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Whether you’re launching a new blog for your business or you want to take your online marketing efforts to the next level, you need stellar writing skills. Not sure where to start? Check out these nine simple ways to improve your writing.
Image via Flickr by Adikos
Great writing doesn’t happen by accident. Instead, it requires focus, concentration, and purpose.
To get in a productive mindset and improve writing quality substantially, take steps to eliminate distractions. When you sit down to write, give your full attention to the task at hand. Keep multitasking to a minimum by signing out of your social media accounts, pledging not to check your email, and clearing your desk. If your phone often interrupts your work, dial down the volume or turn off notifications altogether. Slip on a pair of noise-canceling headphones or turn on music that helps you stay focused.
While some writers can design entire distraction-free days, you can still benefit from eliminating interruptions even if your schedule only allows you to work for shorter periods of time. Divide your writing projects into ideation, research, outlining, writing, and editing so you’ll know exactly where to start when you have time to focus.
Know Your Target Audience
Before you even begin the writing process, identifying and understanding your target audience is critical. Naturally, you’ll want to create content that resonates with your audience and helps educate and persuade your readers.
Once you’ve identified your target audience by analyzing your current customer base or considering the kinds of people who can best use what you’re selling, consider developing marketing personas. These serve as templates for your ideal customers and can help you target readers who meet certain demographics, have specific problems, or hold particular levels of buying power. You can use these marketing personas as guides as you write for your target audience.
Start With a Solid Idea
Every great blog post, article, and piece of long-form content should start with a solid idea. For most writers, ideas center on answering important questions, explaining how to get the most out of your products and services, or sharing news about your company’s offerings.
If you’re experiencing writer’s block, set aside some time to develop a list of ideas. Rather than coming up with a single idea each time you sit down to write, challenge yourself to come up with a handful of ideas at once. To populate your list, review common questions that your customers ask, brainstorm ways to highlight the perks of your products, or even take a peek at what your competition is doing.
Keep It Organized
Once you have an idea for your next piece of content, don’t jump into writing immediately. Approaching writing in an unfocused way often means that you don’t know what point you’re trying to make or how to get there. Disorganization can make the writing process take longer for you and prevent you from making your point in a timely manner. As a result, you might lose your readers before you’ve had a chance to say your piece.
One of the simplest ways to get organized is to develop an outline before you start writing. This can be as easy as planning out the subheadings for your blog post, or it can be as complex as hammering out all of the ideas for your white paper in a traditional outline form.
Structure for Readability
As you’re composing your next great piece of content, always remember the context. Naturally, you’ll want to design the structure and writing style around your audience’s needs and preferences.
If you’re writing an in-depth case study or a high-level white paper, you’ll want to incorporate facts and figures while writing in a formal tone that’s appropriate for the industry. For a blog post or article, however, you can keep the tone more conversational, the paragraphs shorter, and the style more casual.
Make It Active
One of the most effective ways to better your writing is to replace passive phrases with active sentences. Passive passages tend to slow down the pace of your writing, adding unnecessary filler and weakening the overall message. In contrast, active verbs lend momentum to your writing while giving the reader agency and encouraging your audience to take action.
To clear out the passive filler, try not to use forms of the verb “to be.” Instead, put your audience in the driver’s seat and focus on the reader instead of the action.
Skip the Buzzwords
Buzzwords are terms that have become so overused they’ve essentially lost their meaning. Using jargon won’t endear you to your audience or help you fit into a coveted niche. Replace buzzwords with descriptive terms and words with meaning, and you’ll have a much better chance of both making your point and standing out.
Remember that buzzwords aren’t the same as industry jargon. You may need to use industry terms to plug into a high-level audience or discuss expert-level concepts. When you do, make sure you understand what you’re saying and refrain from overusing jargon.
Use a Unique Voice
If your content sounds just like the blog posts and articles that countless other writers produce, you won’t give your audience much of a reason to read your work. That means your target audience might opt to read someone else’s content instead.
Rather than emulating other writers and brands, take the time to develop your own unique voice. Whether your voice is authoritative, helpful, friendly, or something else entirely, it should set you apart from the competition and help you build a loyal audience.
Leave Time for Editing
Once you complete the last sentence of your brilliant blog post, stop yourself from publishing it immediately. Even if you think your writing is flawless, you owe it to your audience to proofread and edit your work.
If you edit your own work, let it rest for at least an hour between writing and proofreading. Waiting will help you approach your work with fresh eyes, which improves your editing. In many cases, you’ll produce even better work if you hire or contract a professional editor who can help turn your content into gold.
No matter your starting point, you can hone your skills and improve your writing. Keep these tips in mind, and you’ll have the tools you need to become a great writer.