Many of you would love to write better short stories or poems, more compelling blog posts, more intriguing articles. And you’ve probably heard all the old advice by now. Practice makes perfect. Get your 10,000 hours in. Just show up and write.
And of course, these are all great ideas, but implementing them takes a lot of time. It’s not like you can write for 10,000 hours in a week or so. It’s not physically possible.
Or as they say…
What if I were to tell you there are a couple of ways you can improve your writing right now? No years and years of practice required.
What would you say?
Well, you’d be glad you decided to read this post.
Be direct, concise, and clear
You’ve heard this one a million times. Tight, concise, easy-to-read pieces are heaven for readers. Long, complex, convoluted ones are just confusing.
Very often, the longer you write, the less you hold a reader’s interest.
If you can’t say it simply in just a few words, then you’ve lost readers. And you probably don’t understand it well enough yourself.
Write in such a way that you don’t have to waste words explaining what you’ve just written. Direct, concise, and clear.
Keep your lines short
Ironically, people actually read longer lines faster. But fast reading isn’t what you want them to be doing. You want readers to be absorbing what you wrote, understanding your message, and reading comfortably as well.
So go for short. Keep sentences short and use plenty of paragraph breaks.
100 characters per line is optimal for speed — but about 45 characters is best for reader comfort.
The magic of three
It’s said that people can process 7 bits of information (more or less) at a time. But the number that’s most compelling is the one we like the best: 3.
So have 3 bullet points. 3 steps, 3 strategies. Use the number 3 as often as you can.
Not only will you capture better reader interest by doing so, but you’ll improve your readers’ ability to remember what you’ve written. We tend to chunk information into groups of three, and recall those triads more easily.
Food, Sex, and Danger
The most complex beings on this planet, our brains amazing super-computers, and we still ask basically three questions whenever we see something:
Can I eat it? Can I have sex with it? Will it kill me?
That’s about it.
If you want people to pay more attention to your writing, bring up those big three (there’s that number again). Use stories and examples that touch on aspects of food, sex, or danger.
Add descriptors or associative words. Use a nice picture, if you’d like. It’ll glue them to the page.
Break it up
Make it easy for people to read your work. The easier it is, the more they’ll get your point and enjoy reading — and that’s what you want.
Reading online is tiring, so you need to do everything you can to make it less of a strain.
- No more than three sentences to a paragraph, please, and keep those sentences short.
- Add bullet points and subheads to guide people along.
- Oh, and bump up that font size, would you? Tiny means squint, and that’s no good.
Stay on topic
I know how tough this one is — I commit the crime of wandering too often myself, and have to make sure I don’t stray too far from my main point.
If I add too many points to a piece of writing, readers get confused about the main point of my post. They’ll be confused about yours, too.
Building an outline helps. Decide on the main point of your piece and create three (!) sub-points that support it. Make sure each one ties back to the message you want to get across to readers, and make sure each sub-point is supportive and relevant.
So there are your quick guides to becoming a better writer today.
How about you? What’s your favorite tip for immediate writing improvement?