15 Tips for Becoming a Better Writer, Even If You Hate Writing
If you do a lot of your own marketing for your business, you need to be able to write. But before you start worrying about what that looks like, consider it’s a lot less formal than when your high school teacher talked to you about persuasive essays.
Today, it’s all about connections.
You don’t need a marketing degree to be a good copywriter nor do you need a degree in creative writing to be a good writer. You can learn the tricks of good, written content creation on your own. Here are 15 web writing tips to get you started.
Write Better for the Web
#1. Write Like You Speak
Ditch the fancy talk unless that’s what is required by your audience. Instead, write as if you were speaking to them. Good spelling and grammar are important but using five-seven sentences in each paragraph is not.
#2. Don’t Write Like You Read the Cliff Notes to an Executive MBA
Don’t use business school jargon in your writing. You know the words like circle back, bandwidth, zero-sum proposition? When in doubt check this list or re-read #1.
#3. Keep It Simple
Keep your sentences as simple and short as possible.
#4. Ditch What You Know About Essay Writing
What they teach you in school is business essay writing. It’s boring, overly complex, and repetitive. Today’s skimmer wants bullet points, conversations, and short paragraphs.
#5. Use Pull Quotes
If you have something really important to say, place it in your article’s body but also add it as a pull quote. A pull quote is often seen in a magazine where a line of text is set in a text box on its own. They are larger size and font than the body text and get lots of attention because they stand out.
#6. Add Value-based Headlines
Headlines break up the text and should be used at least every 350 words. When writing headlines, try to use keywords and a reason your audience should be interested. For instance:
“Use Google Ad Words for Greater Exposure.”
Another option is to use teasing headlines like:
“The One Thing You Need to Know About Ad Words But Don’t”
#7. Use Bullets
Bulleted lists are easy to skim, making your audience happy and giving them the information in a very efficient manner. The trick here is to make sure they are all the same type of phrasing. Don’t do this:
3 Things to Do In Town
- Go Fishing
Just write “fish.” It fits in better.
Also, make sure you’re answering the question in the form it’s asked. For instance,
3 Things to Avoid This Summer
- The Beach
- Your in-laws
- Don’t stand in lines
While you want to avoid lines for a more fun-filled break, you don’t want nouns (the beach and your in-laws) in a list that also features a command. If you’re creating a list make sure all the words or phrases are written the same way and answer the question in the same tone. If you’re using nouns, keep it flowing and don’t mix up the directives.
#8. Talk to Your Audience
You know how as a child you spoke differently to your teachers than when hanging around with your buddies? You likely still do it. How you speak to your friends varies greatly with how you converse with your boss. Understand who you’re writing for and use the way they speak and their interests to flavor your writing.
#9. Keep it Short or Long
The length of your writing depends on your audience and what they prefer. However, the current trend is opinion pieces are shorter, while informational articles are trending towards longer complete guides. But feel free to mix it up as long as you don’t see a big dip in your readership.
#10. Use Active Words
Without going back to English class, better writers write in active, not passive, voice. The easiest way to explain that is by saying active verbs paint a picture better than passive ones do. Example:
I fired him.
I was wanting to fire him, so I did.
#11. Appeal to Their Interests or Concerns
Being a better writer often just means covering areas of interest to your ideal customer. When people are reading about something of interest that is helpful and valuable to them, they will think you are a better writer.
#12. Stop Writing About Yourself
If you’re writing for business, you probably want to talk about your business. But it’s more beneficial to you to provide solutions for your audience than to make it all about you. Just as in conversation, you want to engage the other side and not just talk about yourself.
#13. Say Things in an Interesting Way
Show your personality in your writing. If you tell jokes, use them in your articles and blog posts. If you make up your own words, continue to do the same. Reading your writing should help bring people closer to you; help them know you better. They should read your articles and “hear” you in them.
#14. Tell Stories
People connect with stories so share what’s going on in your life such as things you’ve learned or experienced. Tie your information into something personal.
#15. Use Images and Content
Okay, so this doesn’t make you a better writer per se, but it does make your writing more enjoyable. People love seeing images. You can use image quotes, images that convey meaning, or even GIFs that add humor to your text.
Also, whatever you write should always have a second life. Share a quote from the article on Facebook. Create an image quote out of a part of it. Update the statistics in it at some point in the future and publish an updated version. Stitch it together with several other articles and create an ebook. Build onto the article, going more in-depth, and create a free giveaway. Add a little of the content or a question from the article in your newsletter to pique interest.
When it comes to business writing, never stress about the grades you got in high school English class. Those have nothing to do with your ability to write for your business. Today’s business writing focuses on building connections not formal, persuasive arguments. Think about it as a written conversation you’re having with clients or customers. It’s an ideal way to help them out and assist them in getting to know you better.
Christina R. Green teaches small businesses, chambers, and associations how to connect through content. Her articles have appeared in the Midwest Society of Association Executives’ Magazine, NTEN.org, AssociationTech, and WritersWeekly. She is a regular blogger at Frankjkenny.com and the Event Manager Blog.