Good writing can engage a reader’s attention, encourage them to think differently, and inspire them to take action.
However, effective writing can be difficult. It’s a skill that comes with training and practice. And while it can take years to master, it’s always helpful to have a few pointers that you can use immediately to improve the quality of your work.
Below are six tips you may find helpful:
Cut as much as you can: Use only as many words as you need to convey an idea.
In his classic book On Writing, Stephen King says that after writing a first draft of a novel, he goes through and deletes at least 10% of what he has written. That means a first edit could take a 100,000-word manuscript down to 90,000 words or less!
Express only one idea at a time: And speaking of a simple message, it helps to keep your article or other copy limited to just one main idea. If it’s a long sales letter, then supportive information can be included; however, the focus should still revolve around just one big idea.
Trying to cram too many ideas or too much information into your writing will only serve to dilute your message, and pull the reader’s attention in too many different directions.
If you have several good ideas to present, you can do what is known as thin slicing – write a separate article, letter, email, etc for each idea.
Power words: Engaging copy, whenever possible, uses an active voice (‘she ran’ rather than ‘she was running’). It’s also important to avoid adverbs – instead, use descriptive verbs (‘he shouted’ rather than ‘he talked loudly’).
Just these two simple rules alone can do a lot to improve your writing.
Conversational tone: Grammatical rules can sometimes be broken to make writing more conversational in tone. Try reading your work out loud, to see if it flows naturally.
Also, many experts in copywriting recommend keeping your written materials at an 8th grade reading level or lower. You can check the reading level at the website readable.io.
Use the principles of direct response marketing: Good writing doesn’t just inspire emotions… it inspires a person to take action!
Depending on your needs, you might want your copy to inspire someone to purchase a product… donate to a cause… or join a social media conversation.
American Writers and Artists, Inc (AWAI) specializes in training copywriters for direct response. Consider taking their course, or hiring a copywriter who is AWAI-certified.
Be a storyteller: Consider this quote from Seth Godin: “Marketing is no longer about the stuff that you make but about the stories you tell.”
Stories stir up emotions. They provide proof that a product or service really works, and they do it in a way that is entertaining rather than pushy. A good story helps to establish a connection and build trust.
So, in your writing, include stories that will bring the facts and information to life. Try to find customer stories to use as testimonials and case studies. Or, use a story from your own life to serve as a metaphor for a point you are trying to make.
About the Author
Dr. Tammy Powell is the owner of The Writing DVM, a copywriting business offering services to the veterinary and pet industries. She specializes in white papers, case studies, and content, all of which build trust for long-term client relationships. She is AWAI-certified, and trained in the art of storytelling via creative writing.