    @ Su Prieta

    Touche’!!!!

    That is exactly why we need others to proofread for us!

  8. I can’t agree with you any more — especially #4.

    Use mighty Verbs – yes, and keep the active voice format.

    It makes a world of difference.

  9. Dalton Hurd says:

    Hey! A blogger from Michigan, at last. :D

  10. Great post. I always say getting to the point as simply as possible is the best way and people appreciate it.

  11. Excellent advice, straight from the class room : ))

  12. Classic post. A must read for any blogger out there.

    I have one more simple tip to help improve writing.

    Join Twitter. Use it.

    Read this post at Copyblogger if you need further convincing.

  13. Robin says:

    It amazes me sometimes, how frequently I see obvious spelling problems, even in titles. That can’t be good for SEO…lol

    Spell Checker takes a matter of seconds. It just doesn’t make sense not to use it.

  14. Harry says:

    Number five!!!! I can live with meandering sentences in a book or magazine, but all electronic communication needs to be more like conversation. Short sentences. Power verbs. I always tell clients to take finished copy, stand in front of a mirror and hold a conversation. If it doesn’t sound natural, back to the keyboard.

  15. Snugd says:

    Very helpful tips…..

  16. Vanessa says:

    Fabulous tips! I think I’ll print the post and keep it when I expereince writer’s block.

  17. My tip – don’t hit the publish button when you are tired and just desperate to get the post completed and out there. A tired brain just doesn’t do a good job. And now I’m going to sign off before I make a hash of this comment by doing what I’m saying not to do…

  18. VlogHog says:

    Write less.

    Be short and to the point.

    Be yourself. If you’re not Dave Chappelle or John Stewart, don’t try to be.

  19. Fantastic tips! Thanks for sharing it with us.

    Writing is always something there to think about. Your post makes one feel it’s not that huge a task to write.

    Now, I’ve got the feeling that I don’t need to spend lots of time on writing elegantly although I prefer to write something that adds at least a point to the knowledge of my readers.

  20. Ian Turnbull says:

    Very interesting reading !
    My biggest problem is that whenever I write an article, I tend to stop halfway through and go back to edit! And then I do it again – And then again!! It’s kinda annoying!! I find I spend 3 hours in front of my screen, 1 and 1/2 of which is spent editing. I guess I need to be a littel more strict with myself !!
    Stupid boy !!

    Again, Shannon Paul – very inteersting & thanks!

  21. Ian Turnbull says:

    I guess I did not edit that last comment – 2 spelling mistakes !
    Yuk! Sorry folks !!!

  22. Thank you for the great advice. I am always looking for ways to improve my writing and blogging. Good, usable suggestions.

    Best,
    Lerey

  23. Jeremiah says:

    In the words of Albert Einstein… Just kidding, I did read your article.

    I’ve found I should never publish an article in a rush. When the article is complete, it usually needs to be reworked about ten times before it’s right. When writing a new blog post, the preview key is my best friend!!

    Thank you for these helpful tips. I will keep them in mind while writing my next post.

  24. Drea says:

    Well put together!

    I usually wait a day or two before publishing my blog in order for me to determine its relevance.

    These tips are very usuful.

    Thanks Bless

    Drea

  25. City Girl says:

    I find writing honestly and candidly helps as the post sounds more genuine and personal rather than structured and boring. The best posts on my blog are those that I didn’t quite expect to bring in traffic at all.

  26. Writting skill is actually the back bone of your blog.if you dont have it,then better hire a freelance writter or just buy content from content site.and if your budget is low,then try and get free content from market places like websition.com were they offer free content for blog use.

    http://www.frogblogger.com

  27. Pinoy Dad says:

    In teaching my children and friends who are a bit afraid to write, I tell them that writing just like any other correspondence need to be as conversational as possible. Writing follows the very simple rule of “KISS” to be effective. Keep it Short and Simple.

  28. buy wow gold says:

    I like you pointing out “Do what works for you” ‘coz most bloggers write articles that doesn’t interest them at all which I think is a no no. The best thing to do is to focus with the topic that you have knowledge and you have already tried.

