How to instantly improve your writing

Copywriters can be smug. I’m not going to pretend I haven’t once discussed past participles for several hours. I take great pride in my frustration with apostrophe misuse. BUT I also believe that anyone can become a better writer with just a few quick tricks.

If you’re looking for the silver bullet here, it’s this: use shorter sentences. No really. Using shorter sentences is the number one trick to increasing the readability of your writing.

I’m going to show you how you can tighten up your writing by getting rid of boring provisional words – what I like to call ‘weakeners’ because, as a writer, I am perfectly qualified to make words up. Here are a few of my editing tricks…

‘That is…’, ‘There are…’, ‘Which is…’, ‘Which are…’

You can get rid of these phrases from pretty much all of your writing. Let's use this recent quote from a Mark Manson post:

Pleased with himself and his ability to stand up for everything that is good, righteous, and holy, Feuerstein uploaded the video to YouTube.

Now, tighter:

Pleased with himself and his ability to stand up for everything good, righteous, and holy, Feuerstein uploaded the video to YouTube.

‘In regards to…’, ‘When it comes to..’

I can perfectly understand your sentence without these provisionals.

 When it comes to home cooks, no one is more recognizable than Nigella Lawson.

 No home cook is more recognizable than Nigella Lawson.

A little thing, but tighter.

 Declare it

Cut those lame weakeners out and say what you mean.

Entrepreneurs today should be thinking about content marketing.

Entrepreneurs today should think about content marketing.

If you read a lot of quality journalism, you'll notice strong, declarative sentences like these. Learn from them!

Make it a new sentence

I could fill a whole post about comma misuse (maybe I will…), but here is one quick trick: get rid of that comma and start a new sentence. Conjunctions are almost always weakeners.

It was good to see her, as I never see enough of her.

 It was good to see her. I never see enough of her.

Short, sharp sentences are beautiful.

 

So, have I lost you yet? Don’t worry – I can’t draw, design or solve algebra to save my life. We’re all naturally good at certain things; your talent doesn’t have to be copywriting. If you’d like to talk about anything wordy, please get in touch! I promise to delete all weakeners and not even bother you with why.

Claire Deane