(One of the things I do to have fun and stay positive is write. Therefore, I will from time to time post articles about writing. I hope you enjoy this one.)
I don’t read fiction.
It just doesn’t interest me. With limited time, I prefer non-fiction that can teach me something and make me more productive.
I don’t write fiction either. And I have little interest in technical writing, professional writing or poetry.
The focus here will be on expository writing (where you explain something) and persuasive writing (where you attempt to convince someone to adopt a certain view of take a particular action).
To get us started, here are my top 2 tips for better expository and persuasion writing . . .
A lot. See how the pros do it. Copy them. When you see something special, put it in your “swipe file” so you can use it later as a model for your own work. (Note that I’m not recommending that you re-use the same thing. That’s plagiarism.)
Just as it’s the way to get to Carnegie Hall in the old joke, the best way to become a better writer is to practice, practice, practice.
Now that I’ve demonstrated a mastery of the obvious, here are 10 more tips for sprucing up your persuasive writing. . .
3. Have Something To Say
“Good writing is good thinking expressed clearly.”
This simple definition by copywriter Michael Masterson brilliantly proves his point.
Invariably, when I am having trouble writing something, the problem is with my thinking. At some point, I realize that I just don’t really know what I want to say. As soon as my thinking gets more clear . . . voila! . . . so does my writing.
4. Just Start Writing
Some work better from an outline but most, including me, do better by starting out capturing what is inside us. All of it, the good and the bad. Just let it flow. From there, you can refine, organize and edit your writing.
5. Keep It Simple
Write to express, not to impress. Use the simplest word that will convey your point. Sometimes, “prolix,” “verbose” or even “loquacious” will be the exact word you need, but usually “talkative” or “wordy” will do the trick.
6. Write Short Declarative Sentences In The Active Voice
Active voice means the subject of the sentence does the acting. (The alternative, passive voice, means the subject of the sentence is acted upon.)
Usually, the active “Phil loves Kathie” is much stronger than the passive “Kathie is loved by Phil.”
7. Eliminate All Unnecessary Words
Make every word count.
This is a better sentence than “Make every single word count.” And it is a better sentence than “Always make every word count.”
8. While Writing Simply And Directly, Use Strong, Descriptive Words
“Mary ran home” is not as powerful as “Mary sprinted home” or “Mary sprinted home with an urgency she had never felt before.”
“The sunset was beautiful” is a yawner. “The setting sun set the sky ablaze with a combination of fiery red and flaming orange” is better and paints a picture that the reader can easily see.
One good way to edit is to read your work out loud.
10. Use Correct Spelling, Punctuation And Grammar
I admit that I am one of those people who dismisses, or at least diminishes, what is written with poor spelling, punctuation or grammar. And I’m sure I’m not the only language snob out here. Don’t give us an excuse to diminish your writing. Get the grammar basics right.
11. Organize Your Writing To Help Your Reader
Use headlines, sub-headlines and bullets to made it easy for your reader to see your main points. This is a virtual necessity for writing online where surfers stop briefly and won’t stay unless you quickly show them that you’ve got the goods they’re looking for.
12. Most Of All, Be Yourself
Few of us have anything original to say. If what we write has value it is because we bring our perspective and our experience to a topic. So, be yourself and tell your story. Tell it as if you were writing or speaking to a friend.