Why Your Writing Matters – and How You Can Improve

Maybe you’re a freelance writer. But even if you’re not–you’re a designer, or a programmer, or a photographer, say–then your writing still matters.

In this post, I’ll explain why your writing is important (even if you’re not a freelance writer). I’ll also share nine quick tips that will help you improve your writing.

Why Your Writing Is Important

Sure, a client might be impressed by your great designs or case studies. But if the copy on your website is poor, or if your emails are sloppy, they’ll look elsewhere.

Why? Because your writing represents you.

If you spoke to a client face-to-face, and sounded barely coherent, they wouldn’t hire you.

Like it or not, poor writing gives a poor impression. It suggests that you’re, at best, sloppy. Worse, it may make people think you’re actually a bit dim.

Prospective clients don’t have much to rely on. They need to feel secure and confident in your professionalism. A few careless slips, and they’ll move on, and hire someone else instead.

Fair? No.

True? Yes.

The good news is that you can do something about it–even if you’re not a writer.

(If you are a writer? Then it’s even more crucial that your website copy, blog posts and emails are up to scratch. So read on…)

Tip #1 Use Shorter Sentences

When you’re communicating online, short sentences are easy for the reader to grasp. They’re also easier to write. Long, complex sentences can tie themselves in knots–you only need to omit a word, or change tense accidentally, and you’ve lost the reader.

Consider using bullet points if you’ve got a sentence which involves a list. Bullet points don’t even need to be full sentences–and they’re easy for the reader to take in.

Tip #2 Read Your Writing Aloud

You’ll feel daft when you do this, but reading aloud is always incredibly illuminating. It lets you:

  • Spot sentences which went awry–perhaps you accidentally omitted a word
  • See typos and other mistakes–it’s easy for the eye to glide over these
  • “Hear” the voice of your sentence – and adjust it if necessary

Tip #3 Be Consistent

Consistency means making sure that all the elements of a sentence (or paragraph) fit together.

If you write a list, start each item in a way that fits with the phrase that introduced the list. For instance, when I wrote “It lets you:” to introduce the bullet points in #2, above, I started each bullet with a verb: spot, see, hear.

Tip #4 Use Contractions

This one’s up to you, and if you’re writing for a very staid audience, you might want to ignore it. Generally, though, online writing “sounds” better when you use contractions. That means writing “it’s” for “it is”, “don’t” for “do not” … and so on. If in doubt, read your sentences aloud, and see how they sound.

Tip #5 Run a Spellchecker

This is so basic that I shouldn’t have to suggest it. Sadly, I see a lot of online copy which clearly hasn’t been spell-checked. It takes seconds to spell-check (I use Chrome which has a built-in spellchecker).

Sure, the computer won’t be right all of the time–but you should look up any words which it highlights as wrong.

Tip #6 Learn Commonly Confused Words

There are plenty of words which are commonly misused. Words like:

  • Its – it’s
  • You’re – your
  • Their – they’re – there
  • Affect – effect

Muddling up words doesn’t just make you look ignorant–it can also alter the meaning of what you’ve written. If you struggle with this, I suggest checking this list of commonly confused words whenever you’re unsure.

Tip #7 Ask a Friend for Help

If you struggle to write well, get someone to look over your website or blog post. Ask them to point out any weak spots–not just spelling mistakes and other errors, but also places where your phrasing is awkward or confusing.

Tip #8 Proofread on Paper

If you struggle to spot your own mistakes (and most people do), then print out your blog post or newsletter or website copy, and go through it on paper. It sounds like a waste of time and ink–but it’s really worthwhile.

Tip #9 Cut Out Unnecessary Words

Most writers–even good ones–tend to overwrite. Look for any words which aren’t needed–often words like quite or really, or phrases like in my opinion or it seems to be the case that. You don’t need this extra padding: it weakens your sentences and distracts the reader from your main point.

Share Your Writing Tips

Your writing doesn’t need to be perfect. It doesn’t even need to be great. It just needs to be clear, competent and professional.

Whether or not you’re a writer, you’re capable of that. Just spent a little more time over what you write, and run through the nine tips above.

And if you are a writer (or a non-writer who’s learnt a few tricks) then suggest a tenth writing tip in the comments…

Image by sure2talk