7 Ways to Improve Your Writing … Right Now

image of woman checking her watch

Many of you would love to write more compelling blog posts, articles or web copy.

You’ve heard all the old advice. Practice makes perfect. Get your 10,000 hours in. Just show up and write.

And of course, that’s all a good idea. It just takes so danged long.

Meanwhile, I’ve got a couple of fast ways you can improve your writing immediately. No waiting for that pesky, tedious “practice” to kick in.

Way better.

Be concise and be clear

You’ve heard this one a million times. Tight, concise, easy-to-read pieces are heaven for readers. Long, complex, convoluted ones are just confusing.

Very often, the longer you write, the less you hold a reader’s interest.

If you can’t say it simply in just a few words, then you’ve lost readers. Write short, write lean, and write clearly, so you don’t have to waste words explaining what you’ve just written.

Keep it short

Not your writing (although that’s a good idea), but your line length.

Interestingly, people actually read longer lines faster. But fast reading isn’t necessarily what you want them to be doing. You want readers to be absorbing what you wrote, understanding your message, and reading comfortably as well.

So go for short. Set your page layout so that it’s not full width, or if you need that full width, keep sentences short and use plenty of paragraph breaks.

100 characters per line is optimal for speed — but about 45 characters is best for reader comfort.

Stick to three

3 is a magic number.

It’s said that people can process 7 bits of information (more or less) at a time. But the number that’s most compelling is the one we like the best: 3.

So have 3 bullet points. 3 steps, 3 strategies. Use the number 3 as often as you can.

Not only will you capture better reader interest by doing so, but you’ll improve your readers’ ability to remember what you’ve written. We tend to chunk information into groups of three, and recall those triads more easily.

Watch your tone

It’s easy for writers to assume readers can pick up on our mood and tone from our writing.

After all, we certainly know our feelings, humor, intent, and state of mind at the time we write. But for readers, it’s clear as mud. They’re guessing at your tone — and they may guess wrong.

Here’s an example:

Honey. Please.

Was I exasperated and rolling my eyes? Smiling and gently teasing? Acidly sarcastic? Or maybe just eating toast and reaching for the bear-shaped bottle?

As a reader, you have no idea unless the words around that phrase cue you into my written tone.

Talk Food, Sex, and Danger

Susan Weinschenk from What Makes Them Click is writing a great series called 100 Things You Should Know About People.

Go check it out. It’s good. Seriously good.

In this resource, Susan mentions that our brains always ask the following questions:

Can I eat it? Can I have sex with it? Will it kill me?

Nice.

Nice for you, too, because if you want people to pay more attention to your writing, bring up those big three (there’s that number again). Use stories and examples that touch on aspects of food, sex, or danger.

Add descriptors or associative words. Pair it with a nice picture, if you’d like. It’ll glue them to the page.

Break it up

Time and again, I see writers spooling out long, chunky paragraphs.

No, no, no.

Make it easy for people to read your work. The easier it is, the more they’ll get your point and enjoy reading — and that’s what you want.

Reading online is tiring (yes, even for you fresh-eyed Gen Ys out there). So you need to do everything you can to make it less of a strain.

  • No more than three sentences to a paragraph, please, and keep those sentences short.
  • Add bullet points and subheads to guide people along.
  • Oh, and bump up that font size, would you? Tiny means squint, and that’s no good.

Stay on topic

I know how tough this one is — I commit the crime of wandering too often myself, and have to make sure I don’t stray too far from my main point.

If I add too many points to a piece of writing, readers get confused about the main point of my post. They’ll be confused about yours, too.

Building an outline helps. Decide on the main point of your piece and create three (!) sub-points that support it. Make sure each one ties back to the message you want to get across to readers, and make sure each sub-point is supportive and relevant.

So there are your quick guides to becoming a better writer today.

How about you? What’s your favorite tip for immediate writing improvement? Let us know in the comments!

About the Author: If you want to improve your writing skills quickly, easily and with personal attention, check out Men with Pens and James Chartrand’s newly-launched writing coach program today. You’ll be on the fast track to word success!

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  1. These are some nice, short tips, on how to improve the writing.

