Five Tips for Better Writing

Writing is rewarding, therapeutic, challenging, and consuming. Even the pros—those in the copy-heavy marketing, pubic relations, and communications fields—occasionally need some help when the page or screen remains stubbornly empty. Here’s a few tips to keep you on track and fresh.

Think long, write short

If you have a tendency to ramble in your writing, or if sequencing information in a logical way is a perpetual challenge, make an outline. It will not only organize your composition, it will organize your thinking—and that’s the key to clarity. To quote revered adman George Lois: “It’s not how short you make it, it’s how you make it short.”

Watch your language

Just because we live in a soundbite world doesn’t mean your writing has to be rote. If it is, your message will be absorbed into the media echo chamber that rings with clichés, jargon, and slang. Adding dimension and color to your writing will take time, but it will set you—and what you have to say—apart from both the cacophony and the bots.

Solicit comments, not corrections

By asking a colleague or friend to edit your writing, you put them on the spot to deliver a line-by-line critique of your document. Instead, try giving them a more general prompt, like “Is there anything in this presentation that’s hard to understand?” or “Do you think I’ve left out anything important?”

Go off script

Writing for pleasure—as opposed to work-related assignments—can be a tonic. Without the pressure of a deadline, words and thoughts often flow more freely, and then the writing process becomes a pleasure instead of a grind. A private journal, a public blog, even crossword puzzles can help keep your mind nimble.

To be a better writer, be a better reader

The best way to nourish your inner wordsmith is to read. It’s like taking a master class in vocabulary improvement. Spend time with a newspaper, magazine, a novel, or a wonderful website and you’ll come away enriched.