Ways to improve your writing, right now!

October 6, 2011

We all want to be able to write more compelling content, whether that be for a website, an advertisement, your client newsletter or that important proposal. The age-old advice is simply to practice… get your 10,000 hours in and you’ll see huge gains. But for those of you who think that might take too long, here are some ways to improve your writing immediately.

Be concise and clear

Tight, focused, easy-to-read pieces are heaven for readers. Long, convoluted and complex ones are confusing and likely to lose people’s attention. Even if you have to write in a formal tone and manner, you can still be succinct and economic with words so you stick straight to the point.

Stick to three

Three seems to be a magic number in sharing information, so aim for three bullet points, three strategies, three steps. Use this format as often as you can. It is said that people can process up to seven pieces of information at a time, but why risk overload? Stick to three so you can capture reader interest and improve their ability to remember what you’ve written.

Keep your lines short

People tend to read long lines faster, but this isn’t necessarily helpful when you want them to be absorbing and understanding your message comfortably. Set your page layout so that it’s not quite full width and try to keep sentences short with lots of paragraph breaks. As a general rule, 100 characters per line is good for speed, but only about 45 per line is best for reader comfort. Bear that in mind.

Break it up

There are not many bigger turn-off than huge big blocks of text. Make it easy for people to read (and enjoy) your work by breaking up lots of content. Three sentences should be sufficient for most paragraphs and bullet points and subheadings will also help to lead people along.

Tone and topic

Consider the tone you are trying to convey with your writing and use words and punctuation to cue readers into that. Then try not to wander… Not adding too many points and sticking to the main point of your piece is the best advice here. Map out a quick outline if that will help you, with three relevant sub-points to support your main message.