    It’s interesting when you look at the writing styles of Nobel literature writers. William Cuthbert Faulkner would like long sentences and works. Ernest Hemingway, however, like to keep sentences short; books thin. Perhaps this is bcause of his journalistic training. So short and concise would win a big prize.

    The most interesting point is to talk food, sex and danger. Wasn’t it Erica Jong – the Ph.D. professor in literature – whose claim to fame is to write books loaded with sex? Hum? I wonder how you would combine food, sex and danger in one work? Perhaps a spy story?

    Interesting points. Clear – yet very concise.

    Randy

  2. Love this post. I know we can always count on you for the good stuff. Not only is it good advice, but you practiced what you preached – anyone notice the subheads, short sentences and short paragraphs? There’s nothing worse when people give advice and then don’t follow it. Way to lead by example, James!

    And P.S., love the new design. It’s airy, clean and easy on the eyes. Good work!

  3. It might seem formulaic, but I find the 5 paragraph essay form I learned in high school still works best.

    A short intro paragraph, telling them the three (yes, three!) points your going to tell them about.
    A paragraph for each of the three points.
    A closing paragraph recapping what you just told them.

    You can write about anything this way, and any article is as simple as coming up with three salient points. Once you have your three points, writing the article itself is easy.

  4. Thank God someone else understand that writing shorter post keeps the read attention. People attention spans are short so you must be willing to tel your story in less then 350 words if you ask me..

    “TrafficColeman “Signing Off”

  5. I love how “readable” this article is. It makes me want to put everything into practice.

    I’ve learned to stay on topic by breaking ideas up into multiple posts, or a series. When I started my blog, Sonia Simone took a look at my thousand + word article and genlty suggested that I can break it up into multiple posts.

    Why pack so many ideas into one page?

    • That is a great tip. I’m a pretty verbose person and often have a hard time cutting my posts because I think the information is to valuable to loose. But if I break it up into different posts then I don’t loose the information, I keep each post focused and easy to read PLUS I don’t have to stress about coming up with a post for the next day.

  6. What great advice. As I begin to ramp-up my blog I find this type of coaching extremely valuable. Keep it short. Keep it simple. Keep it scannable. Thanks!

  7. A great post, came to me at a very good time. I really like the idea of 3 as well! Thanks for sharing.

  8. I had forgotten about the rule of three, but it does ring a bell now. I also think I’ve heard that anything more than five is way too much…

    Of course that would seem to throw a wrench into list posts…

    • I was thinking the same thing as I was reading it: “7 Ways to Improve Your Writing” but one of them is to only concentrate on three???

      But after thinking about it again, I realized that a lot of my favorite list posts really need to be digested in small bits rather than chowed down all at once. There have been times I’ve read a great “15 Widgets You Need to…” posts and said to myself, “I NEED to do these things!” But actually applying them never happens 15 points at a time.

      If I don’t take the time to save it and refer back to it later on, I’ll probably only implement a few of the suggestions.

      Probably three. :)

  9. Excellent advice. Now, If only those with final approval over my corporate work would understand these ideas.

  10. Great tips, particularly when it comes to keeping it short.

    Bloggers have to be constantly on, writing inspired, compelling pieces. Sometimes less is more, but sometimes we just need more.

    My fellow B2B blogger Rebekah Donaldson just shared the challenge of feeding the blog beast http://www.b2bcommunications.com/blog/bid/48582/B2B-Content-Marketing-Attack-of-the-Blog-Monster and I am always looking for ways to keep my stuff fresh.

    Thanks.

    JT Long

  11. Ahhh, Jimmy! So we meet again.

    I find that it’s also incredibly important to take a moment to look over your article for typos and grammatical errors. I often find very intelligent people who present themselves on their blogs in a way that makes themselves sound very ignorant because they fail to properly harness the English language.

    Of course, to fully master this concept, it takes years of English classes but the quick and easy step is to simply slow down before you hit the publish button and slowly read over your material one last time before sending it out to your audience.

    P.S. Whenever I write about grammar, I always fear that the very comment I’m using to promote the subject will be flawed itself. If that’s the case, I apologize. I’m not an English major, but I find it incredibly important and I’m constantly working to try to improve.

