But here’s the thing: if your writing doesn’t clearly explain your message in a few words, you can end up in a void of communication disasters.
It’s possible your colleague doesn’t appreciate your novel-length emails because it takes her a good half hour to figure out exactly what you need. Or, you end up meaning to say something, but words don’t do justice in explaining your intent.
To beat miscommunication in its gut, I’ve put together this checklist of effective writing tips for you to use whenever you pull out the digital pen.
Let’s hit it:
8 Proven Tips for Effective Writing (And Clearer Communication)
1. Write the key message on top of the paper.
Whether it’s an email or an essay, you need to make sure there’s one key message that it delivers.
Not sure what your key message is? Swap this step with creating an outline first. By laying out your thoughts as part of creating the outline, you’ll learn exactly what it is that you want your reader to focus on.
2. Write an outline before working on the draft.
You’ve probably already heard how important an outline is for giving direction to your content. It’s the backbone of anything that you write, giving it a steady foundation and encouraging clarity of thought.
For short pieces, consider jotting down your thoughts in bullet points even if they’re just three points. For long ones, set time aside to create a well-researched outline.
3. Get straight to the point
There’s a reason why lengthy intros are despised – nobody ever reads them.
Readers only have one thing in mind as they click to read your content: what’s in it for me? A lengthy intro prevents them this privilege, so they’re likely to end up frustrated. If they have the luxury to quit reading what you’ve written, they wouldn’t think twice before exiting the page.
So, it helps to keep your intro short, like really short.
For emails and social media captions, consider removing the intro or leverage one-line intros. And, tell readers what they’ll learn from you if you plan to keep them on the page. If you’re writing an email that makes a request, make the ask first, add context next.
4. Don’t repeat what you’ve already said.
Sure, you’ve heard readers have attention spans poorer than a goldish’s. But, this doesn’t mean that you keep repeating things for the sake of making your point.
It’s okay to do so if you’re working on lengthy blog posts. For other types of content, format your content. Think: bold the main takeaway or emphasis things by writing it in italic format.
5. Use active voice.
If you’re thinking I’m not a fan of grammar lessons, I feel you. I’m not a huge fan myself. But, sticking with active voice doesn’t deliver a ton of benefits like making your message clear and easy to read in contrast with writing in the passive voice.
For a quick recap: an active voice is when your subject does something. Example: Sally wrote a letter. In comparison, passive voice introduces the subject later. For the example above, this becomes: A letter was written by Sally.
See the difference?
6. Make your text easy to read.
Long sentences and paragraphs make it tough for readers to read no matter how interested they are in reading what you’ve written.
The solution is simple: writing easy to read stuff. How? For one, use short sentences. Aim for keeping them to 21 words max. If a sentence or two is long, consider mixing it with short sentences in the paragraph.
Two, write short paragraphs. Only explain one thing in a paragraph. You can also break text into bullet points. Lastly, formatting content by adding headings and subheading can also make your content easy to read.
7. Get rid of fluff words.
You wouldn’t know if but fluff can quickly sweep into your writing. Essentially, fluff is something that doesn’t add value to what you’ve written. It’s the extra word baggage that compromises your writing clarity.
For example: whether you like it or not has some excess words that the line could do without. Write: whether you like it. Remove ‘or not’ since your line can survive without it.
To make your writing crisp, here’s a list of fluff words that you need to get rid of.
8. Always tell the reader what you want her to do.
This is very important. Without a call to action (CTA), readers don’t know what you want them to do.
If it’s a blog post, do you want them to comment on it? Ask for it at the end of the piece. In case of an email, tell your recipient what you expect to hear from them. So, in addition to making your ask at the start, include a CTA such as ‘can you get back to me with [your ask]’
That’s all, folks. By sticking to these tips, I’m positive you’ll note your communication is clearer. So here’s to effective written communication. 🎉