Having trouble keeping your readers spellbound? It might not be your content, but your style that is causing them to yawn unnecessarily. To amp up the voltage from your writing, you need to focus on the style demands from: your reader demographic, your authentic voice, and the proper mechanics of writing.
Isn’t it amazing that a topic written by one person can be so much more thrilling than another? The difference is not in the details and facts, it’s in the way it is written. Writing online content well is a skill that needs to be honed over time, but there are some basics that anyone can use to get to a level of ease with their writing that may have previously eluded them. Here are 10 ways to improve your writing style that will show dramatic improvement in the copy you publish:
1. Write with Your Targeted Audience in Mind – The first step is to always write for your intended reader. The reason for this is because what interests one demographic does not necessarily interest another. Knowing your targeted reader helps you to write copy of interest to them, by taking their preferences into account – even before a single word is written on the page. For instance, if you are writing for a group of lawyers, they will be more interested in facts and figures than when you are writing copy for a fashion magazine, in which you will want to focus on look and feel.
2. Outline Your Main Ideas First – Once you know who you are writing to, then pick a concept of interest to them and outline the main ideas so that you can start with a coherent framework in mind, instead of just winging it. Once you get the hang of outlining your start, middle, and end, you can often do this step in your head. If your outline is too long, start trimming.
3. Keep It Short and Simple – Each main section of your outline should be easily encapsulated in short paragraphs. However, if you are writing more than just a feature article, your outline may need to focus on themes for individual chapters first, and then break it down into noteworthy ideas related to the theme for each main section of the chapter. The point is to make each idea easy to read, easy to digest, and not overwhelming or wordy. Avoid run-on sentences, blocks of run-on paragraphs without subheadings, and chapters that are too lengthy to digest in one sitting.
4. Avoid Redundancy – Get straight to the point. If you repeat yourself in writing, it comes off as dawdling. Do not repeat ideas, unless you are adding useful information, like when you use a story, metaphor, or an example to clarify the thought process. Do not use multiple words with the same meaning in the same sentence.
5. Use an Active Voice – Passive verbs in your sentences make the copy less exciting, so use active verbs that create action in the story. Present tense is also a good way to draw the reader into the moment with your story, instead of having them focusing on the past or future. Anytime your subject is not taking direct action and instead, is being acted upon by other agencies in your sentence, revise it to active voice to make your copy style more powerful.
6. Show, Don’t Tell – Fiction and creative writers will have to focus on also being descriptive, to create a 3-D world with their words. That means that they will need to also show what their characters are thinking, what they believe, and how they feel by what they do, instead of telling the reader what to think about those actions. They will need to be good at describing things in a new way, rather than using common words that are flat and uninteresting.
7. Provide Examples, Metaphors, and Stories – Even if you don’t write fiction, and want to write blogs and/or magazine articles, you can still benefit from showing the reader what you mean, via examples, metaphors, and stories. These types of techniques can make your style riveting and addictive, as well. It also provides a way to engross the reader on many levels, by invoking a common experience that triggers memory and, sometimes, sensory feedback.
8. Be Creative with Layouts – Your writing style isn’t just about the words on your page. It’s also about how those words are laid out on the page. Take advantage of formats that can make your writing style easy to read and concise, like bulleted or numbered lists. Don’t overlook the use of whitespace to make your writing easy on the eyes. Separate a large paragraph into two, if you need to add whitespace. This is particularly helpful for web copy written in successive paragraph. These consecutive paragraphs have a tendency to run into each other visually when they are on a computer screen.
9. Do an Editorial Review – With so many tools that can help you spell check and proofread, there is no reason not to do an editorial review of your own work. Good spelling and grammar makes your pieces look professional. It makes your style more polished. However, if you want to get some more insight into your style, you can get a professional critique for samples of some of your writing and use the advice to propel your work to a new level.
10. Practice, Practice, Practice – Every piece of copy you write is a chance to improve your writing style. Give it your best every time, and you will improve from the simple act of doing it over and over. If you spend years writing, you will be able to look back at your first attempts and see a vast difference in your style as it progresses and you learn more. The key is to never give up learning new ways to express yourself with your own authentic voice.
Every writer has a different style that they eventually adapt as their own. It can be a product of years of experience and training, or the result of an experiment in writing that proved successful with their particular audience. Each individual writer will ultimately progress on their own path, creating copy that echoes their own personality, even as it attempts to pull the reader into it. Those that master the craft of writing with unique styles, no matter how it ends up, will end up with a loyal grouping of avid fans and readers. For people trying to build an online business, the art of writing copy that is entertaining, informative, and persuasive can yield a return on their investment by closing more sales and creating a bigger audience of potential buyers and marketing leads as years go by. For writers who simply want to excel at their craft, it can help them generate a unique voice that audiences associate as their personal brand and is as good as money in the bank. Either way, it is a satisfying way to polish your professional image and find new ways to express your inner you.