    • I have been writing for years and know the things mentioned here; but I still get in a hurry and hit publish, look at the work and see mistakes. I have taken to doing a draft and then preview to see what the post looks like and then trying to read the thing again maybe even outloud. When I take the time to do this, I don’t need to do updates.

  12. You have shown clearly here the difference between the traditional writing and online writing or writing blog posts. In my own experience writing blogs, I always struggled with breaking up that lengthy paragraph, as if having short ones, like maximum three sentences, is a crime to the composition writing world. As with graphics, the layout or design of your post means a lot to online readers. Long paragraphs, appearing like thick cumulonimbus clouds in the composition would make the copy appear very heavy and not “palatable” to the reader’s eyes. Breaking that thick paragraph and letting your sentence “fall like rain” is just like making the “storm” of an article become lighter to read. Definitely, this is how I felt while reading your post. Thank you very much.

  13. Content and Web Design Relation

    Isn’t it interesting how the basic concept of what you wrote can also apply to so many other things online? For example, look at your blog’s design. Like the new fabulous Copyblogger theme, the concepts you talked about (keeping attention, spacing, clear, concise, formatting, etc.) can all apply to a blog’s design.

    Re: What’s your favorite tip for immediate writing improvement?

    When writing, always keep in mind the:

    - why
    - what
    - how

    (oh… was that 3? hehe)

    Why what your article is about is good?
    What is (insert blog topic) good for?
    What can I do with (insert blog topic)?

    Keep those questions in your mind while you write and you’ll be pointed in the right direction every time.

  14. Most Valuable Tip: Read it out loud before you send it.

  15. Really great stuff, as usual James. Personally, one of my most valuable methods of improving just about anything I write is to say it first. Sometimes, especially if I’m on the go, I’ll talk a post out into my voice recorder on my phone, then transcribe it later. Obviously I’ll edit it at that point, but with a real effort on keeping the easy, conversational tone that talking it out generally creates. I’ve found that the posts I create this way flow better than the ones I write from scratch and then try to “make conversational.”

  16. I like the rule of 3, I think it is very effective and it helps you develop a streamline.

  17. What a coincidence the past several articles I’ve written on ezinearticles.com have been Top 3… or 3… I agree shorter is better. Now I need to start practicing these 7 ways to improve my writing now.

  18. Roberta Rosenburg told me to read my copy outloud-and it works wonders for spell-checking your work the rightt way.

    1. Run it through spell checker.
    2. Correct.
    3. Print it out.
    4. Read it outloud.
    5. Put it down.
    6. Read it again.

    That’s what I do anyway :)

    As far as font size, is 12pt recommended , or go even bigger for blogging?

    Thanks!

    • Depends on which font you use, of course, because some are created tiny, even in 12pt.

      But yeah, a larger font is best. Not huge, of course, but something that’s readable across all generations. Tiny GenY Arial 8 or 10 is a real bugger to read easily. Bump that up to a 12 and suddenly it’s, “Ahhhh…”

  19. Mmmmmm I’m totally guilty of rambling on and on and on. Right now I’m working on a novel for NaNoWriMo and the more I write, the better. It’s all about quantity and I’m afraid quality can go to hell :-) Then again, no one is actually going to read all those words so that’s alright. I shall try to write more readable blog posts and keep the rambling to the novel.

    From now on I’ll:
    1. Write shorter blog posts.
    2. Break it up.
    3. Spice up spelling mistake discussions with a little food, sex or danger.

    I have no idea how to manage that last one but at least I’ve mastered the rule of three. Thanks James, I love the new look.

    Cheers,
    Jax

  20. For me, it’s got to be short, concise and to the point.

    Occasionally, I will stick with one written as a story but it’s gotta be a really interesting story.

  21. Thank you.

    Great post.

    :)

  22. Can I eat it? Can I have sex with it? Will it kill me?

    And don’t forget the combinations:

    Will it kill me if I eat it?

    Will it eat me if I have sex with it? (Okay, maybe that’s only make praying mantises that wonder that one.)

