Many people sit down to write, and suddenly they seem to think they need to add extra words. You may have found yourself doing that too at some stage – using words you know are unnatural for you to use and just adding fluff to your writing.
The truth is, the best writing (especially online writing) is writing that makes the reader feel as if you’re talking right to them. In order to do this you can’t use irrelevant words, but you can’t leave out what’s important either.
Craft a Working Title
Starting with a title is a great way to narrow down what you’re going to tell your readers. You can always perfect it later. Crafting a title involves understanding the reason for your message.
Make an Outline
After you’ve written your working title, it’s time to make an outline. Just write a few bullet points about the issues you want to tell your audience.
Avoid Redundant Words
Common redundancies like “absolutely perfect”, and “actual facts” can either add to or subtract from the meaning of your words. Most of the time you want to avoid needless redundancies such as “last and final” because it adds nothing to the meaning of your words. There can be an argument for certain types of irreverent writing to include these redundancies but for concise writing, avoid them as much as possible and edit for meaning.
You were likely taught in school to write short, to-the-point sentences. But sometimes it’s appropriate to combine sentences for more concise copy. Combining short sentences helps you avoid boring your audience. When you can combine two sentences easily, without creating a run on sentence, you should do it. It will improve understanding of the copy and improve the flow.
That, Who, Which
Sometimes these words are needed, but when you are editing your work, pay extra attention to times when that, who, and which are being used. Try the sentence without these words to see if the meaning changes or if it changes the emphasis of the words.
Use Active Voice
It’s very easy slip into using passive voice when writing. But, most of the time using active voice is more appropriate. A key to knowing when passive voice sneaks in are the words, “it, is, was, and by“. If you notice those words while editing, try to arrange the sentence by switching the passive voice to active voice.
When an action word becomes a noun, it becomes a nominalization (e.g. “illustration” versus “illustrated”). These should be avoided. They have a negative effect on your copy by making reading it monotonous and easy to misunderstand. Instead focus on making sentences active and using nouns as nouns and action words as action words.
No one can write good copy in one draft. In fact, it may take you multiple drafts to perfect your copy. Take the time to perfect each sentence for each type of copy you write. Start with free-flowing copy, leave it for a while, then come back to it and make it better.
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