Monday, 16 November 2015

10 Simple tips to improve your writing

"Easy reading is damned hard writing." Nathaniel Hawthorne
Office workers use written communication daily,  but few devote time to improving it.
Clear writing can amplify the thoughts of the writer, careless writing confuses the reader.
Good writing happens when you understand the goal of their writing. Know what you want to say before you can create and edit your writing.  Readers have a limited bandwidth, you risk losing readers if your writing isn't focused, keep your writing simple and get to the point.
1.  Create an attention-grabbing title
The title of your writing should grab the attention of your reader, the first paragraph interests them, the quality of the article will make them come back.
If the title isn't interesting people won't read your work.  Create multiple titles and pick the best..
2.  Start strong
The first paragraph should keep the reader's attention, explaining why they must read your article.
3.  Ideas
You need ideas before you can create a draft.  Generate ideas, thoughts, insights for the topic.  Generate lots of ideas, good, bad, some not yours, ideas a different topic.  To create a few good ideas you often need to create a bunch of rubbish ones.
Ask yourself questions
  • Why is the this important
  • Why, When, What, Where, Who
  • Personal stories
  • Quotes
  • Links
  • A list of ideas
4.  Create an Outline
Read your article notes, create sub-headings for your article.  Clarify your thoughts, create a logical flow to your article and keep it focused
5.  Write don't edit
Writing and editing are different processes, don't do them together.  Write your first draft knowing it must be edited.
Stephen King has great advice in his autobiography/writing book On Writing.
”Write the first draft with the door closed, and the second with the door open.”
The first draft is a mess, it includes sentences and paragraphs which will be cut, the writing will be sloppy, but the article exists.
Write the first draft, don't stop to edit, editing slows you down.
Editing is shaping, cutting, organizing, clarifying.  You need to create an initial draft before you can shape it.


I didn't appreciate editing until I read books and writing tips.  Without editing my articles were slow, unfocused confused.  The insights were lost amongst the noise of poor writing.
6.  Remove as many words as possible but still keep the meaning
The first draft gets thoughts down on the page, editing revises those thoughts, removing superfluous words.  Most adverbs are not needed and should be removed.
7.   Remove cliches
Don't use cliches, create original thoughts.  Replace cliches by describing what you mean.
8.  Use short words and short sentences.  
Get to the point fast, replace complex words with a simple ones, don't slow the reader down.
9.  Question the purpose of each sentence, do you need it
If a sentence doesn't add value or is on a different topic take it out of this one.
If a sentence, no matter how excellent, does not illuminate your subject in some new and useful way, scratch it out. Kurt Vonnegut
10.  Always edit your work.  The first revision may be rubbish, it's the starting point for you to revise, remove and polish your thoughts.
Writing should quality not quantity.  It's better to have a shorter well written focused article than a long rambling article.  Readers have short attention spans, make every line count.

Books to improve your writing

This book helped me focus on the what and the why of writing.  The book highlighted the importance of planning and helped me create a blog template.
George Orwell's Essay Politics and the English Language (Penguin Modern Classics) has 6 rules for writing.  Keep your meaning clear and your writing simple.
  1. Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
  2. Never use a long word where a short one will do.
  3. If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
  4. Never use the passive where you can use the active.
  5. Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
  6. Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.
Writing tools gives grammar advice using a list of concise tools.  The writing is interesting and memorable.
Great tips on writing to help writers think about the writing process