Good writing may be harder to find these days, but it hasn’t gone out of style. Even in a world of texting and tweeting, knowing how to write well is still an important skill. With so much written content available, it’s even more important to write well so you can, says MarketingProfs Chief Content Officer Ann Handley.
She offers these eight tips to help strengthen your writing.
1. Forget the jargon. It’s easy to fall into the habit of using important-sounding terms like synergize, impactful and mission-critical, but they don’t really mean anything. Stick with legitimate, clear words that get your point across.
2. Avoid made-up words. Synergize is bad enough, but bucketize is even worse. Don’t use terms such as “the ask” or “incentivizing.” This kind of business-speak doesn’t make you sound smarter or more professional, it just clutters up your writing.
3. Stop using passive voice. Instead of saying “These reports will be written by the editorial staff,” write “The editorial staff will write these reports.” While passive voice isn’t technically incorrect, it’s awkward, unpleasant to read and just poor writing.
4. Stick to active verbs. Expressive language can make things clearer to readers and more interesting to read.
5. Watch those adverbs. Using adverbs makes your writing seem lazy. If you’re using active verbs, you shouldn’t need adverbs.
6. Cut back on clichés. They pop up often in business writing—and are a big reason business writing is bland and sometimes meaningless. Look for new ways to say what you’re trying to say and only use clichés sparingly.
7. Use fewer words. Beginning writers often think that using a lot of words makes them sound knowledgeable, but it really just obscures what they’re trying to communicate. For example, “despite the fact that” can simply be changed to “although.”
8. Break the rules—once in a while. Following all the rules religiously will give you 100% correct writing, but it will probably kill your voice—the little verbal quirks that make your writing sound like you. Don’t get sloppy, but if something just doesn’t sound right when you write it, consider bending a rule to make your writing sound more authentic.
— Adapted from “8 Writing Rules for Entrepreneurs,” Ann Handley, Entrepreneur.