I just wish more people had an editor, as well.
There’s no substitute for a collaborator who’s looking over your shoulder and pointing out where you could improve. But absent that, you can take steps on your own to make your writing better — whether it’s in blog posts, memos, tweets or articles.
Here are a few tips I’ve picked up over the (many, pre-Google) years as a professional writer and editor. They’ll help you get your message across more effectively. I hope you try them and I hope they help. Let me know!
1. Resist the urge to use exclamation points!
2. Favor short sentences.
3. Remember to vary your sentence lengths, as well, so that some are longer than others.
4. In most instances, don’t start a sentence with a dependent clause. Subject-verb-object works better generally, and relying on it does not indicate you’re simpleminded or lacking in “style.” It means you care about clarity.
5. Get to the point early in your piece, whatever it is. Readers won’t stick with you if they have to look for it.
6. Avoid adjectives and adverbs. Pick the right nouns and verbs, instead.
7. Take advantage of the medium (blog, newspaper, etc.) to enhance your message without going overboard or obscuring it.
8. Write short paragraphs. Dense copy blocks are unappealing and even intimidating to people who are scanning and deciding whether to dive into your blog or article.
9. Write short pieces. Really, no one has time. If you can cut that line, paragraph or passage, then do.
10. Avoid clichés like the plague.
11. Jargon, too. Or you’ll never think outside the box at the end of the day.
12. Write to express yourself, not to impress anybody else.
13. Read it out loud. Listen to the sound, the sound, the sound.
14. Watch out for tangents and stop when you find yourself going on one. A good clue: If you say, “But I digress,” then DON’T. (See No. 10.)
15. Prevent AAOS (Acronyms & Abbreviations Overuse Syndrome). When in doubt, spell it out or find a simpler way to put it.
16. Know your subject matter and audience so well that you learn to relax when writing and editing your own copy. You can even break your own rules now and then! (See what I just did? Ha!)
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Jay Croft, author of storycroft.com, is a veteran communicator in mainstream daily newspapers and large, national corporations.