7 Quick Tips for Instantly Better Writing

1. Don’t hedge.

7-quick-tips-for-instantly-better-writingHedging occurs when you use weak or vague words that undercut your sentence. Though acceptable in academic writing, bloggers and both nonfiction and fiction authors should steer away from it. Say what you mean and mean what you say. Have confidence in your writing.

Bad Example: “Bob seemed as if he should seek help from a counselor.”
Good Example: “Bob needed counseling.”

Here’s a great list of words and phrases to double-check in your writing to ensure you’re not hedging.

2. Be active.

Passive sentence construction has its place, but littering your blog post or book with it will make you look like an amateur and turn off your reader. Do the hard work of reworking your sentences so that something occurs instead of allowing something to have occurred.

Bad Example: “Bob was leaving his job to pursue his passion.”
Good Example: “Bob quit his job to pursue his passion.”

3. Take a break.

Give breathing room to your sentences and paragraphs. Refrain from allowing dozens of lines in a single paragraph. Go easy on your readers’ eyes. Choose the right line spacing for your blog or book. For online articles, make your text scannable by using headers and bullets. For books, follow formatting traditions that have withstood a century of use.

4. Kill commas, adverbs, and darlings.

It’s a scientifically proven fact that the overuse of commas has killed more manuscripts than all other grammatical errors combined (not actually proven, but still likely). Learn correct comma usage, then be ruthless when it comes to removing unnecessary commas.

Next, search your article or manuscript for “ly.” Keep only the adverbs that are absolutely necessary to the meaning of your sentence. Seldom if ever does someone do something “astoundingly” well.

Lastly, murder your darlings, as the famous (misattributed) quote from William Faulkner encourages. If it’s cute but doesn’t fit what you’re trying to convey, kill it, or at least stow it away for future use.

5. Seek clarity over creativity.

Similar to killing your darlings, if your literary talents and oversized word choice outweigh your ability to communicate a point, you’ll be writing to an audience of one: yourself.

The English language has approximately one million words. You can find one that conveys exactly what you mean so that your reader knows exactly what you’re saying.

6. Save your best for first.

The only way you can ensure that a first-time reader will stay with your article or book is to hook them from the very beginning. Once you’ve discovered that hook, either use it at the start of your work, or at least tease it there.

7. Title last.

Don’t settle on a title before writing your first draft. You never know where your mind and fingers may lead you. Write a stand-in title, then write your work, then revisit your title. Do the hard work to discover a title that’s both informative and intriguing.

What’s your best quick tip for instantly better writing?

Looking for editing help with your manuscript?