Be careful what you wish for.
Do you want to be a better writer, or do you want to be a faster writer?
Or perhaps, a more effective writer?
Whether you have chosen to earn money directly from writing, or whether you are a reluctant writer because you need to create content for a website or blog, realize that you are a writer and that a study of the craft of writing will be useful. You could take a course, but you probably don’t have the time. Worse still, they’re not easy to find.
What was that? You don’t believe me? Yes, I know there are many writing course on the web, but take a look. You’ll find courses on creative writing, courses on screen writing, courses on copywriting, but when it comes to plain old informational content writing, there’s really not a lot.
But let’s back up. Why should you want to be a better writer?
Good news. Good writing is generally spare writing, to quote Stunk and White, (The Elements of Style)
‘ A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts.’
Once you’ve got the idea, your writing should be quicker. And your message will be clearer because all the superfluous words will have been swept away.
In other words, once you’ve got the hang of it and become a better writer, your articles will be shorter, sharper and more effective.
It’s easy to give reall general advice, and once again, you’ll find advice on better writing all over the web, but it is rarely specific.
One of the most common suggestions is to spend time reading.
Good advice, but hardly specific. What should we read? I’d recommend starting with something short, a post from copyblogger on writing. Can you learn how to write fact by reading fiction? Yes. Good writing is a lot about developing a feel for words. For example, many good writers use the rule of three, without ever having heard of it. You can get full details from another copyblogger post. If you don’t have the time to read it, just think about about ‘location, location location’ or ‘Eat, Pray, Love’. Take away just one element, or add one, and it just doesn’t have the same effect.
To write well, you need to change emphasis. It’s not about you, the writer, it’s about the reader.
- You need to grab their attention and hold on to it, and the best way to do that is to establish common ground.
- Once you have the readers attention, don’t be boring. Use words which move the text along.
- Get rid of extraneous words.
- Make your meaning clear by relating cause and effect.
- Move from the familiar to the unfamiliar. If there’s nothing unfamiliar in your writing, why write?
- Create solutions and action plans, in other words, make sure your writing gives the reader something useful.
- Forget what you want to say, and concentrate on what your reader wants/needs to know.
Here’s one of the best video’s Ive been able to find on this subject. It seems to be talking about fiction at the start, but hang in there, the information is all about business writing, and it’s very good advice.