Considering I write for a living (and for fun), I’m actually surprised it’s taken me this long to think of this blog post. Over the years, I’ve written for magazines, websites and for luxury brands – and I’ve learnt A LOT. To be honest, I still feel like I’m learning every day and hopefully that will never stop, but I do have a few pearls of wisdom to share already. Whether you’re set to write a cover letter or thinking of starting a blog, here is my best advice to help with your writing…
1. Imagine you’re the reader
This is rule number one because your words are always going to miss the mark if you’re pitching to the wrong audience. Imagining who the reader and it will help you nail the correct tone. Compare the text you find on an insurance website to the paragraphs in your favourite magazine, the way it’s written is completely different but both are accurate for that particular reader. Think about if you need to be informative, clear, chatty, funny etc…
2. Just make a start
It’s rather strange that ‘writers block’ seems to happen before you’ve even got one word on the page, but it’s really true that getting started is the hardest part. Each time I sit down to write (which is quite often considering I do it for a job), I try not to think too much about the start, I just go. The thing is, you can always go back and edit it later – it’s just good to get some words on the page.
3. Write down keywords
If you’re really struggling to get off the starting line, a technique I often use is to write down any keywords or points associated with the topic and these will often form the main gist of each paragraph. You’ll be surprised that even writing down a few random words can inspire you to form those first few sentences.
4. Don’t stray from the point
After you’ve written a few paragraphs, check back in with your main aim for this piece of writing. It is VERY easy to veer off track and start going off on a tangent, but remind yourself of the main point to stay focussed.
5. Use a thesaurus
If you’re trying to elevate your writing and make it sound more interesting then an online thesaurus will become your new best friend. Switching up a few words can really transform the overall feel of your work – but just be warned not to over use it as your text will lose meaning if it’s full of obscure words.
6. Don’t overcomplicate things
Sometimes when you try too hard, your writing can come across very clunky and unclear, so when it doubt, just keep it simple. Remember KISS – meaning Keep It Simple, Stupid.
7. Write more
Just like most things (bikini waxes excluded) the more you do it, the easier it gets. So, basically just write as much as you can to improve those skills.
8. Read more
As well as writing more, reading more will help you along on your writing journey. It will expose you to more writing styles and more words, which can only be a good thing.
9. Google it
If you’re not sure on a tricky spelling or have a grammar conundrum, just give it a Google – chances are someone out there has had the same question as you, and another bright spark has the answer!
10. Proofread (again, and again)
I can’t stress this point enough because it’s a biggie. Yes, of course, everyone makes mistakes but the only way you’re going to catch as many as humanly possible is by checking your work over and over again. If time allows, I’d always recommend coming back to your copy in a few hours (or even a day later) to allow you to read it with fresh eyes.
11. Read aloud
One way to really make sure your written words flow well is to read them out loud – find a willing (or unsuspecting) pal or simple read aloud to yourself. It’s crazy how obvious your mistakes will become once you are reciting your words.
I really hope this helps some budding writers!