What makes good writing?
Accuracy. Clarity. Brevity.
Perhaps you enjoy writing or perhaps you find it sort of painful. Regardless, all of us have to write something on a daily basis, whether it’s an email, proposal, presentation, article, and just about anything else.
However, the focus shouldn’t be on whether you want to write; it should be on your message. If you want your message to resonate, you’ll want to find ways to make your writing more appealing, interesting, and informative. The best way to do this is to pay attention to your word choice.
Here are 5 practical tips you can apply right away.
1.Choose active voice and vivid verbs. Passive voice, or leaving the subject out of the sentence, makes it look like you are trying to avoid responsibility. For example, instead of “the ball was thrown,” write “he threw the ball.” Whenever possible, avoid the “to be” verb (is, are, am, was, were). Instead of saying “he was running the meeting with an iron fist,” say “he ran the meeting with an iron fist.” Instead of “Bill is a great employee,” try “Bill works exceptionally well on a team.”
2.Choose precise words. All writing is made up of words. Doh! you may say, of course it is. To keep your writing short and to the point, use specific words. For example, rather than “several people,” use “three people.” Did you notice the title of this article? Instead of just saying “Tips to Make Your Writing More Exciting,” we’ve said, “5 Tips ….” Using numbers draws attention and gives the reader a “specific” path to follow.
3.Choose concise phrasing. Instead of “don't have the resources,” use “lack the resources.” Change “in view of the fact that” to “because.” Rather than “at the conclusion of the meeting,” write “following the meeting.” Shorter phrases make your writing easier to read and more interesting; longer phrases, while technically accurate, muddy up your writing.
4.Choose simple words. Trying to impress people with big words and complex sentences leads to ineffective writing. Avoid words like “utilize” rather than “use,” “ascertain” rather than “find out.” Exciting writing is focused and simple.
5.Choose appropriate words. If you write a technical piece for a publication, client, or colleague, you may choose to use jargon, acronyms, and industry-speak the intended audience naturally understands. When writing a note to a roommate or friend, you may choose to use slang or ultra-casual language. Either way, the reader needs to intuitively understand your point without asking questions or using Wikipedia to figure out what you’re trying to say.
The best way to improve your writing, whether you like to write or not, is to pay attention! While that may sound overly simple, it’s true. Spend time reading and reviewing your work, even if it’s a simple email. Make sure you’ve used clear and concise words, and that you’ve stopped writing when you’ve made your point.
Word choice can showcase your knowledge and education … or make you look juvenile and amateur. As Mark Twain said: The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.
Better writing equals better communication. Good luck!