• Friday, August 21st, 2009

10 writing tipsI’ll be the first to admit that my writing style is …. I’ll say “unrefined.” I may not be as good as Twain, but as long I’m better than Bodine, I think I’m doing OK. I’ve recently discovered a great checklist that should improve my writing and make it easier for all of you to comprehend just what it is I’m trying to say. I’ll putting this process to use from here out. Well, that’s the plan anyway.

In order for our thoughts to be effectively communicated through our writing, there are certain things we need to consider, questions we have to ask ourselves – before we start to type. Hopefully, by following the methods outlined below, we can all become better writers.

Think before you write

  1. Define the job by picturing an ideal reader at the moment they finish reading. What exactly do you want them to be thinking and doing?
  2. Identify the reader’s key questions. What are the questions you must answer to get the response you want?
  3. Design paragraphs/sections that will respond to the reader’s questions.

Complete a draft before you edit

  1. Find your voice. Can you hear the tone, rhythms, and word choices of the voice that will prompt the desired response?
  2. Write a fast draft by answering your reader’s questions, engaging in an implied dialogue. Temporarily banish your internal editor.
  3. Take a break and clear your head.  You know what you meant to write, and often your mind will just “fill in the blanks” if errors are present.

Edit before you publish

  1. Give it a global edit, checking structure, voice, and scannability.
    • Structure: Do paragraphs/sections answer your reader’s key questions, and are they arranged, like stepping stones, to get your reader to the desired response?
    • Voice: Do you project the voice you want your reader to hear and do you keep it consistent?
    • Scannability: Can your reader get the gist at a glance?
  2. Give it a line edit, checking flow, clarity, and concision.
    • Flow: Do you guide your reader, moving old to new within paragraphs and sentences?
    • Clarity: Do you convey the bulk of your meaning through concrete nouns and action verbs in your main clauses? Do you get to the verb quickly, usually within the first eight words of a sentence?
    • Concision: Does every word add more than it costs?
  3. Take another break
  4. Proofread check the following as you read aloud.
    • Accuracy: Is every claim true, fair, and provable?
    • Word choice: Does the ordinary meaning of every word convey your intended meaning? Have you checked for “caution words” like ensure/insure, accept/except, affect/effect, advice/advise, etc ?
    • Punctuation: Have you checked commas, hyphens, dashes, apostrophes, and other punctuation marks?


Now sit back and enjoy the compliments resulting from your new-found writing skills!

Do you have other tips or techniques you use when you sit down to write?  What are they?  Please share.

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13 Responses

  1. 1
    Dana Lookadoo  //

    Jack, your approach is SUPER! I especially like, “Temporarily banish your internal editor.”

    Other tips?

    1. Get started!
    2. Schedule time!

    These are my two hardest aspects. I have multiple blog posts in my head, and if I don’t get started by compiling some notes, a rough outline, then they don’t materialize into text. Also, I need to schedule time away from distractions to work through the 1st draft.

    You share some great tips about voice and scannability that you have demonstrated here! Nice post!!

  2. 2
    Jack Leblond  //

    Getting started with some quick notes is a GREAT idea. I have the same problem, I get 10 ideas for something but then when I sit down days later to write something the thoughts that had been so clear in my head have all but vanished into thin air.

  3. TURN OFF TWITTER! hehehehe I go all ADD when I’m trying to write and I’m logged in to Twitter. Every time my brain pauses to think my fingers automatically pull up the Twitter page. It’s almost completely subconscious.

    Love the point about taking a break. It relaxes the brain muscle so the ideas can stretch themselves out :)

  4. 4
    Jack Leblond  //

    I share the ADD problem too, all too often I get started and the – hey, is that a butterfly?

  5. 5
    Monica Wright  //

    Sometimes I get involved in a work research project that I know can turn into a great post, so I repurpose it. I know it’s not “scheduled” but if I had to research it, maybe it will save someone else some time.

  6. 6
    Jack Leblond  //

    That’s one of the reasons our community loves you Monica, you share your knowledge and make our jobs so much easier.

  7. 7
    anita roth  //

    I am a new writer…..a beginner…I’m a Registered Nurse by trade and I LOVE food/exercise and LIFE. I’m a little scared….unsure if I can do this….but everyone around me keep saying….write book….we will buy’s been my dream to be a writer….diet nutrition/exercise. or other life events as a survivor of alot of tragedy and I’m very proud to be here on this beautiful earth and alive. Unlike alot of my relatives. I feel blessed every day I breathe…..

  8. 8
    Bronwen  //

    Hi Jack
    I love your blog and look forward to each new post (without sounding too much like a teachers pet :-) However, I have a question that I cant really find a clear answer to when I Google it:
    How many articles should I be submitting a week to article sites and Web 2.0 sites as some poeple say as many as you can manage, whereas others say if you have an influx of links one week, then Google will penalise you? I cant win! Please help me as Im starting to go mad with this!
    Mnay thanks

  9. 9
    Jack Leblond  //

    You are asking about two different things. I’m not clear what you mean by “article and web 2.0 sites”, but in general the more often you add content to your site the better. You should also do something I am terrible at – be consistent with your schedule, commit to regular postings whether it be daily, weekly, semi-monthly – just try and stick to a schedule.

    You are correct about incoming links, adding large numbers of them all at once can look suspicious to the engines. They may think you are buying links and degrade your site.

  10. 10
    james  //

    Great points to make. Writing for some people can be daunting ( I found this myself) my way around it……speak it first! I use Dragon dictate (even with my Scottish accent its amazingly accurate)…sometimes its easier to just say what you are thinking and then edit it down before posting. I found that by doing it this way I post more often (or at least keep to a schedule) and don’t get stressed out over the wording so much.

  11. 11
    John Peters  //

    Some good information on this website. We can’t all be SEO gurus but reading information like this helps a lot. Keep up the excellent work!