In the spirit of a good list with a minimal amount of information to whet your appetite, I present to you 7 Ways to Instantly Improve Your Writing.
The “ways” are foundational techniques for any clear, expository prose. They address some of the most common issues that plague writers of all ranks. I selected them because they are the challenges I see most often when others ask for help. Incorporating these techniques into your personal process can quickly yield positive results in your written work.
All great writing — with a few exceptions — is the result of a meticulous drafting process. While shitty first drafts are imperative to great starts, subsequent drafts should get a little tighter following each pass. The best way to do this is to flow through an organized process where each pass focuses on a specific weakness of your personal technique. That’s a great way to get started with these 7 ways.
WIthout further ado —
Have a conversation with the reader.
Treat your writing as if you’re sharing a moment with a close friend over a cup or pint of your chosen beverage. Stay relaxed and casual. After all, you’re connecting with a human being, not writing instructions on how to operate a washing machine. But respect the rules. They’re there to make sure what you say makes sense.
Think like a learner; act like a teacher.
Learners ask questions; teachers connect with their students and meet them where they are. Avoid jargon or insider’s language. Explain confusing terms and add appropriate details for clarity and understanding. Create context through the text rather than allowing personal context to dictate meaning.
Keep it simple.
Use as few words as you can, but only as many as you need. Over-communication and under-communication have the same net effect — confusion, opacity, uncertainty. Simplicity of approach cuts through the noise.
Choose your words.
Every word is a deliberate choice. Use only the words necessary and make sure each word has a job to do. Cull out words and phrases that are filler rather than adding to the story.
Chunk it up.
Chunking your content is a great way to guide the reader through and ensure that they get what you’re trying to say. Most people scan the headlines first and dive into what piques their curiosity. Use headlines and sub-headings to drive them through the work.
Short sentences; strong verbs.
Unless you’re writing literary fiction, you’ll lose your reader if your sentences are too long. Like chunking the content, short sentences chunk the paragraph and allow your reader to receive the information in smaller bites, giving them time to metabolize each idea as they flow to the next. Strong verbs convey a sense of action.
Let the story unfold.
Don’t rush. A good story is like a fine meal — provide it the time it deserves and engage all the senses. Strike a balance between giving everything up front and pulling your reader through the content to the end. Help them understand not what you’re trying to say, but what you’re actually saying.