Learning how to write well is a skill that can be improved. Apply these tips to elevate your writing to the next level.
When I started writing, I was paid enough to get by. That was because search engine algorithms were easy to conquer.
The only rule of thumb was to create more content as more content meant higher rankings.
Little has changed since 2015.
The game plan for some people is still to pump-out as much as possible even if that means writing poor quality articles.
Content writers were paid on the basis of how much they could write rather than how well they would write.
Since the algorithms have changed dramatically and ranking on the first page of search engine results is a tough nut to crack, people have started valuing skilled content writers.
Quality content will continue to be everything and the game from now on is only going to get more challenging.
You need to create content that is engaging and relevant.
Here are the 5 most important lessons I’ve learned over the years.
I speak from my experience as a content writer in various niches; from food to beauty and copywriting to ghostwriting for the C-suite.
All of this writing also led to a position of a Chief Content Officer at a prestigious IT company and the publication of my debut cookbook: “7 Salad Recipes For Every Day of The Week.”
Let’s dive in, shall we?
1. Remain focused at all times
Just like a driver can crash a car and mess themselves anytime if not paying attention while driving, you can create unengaging and sloppy content if not 100% focused when you’re writing.
The process of writing starts way before you’ve written or typed a single word.
This means staying away from all possible distractions — thoughts, you need to have clear and concise vs disorganized and cluttered.
How can you achieve it?
Distancing yourself from anything that distracts you.
Here are some of the biggest culprits:
- Cluttered thoughts/environment
- Notifications including email, chat and chat
- Phone (yes, visually seeing it counts)
Managing the notifications bit is easy since you can do that with a minor tweak in your settings.
Keeping your phone away, on the other hand, is something a lot of people struggle with.
I prefer keeping it in my drawer across the room when I’m writing.
I go one step further and disconnect the internet on my laptop or computer.
To combat cluttered thoughts and environments, relax your mind and tidy up your desk before you begin writing.
It can be something as simple as watering your favourite plant, petting your dog or meditating…do what works for you.
To overcome the distractions that people bring, you can simply inform them you’ll be busy during the said hours.
It seems that everyone right from your neighbour to your electrician needs something urgently when you’re completely focused.
2. Find your most creative hours
Understand your circadian rhythms to find your peak creative hours.
We’re all different.
The good news is that you can alter it by changing your sleep pattern using light therapy to assist in changing your circadian rhythms.
Until 2017, my creative hours were from 11 p.m. to the wee hours in the morning.
This was a huge problem since I was juggling with a 9-5 job and classes.
I struggled with creativity during office hours.
My only solution was to bring all my work home and manage it with my classes.
However, this meant wasting most of my office hours staring at a blank screen waiting for inspiration to hit me.
And during the rare times it did, my co-workers wanted an espresso break or we were called for a team meeting.
The whole situation was frustrating, to say the least.
This prompted me to change my sleep schedule. The only way I could do that was by applying for a one-week leave.
I remember doing nothing throughout the week — just the bare minimum like making my meals to get by. I did, however, make it a point to read an hour before bed.
By the time my head hit the pillow, I was already asleep like a baby.
What suddenly happened?
I bored myself to sleep every day for a week. When I went back to the office, my body was recharged and my routine had changed completely.
I felt creative during early mornings to mid-afternoons. The key is to alter your routine in a manner that works the best for you.
You will be able to write better and need less time to complete the same amount of assignments.
3. Avoid ambiguity
Confusion will kill your career before anything else does.
If a reader becomes the least bit confused, they’re bound to flee and really quickly.
This is absolutely true when it comes to blogging where the reader expects the article to revolve around the title.
For instance, I should expect a horrible bounce rate if I went on a rant about search engine optimisation within an article that’s intended for you who seek to improve your writing.
Emails also require focus and have little room for any sort of confusion.
If the subject line of your email is about content strategy, don’t include your thoughts on the office party plans.
Make this your other rule of thumb when writing:
Less confusion = better writing
4. Outline first
Outlines are great because they help you organize your thoughts.
It is a great way to visualise how the article will look upon completion.
Like an interior designing plan or a GPS map.
You’ll know where to begin, which points to cover and where to end the article.
I use an outline for every single article I’ve written so far.
I use a small diary that I carry with me everywhere and note down my thoughts as and when they come.
5. Storytelling and writing shorter sentences
We, humans, love stories.
Inserting a small story or a personal anecdote increases your readership by a whopping 300%.
Alex Turnbull from Groove was able to achieve the same by incorporating this simple strategy.
The other points to keep in mind are writing shorter sentences and using active voice.
Short sentences mean no confusion and a clear and concise article.
Active voice, in my opinion, rules.
The cat was petted by Katie.
Katie petted the cat.
The latter not only appears cleaner but also sounds better.
You can improve your writing starting today.
Give yourself the time and patience you need. Writing is a slow process that’s best mastered by writing more every day.
Implement the above 5 tips into your everyday writing to develop stronger writing skills.