John is a connoisseur of words who is currently on a journey to fully understand what it means to become a true wordsmith and marketer.
Writing is one of the most powerful skills you can have. It allows you to broadcast or preserve your ideas, express yourself, and share your knowledge with future generations. Without it, this article and all others would cease to exist.
This skill is used everywhere – from books and magazines to songs and movies. Unarguably, writing is a core pillar of society and in life. Take it from one of the greatest men in history, Abraham Lincoln, who said that "[writing enables] us to converse with the dead, the absent, and the unborn, at all distances of time and space."
That said, I think honing your writing skills is never a bad investment. However, it takes time to improve, and it will take longer to refine to be on par with today's recognized authors, copywriters, and communicators.
So how do you improve your writing skills fast?
A short disclaimer before I answer that. Writing about how to improve writing is quite challenging due to its comprehensive nature. We use this tool in so many areas of our lives. To name a few:
- Writing to communicate
- Writing to learn and think better
- Writing to express
- Writing to preserve ideas
- Writing to teach or instruct
- And so many, many more
So, in which area will this article help you improve your writing?
Writing to make money.
My goal is to help you improve your writing and become a better communicator. This article will help you write better emails, letters (application, resignation, etc.), essays, instructions (SOPs), and other forms of literature that will directly or indirectly help you make more money. Think proposals, scripts, articles, and whitepapers.
I'll do my best to keep things straightforward without getting boring. My overall goal is to make these suggestions instantly applicable to your writing, regardless of how refined your writing skills are. So without further ado, here are:
Four Easy Ways to Improve Your Writing
1. Be Specific
The difference between a good writer and an exceptional one is word choice. The latter will always be more specific, adding color to the piece. See, there's nothing wrong with general words. The problem occurs when you're limited to them.
To quickly demonstrate what I mean, please study this table, which shows a movement from vagueness to specificity:
MSI Aegis RS 11th Gen
Now, although the above table only shows nouns, being specific applies to verbs too. If the subject is "talking/saying," you will always have options to make it colorful by including emotions.
- For fear, you can use "whisper."
- For uncertainty, why not "ask."
- For anger, try using "scream."
Check this 550 Alternative Words for "Said" article for alternatives.
Being specific makes everything transparent, which is essential and impressive in a corporate setting. Wouldn't it be better to receive an email where documents are labeled correctly? Wouldn't it be more satisfying to get "Ad Video for Project ZYX - Ver A" than "Ad Material" or "Deliverable A?" How about "I'll submit the article about Michigan Law tomorrow at 4:30 p.m. to Henry, one of the publishing team supervisors" over "I'll send it tomorrow."
Spend a minute or two to refine your writing by narrowing things down. Aim for zero clarity questions in your recipient's response.
2. Stop Using Weak Verbs
Some verbs are weak. How do you identify them? Easy. It's when you need an adverb to portray the event clearly. Take the verb "hit." By itself, you can't picture anything specific. It could be a punch, a kick, a slap, a headbutt, or anything that connects something to someone.
"Hit" is tedious and inaccurate. It's weak.
Let's say, "John forcefully hits James, knocking him out." This example did not show how John hit James. It only informed us that it was powerful enough to knock James out.
Can we be specific by still using hit?
However, it reads like this, "John forcefully hits James using his fist, knocking him out." The problem is that there's a verb for what John did, and that verb is "punch!"
The key here is "weak verbs" equals "needing other words for assistance." Whenever you write a sentence where you have to add supplementary words here and there to emphasize what happened, review your verb choice! It would be a whole lot more powerful and vivid if I wrote the example sentence above as:
- "John punched James, knocking him out."
It's straightforward, and anything added makes the writing even more interesting.
- "John hooked James's right cheek the moment the latter opened the door, sending him to dreamland for three seconds."
In copywriting, mastering this is crucial. People tend to respond faster when your call-to-actions are convincing and direct. A good landing page maximizes conversion by using verbs that command its readers.
If you run a business or are responsible for marketing, you must avoid weak verbs. Copy that moves people is what you want. Instead of writing, "our car repair service will help you save time...," go for the kill: "save time by letting experts fix your car."
3. Understand Word Energy
Another thing that sets the difference between a good writer and an exceptional one is word feel, tone, or energy. Choosing words by their explicit meaning (denotation) is not enough. You have to consider connotation.
If you're not familiar with what that is, here's how Merriam-Webster defines connotation:
"The suggesting of a meaning by a word apart from the thing it explicitly names or describes."
For beginners, you can quickly divide words with the same meaning into three: positive, neutral, and negative. If a man behaves like a child in public, resulting in public disturbance, what adjective do you think would suit him best?
As you can see, "childish" seems to be the most fitting. Why? In most cases, we use that word to describe poor, immature adult behavior. On the other hand, childlike is often used to describe having good qualities associated with a child, while young is plain neutral.
Learning word connotations can be challenging, especially for non-native English speakers. However, one trick that works is observing how people use the word in books, movies, and other media – context. Another is just Google the word and suffix it with "connotation" and "meaning," e.g., "childish connotation meaning."
4. Use Figurative Language
Last but not least is using figurative language, especially when explaining something too technical. When used correctly, analogies, metaphors, personifications, similes, and other figurative language types can boost clarity and ease communication between you and your readers.
For example: explaining SEO to an elderly client who's not tech-savvy.
Instead of telling her that it's an intricate process where we try and manipulate the search engine's algorithm to rank our website or page for a particular keyword right away, I'll do something like this:
SEO is like selling your product in a store with the intention and effort of convincing the store owner to put your product on the most visible and accessible shelf.
This technique quickly helps you bring someone to speed. I used an analogy that helps the client understand the undertaking without having her/him get into all the technical details.
I shared an analogy, and it's a bit lengthier and more complex than similes and metaphors. In most non-business cases, mastering metaphors will do you more good. If you're not so familiar with how they work, Brian Clark's take on figurative speech may do you some good.
Wrapping It Up
How to improve your writing doesn't have to be complicated or overwhelming. There are speed tricks like these four ways to improve your writing that you can apply every time you get the chance.
Becoming a good writer doesn't happen overnight. It takes time. However, that time is defined by your willingness and determination to apply your learnings. The more you spend time looking for flaws in your writing and correcting them, the quicker you'll get good at it.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2022 John Emerson Conde