fast fix: 20 ways to improve your writing now
→Before we dole our quick fix list of DIY writing repair, let’s get clear on one thing. Well, maybe two.
First, we ALL make writing/editing mistakes. Call someone out for it and chances are you’ll be the one being mocked next, and your mistake will probably be bigger and bolder.
Second, if you don’t actively utilize at least three of these essential reference books…
• The American Heritage Dictionary, Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary (or online version)
• Roget’s Thesaurus
• Strunk & White’s The Elements of Style
• AP Stylebook
• Chicago Manual of Style
• On Writing Well
…leave this post immediately, and come back when you’re serious about improving your writing.
Yes, we just said that.
Now, back to our originally scheduled programming:
1. Don’t keep your readers guessing: Lead with your main idea.
2. Don’t be a show off: A good vocabulary helps you succinctly articulate what you mean, not how smart you are.
3. Poor spelling IS a reflection on your attention to detail. It happens to all of us. Minimize the damage by reviewing your copy at least 3 times, at intervals that allow your brain and eyes to be firing on all cylinders. That means NOT first thing in the morning or right before bed.
4. Identify your audience. Your client/boss is paying you to make a connection.
5. Be a leader, not a follower: Avoid jargon. It impresses no one.
6. Write with intent: Use evocative words (not expletives) that trigger a reader’s emotions.
7. Unplug. Yes, that means get off the Internet and shut down your email.
8. When in doubt, throw it out: If you can cut a word without changing the meaning of the sentence, do it.
9. No hanging chads: if you’re asking questions while reading what you wrote, your audience will be too.
10. Lose the exclamation points. Now!
11. You’re not Ben Stein in Ferris Beuller’s Day Off : Vary the length and structure of your sentences.
12. Avoid redundant word combinations. No clue what we’re talking about? Try these on for size: “speeding too fast,” “continuing on,” “advance reservation.” Nuff said.
13. Get on Twitter. Being shackled to 140 characters is one of the fastest routes to succinct, engaging writing.
14. Follow @GrammerGirl. She will rock your writing world.
15. Create an outline. (Don’t look at us, WE loathe outlines. Problem is, they work.)
16. Don’t be afraid to start over. You can’t do that in most areas of life. Embrace it.
17. Print and proof: The eco-police won’t like this one, but for the really important projects, print your draft, close your laptop or mute the monitor, grab a highlighter or red pen/pencil, and read aloud. You’ll be amazed at the what you missed proofreading on your desktop instead of your desk.
18. Sleep on it. Always.
19. Read. Read. Read. It’s one of the few acts of over-consumption society respects.
20. Write. Write. Write.