10 Sure-fire Tips to Improve Your Writing

Using a magic pencil will improve your writing.

Using a magic pencil will improve your writing.

Business writing is terrible. Or maybe I should write: “Authoring words for corporate consumptive purposes seemingly continues to become less than stellar.”

Tired of writing leaden clunkers like that one? Tired of writing prose that no one – not even you – understands?

Well, let HighTalk offer you a writing rescue plan. Here are 10 sure-fire tips that will help you immediately improve your writing.

1. Stop writing to impress. Write to explain.

2. Stop using jargon and buzzwords. Remove words like “leverage,” “leading,” “next-generation,” “revolutionary,” and “best of breed” from your vocabulary. They don’t mean anything.

3. Write in simple declarative sentences.

4. Use an active voice. Here’s an example. Passive voice: “The library book was borrowed by Jimmy.” Active voice: “Jimmy borrowed the library book.”

5. Limit the use of adjectives and adverbs. After you finish writing an article, report or press release go through it and circle every adjective and adverb and ask if it is necessary. Then eliminate half of them.

6. Adjectives and adverbs should be specific. When you do use an adjective or adverb make sure it adds a vital detail. Adjectives like “big” or “small” or “fast” or “easy” are subjective – and vague. Be specific.

7. Don’t use clichés. Remove phrases like “out of the box” and “win-win situation” from everything you write.

8. Write in an authoritive voice. This is business writing. Make it sound like you know what you’re talking about. That means eliminating “I think,” “it seems,” and “maybe” from your writing.

9. Read your writing out loud. When you read prose silently you automatically smooth over the lumpy parts. When you read out load, you’ll catch the bad transactions and feel the flow of the words in much the same way as the people reading what you wrote.

10. Proofread your work. Using Spellcheck is not enough. And it’s always best to have a colleague you trust read it through before you submit it.

5 Responses to “10 Sure-fire Tips to Improve Your Writing”

  1. Juliana Allen March 2, 2009 at 2:35 pm

    Thanks George. These are some great tips…

  2. My pleasure, Juliana.

  3. Wise words indeed; thanks for posting. I remember a certain former employer who liked to use the word “architect” as a verb. “What we need to do is architect a solution.” Eeeeeee.

    As for No. 10, I use a trick I learned from a news copy editor … if you’ve looked at your copy too many times, read it backwards. You’ll find that, out of context, you discover misspellings and typos your tired brain missed on the first pass.

  4. Amen… writing is a lost art in this PR business. I am continually by the numbers of people with advanced degrees in communications who can’t even write a decent news release or planning memo.

  5. Thanks, Tim. I’ve heard the reading backwards trick before, but I’ve never used it. Might have to try it.

    You’re right, Christian, but I wouldn’t call it the “lost” art – more like the “ignored” art.

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