  23. Good one, thanks. Inspires me to keep on writing.

  24. This new design is awesome.

  25. It’s funny that I read “100 characters per line is optimal for speed — but about 45 characters is best for reader comfort.”, which is printed on a single line. I get curious and counts the number of characters, and I get 99.

    This blog is designed to read fast then, right?

  26. What is this redesign doing here? I model the design of my sites off of Copyblogger’s layout…you’re ruining me Clark!

    (and of course the new design is sweet – and so clean. Plus, a writing article from James on day one? Can it get any better?)

    Happy Monday all!

    • Edit: I noticed there isn’t a date byline on the redesign. Could be deliberate, could not be. Just pointing it out.

      • We actually didn’t have one on the old design either. We have so much cornerstone content that’s just as valuable four years later as it was when it was written, and a date byline can be distracting in those cases.

        • While that’s true for this site, I think it’s used far more often in cases where you really should have a date. I’m thinking specifically about WordPress tip sites, although it works for any technically oriented sites.

          The problem comes when I’m looking for the current state of the art in … whatever. Are people using CAPTCHA or Akismet, or is there something new that’s better than both? What’s the best plugin for comments, is it still BuddyPress? How do I add custom post types?

          These are the kinds of questions where the answer changes over time. The 2009 answer is completely wrong if you’re using the latest version of WordPress. That comparison of comment plugins was written before the latest major upgrade of one of them, and the introduction of a new one from Automattic.

          • Exactly, it depends on the topic. Technology changes a lot faster than copywriting does. But many people will disregard any piece of content that’s more than a month old, whether that’s merited or not.

  27. I love this. You’ve given me practical advice that I can take home and put to work. Bookmarking now. Thanks!

  28. This is brilliant!!!! “Can I eat it? Can I have sex with it? Will it kill me?”

  29. Comedy writers use the rule of three in a manner that nicely ties into watching your tone. They use three items and the last item on the list is so unlike the others, there’s no mistake it’s humor.

    Ex. How do you get to my place? Go down to the corner, turn left, and get lost.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rule_of_three_%28writing%29

  30. Great post as always James,

    All these concepts were front and center when I was a newspaper writer. People should constantly remind themselves of these rules, lest they slip back into dense writing.

    I would add that it’s better to forget about these rules when writing a first draft. It’s only after you’ve got the general idea on paper, can you start chiseling away on the rock, with all the tools you list above.

    “There is no such thing as writing. Only rewriting.” – Mark Twain

  31. Great post, I will definitely be implementing these things into my blog. You write some great tips on this website and I will continue to read up!!

    Thanks!!

    http://blog.moscreative.com/

  32. As a fairly new blogger, I find your advice invaluable. Thank you. Funny that so much of what you say applies to photography as well. I love making the correlations! Keep up the good work!

  33. Great stuff as always, James. Your second point is incredibly important and, I believe, incredibly underutilized. Writers rarely consider the physical topography of their work and how their structure can better shepherd readers and enhance comprehension.

    Thanks for bringing attention to the concept. In the end, it’s all about the reader.

    -cb

    • Hi James,

      So true that creating rules for yourself makes your writing stronger.

      I found that my finished product is better when I spread the writing over multiple days. Day 1: Develop a concept. Day 2: Outline. Day 3: Rough draft. Day 4: Revision. Day 5: Tweak and Proofread

      So instead of writing an article per day for 5 days, I’m writing 5 articles in stages over a period of 5 days. Same output.

      I find that it reduces the stress of writing when I have a limiting goal for each session. And there is a logic that emerges from the piece when I give my brain multiple opportunities to run through the idea from beginning to end.

      The biggest problem is learning to shift gears. But I find that if I try to crank out the whole thing in one session, it doesn’t read well. . . sorta like this comment.

      Jack

      • That’s a good method, Jack, and one I highly agree with. By working on only one task at a time, your brain gets to focus on the task at hand… and doesn’t have to shift gears between several in a short period of time.

        • Oops, I should have read today’s post on Men With Pens before I commented. You cover the same theme.

          Glad I’m not the only one with multiple personalities. You’re so right, it’s hard to keep them all in line. Yours seem to get along better than mine.

      • I work on a similar style as well. I find that I cannot think objectively about a post if I haven’t given it at least 24 hours to sit. Then I engage my left brain. Works great for me.