  29. A very good read.
    I admit that I had to google “strong verbs” to understand exactly what you had in mind :)

  30. I’m the worlds worst at typos! .. everytime I show someone my writing they pick out atlease one typo. I think it’s because I rush to say what I want to say and my proof reading leaves alot to be desired.

    On saying that I noticed a type in your first paragraph.

    ” I commented a lot and began honing my ability to craft a statement quickly in response the ideas presented in the post. ”

    Isn’t there a “to” missing there? hehe

  31. Solomon says:

    Hi Shannon,
    I liked reading this article, and the educative comments above. It takes few reading more to digest all the points you mentioned and those in the comments. But, one tip, I liked and implemented immediately is to ‘read loud’ – which has improved my post dramatically. I found this tip very very useful and recommend to all; even if it’s time taking, though!
    BTW, I’m a copywriter and started blogging about my journey into writing, and invite you to visit my blog:http://creativesolomon.blogspot.com/
    I can’t but thak Darren for this inspiring blog !
    Thanks in advance!
    Solomon

  32. Nancy says:

    Besides reading outloud, I try to let my article/post sit overnight and then read it again. I’ve caught a lot that way too.

  33. A fiction writer new to blogging in serious fashion, I find your comments extremely helpful. Yet again they mirror what we are taught as fiction writers. In short, serious blogging can do nothing but strengthen your skills whatever your genre.

    I wonder will there ever be a genre of writing called–blogging?
    Thanks for a re-working of the tips on writing.

  34. Sue Miley says:

    I don’t think I have ever seen so many responses to a blog post. You must be doing something right. I am not sure if someone already said it because I couldn’t read all of the comments, but the key thing I have learned is to not let grammar and professionalism drown out your personality. Blogs are personal. The point of difference in various blogs is YOU!

  35. Tim Scullin says:

    I just write it all down as fast as I can then go back and read through. My main secret is to cut the the stuff that isn’t necessary. Less is definitely more

  36. My first two rules of writing are these: Write how you speak; and avoid passive voice. (Or, to be playful about it, “the passive voice is to be avoided.”)

    As for giving yourself permission to write garbage, I recommend Anne Lamott’s book, “Bird By Bird.” She has an entire chapter dedicated to “Sh***y First Drafts.” Of course, she geared her book toward authors of longer pieces than blogs; but the same rules still apply. Write, then rewrite.

  37. Sumy says:

    Great tips, Shannon..I’ll try to implement it in my blog

  38. oola says:

    Excellent tips, especially numbers 1 and 2.

    I often think of my writing as “talking out my fingertips”…but in fact, talking to myself. Hee hee…I don’t often use stuffy language inside my head, but I do occasionally say “hee hee”.

  39. Thanks for sharing these tips! I’m new to blogging, and have struggled to remember to write like I speak. It’s not a term paper in college!

    I also agree with Mack’s comment about allowing yourself a day off. When I talked to others about starting a blog, I got conflicting advice – some told me that I would need to blog every day to make sure there’s always something new and fresh for my readers. I disagree and think it’s better for my readers for me to have enjoyed writing the post than to just throw something up there.

  40. So in nutshell you want to tell that follow your heart and write whatever your heart says.

    But however I do feel that once in a week you can express your feelings but following such trend every time is not at all a genuine idea.

  41. Remya says:

    Thanks this is just what I needed…the tips you given are really helpful…

  42. Like your ideas. I like the verb idea the best. Helpful for people wanting to improve their writing.

  43. Mikes says:

    thanks very much for the input!~ for you to be good at it also, you need to know what you write about!

  44. Number 1 is the Golden Rule of Good Writing! Be clear. The whole point of writing is communicating, and if people can’t understand what you’re saying because you’re trying to impress them with fancy vocabulary, then you simply aren’t communicating! Effort wasted…

  45. Cachando Chile, you make a good point. If your readers can’t understand what you’re writing, what’s the point? Years ago, when I worked as a news editor in the print media, my features editor and I used this catchphrase: “Eschew Obfuscation!”