  34. I just want to say this blog gets better every day.

    I love the new design!

    The post quality continues to soar! Thanks CB!

  35. Definitely edit! Even a quick read-through will help you catch glaring mistakes (and your blog readers will kindly inform you of all the rest).

    The more readable your stuff is, the more likely people are to read it — and come back. Put it this way: You won’t lose readers by having impeccable spelling and grammar. But you will lose readers if you have typos, misspellings, and glaring sloppiness.

  36. Thank you, that was some of the most helpful advice I’ve come across. I’ll retweet it.

  37. Love this post! Definitely valuable reminders for quality writing.

  38. I haven’t found time to read it yet, but as it’s by James Chartrand, it’ll be well worth reading.

  39. Great points.

    Now, I heard / read somewhere that 7 was the “magic” number- never heard the three. It would be easier to remember.

    Yes, white space!

    Headlines…bullet points…graphics, whatever!

    .

  40. James this is great! Plus I am buying Susans book! Thanks for the recommend
    http://www.whatmakesthemclick.net/the-book/

  41. This post helps shake the cobwebs out of my writing. I’ve found that over time, little non-essential things has slipped into my writing, slowing it down a touch. This post directed me to a few culprits –

    1. Long sentences. I love ‘em. I love compounding them. I love sticking semi-colons in them and tacking on “just” one more point. Oops – thanks James

    2. For me 7 is the new 3 – Now my posts are featuring nuggets of wisdom in multiples of 7 instead of just good old 3. Perhaps the extra points aren’t needed. I’ll take a look (I’m sure I won’t be happy)

    3. Sexy blog design – somehow Copyblogger’s new fancy pants makes this post look hot. I don’t know what it is – but your blog looks better than mine. Shame Shame. I spent on this time subtly copying you and you moved the darn bar again.

    Thanks James, Sonia, and Brian

  42. Thanks for the great tips – in the article and in the comments.
    I’d just like to add one more thing: Give yourself enough time.
    Writing for 20+ years, I used to get cocky about how long a piece would take to write. Then I would sit down and realize I needed more research; or fiound the subject more challenging upon further contemplation; or just couldn’t get into the zone. The hour that I’d thought the piece would take me, maximum; would pass before I’d written (and not afterwards deleted) a paragraph.
    Now I give myself double my initial estimate. Good luck to all.

  43. James rocks, as usual. I pretty much just read and do what she says.

    I think the main thing I usually struggle with is staying on topic. I try to write outlines when I can, but you know how sometimes inspiration hits and you just don’t have time for those silly outlines? Yeah, bad idea usually, LOL!

    Love the new design. Very clean and readable.

    Just wanted to point out that the “click to continue” buttons on the home page are difficult to read. I think they’re supposed to have white text, but I’m seeing the text as a shadow of red.

    My browser is Firefox 3.6

  44. This article is very practical and entertaining. We need structures not only to make it easy for us to write. We need structures because people think in structures.

    I like the idea of 100 things…. it inspired me to think of 100 ways to inspire people.

    Thank you.

  45. I took in this particular post as voraciously as I would a medium rare New York cut from my favorite steak place! Well done.

    If readers follow your advice closely, they should be on their way to cultivating a veritable orgy of insatiable readers who hang on their every red hot word.

    Time didn’t really allow for me to go through every comment to this post; the ones I did read were insightful and great support to a great blog post, so I apologize if I’m being repetitive. I thought I would offer a couple of other things every writer should do to avoid the inevitable kiss of readership death.

    These are my 2 faves:

    1. Make it relevant – not only in subject matter, but I find if a piece has current or relevant references baked in, it helps to keep a reader’s attention. For example, if James compared poor sentence structure to a really bad lineup in a Montreal Canadians game; or if he compared the use of hockey imagery to illustrate poor sentence structure to a crappy cover of a really good rock song.

    2. Four eyes are better than 2 – In my experience, even the best writers can’t (or shouldn’t) publish without someone else looking over your writing. Even if it’s your friend’s cousin who’s acing his 1st year English Lit course, rather than someone who does it for a living, having a second set of eyes check over your writing will keep it from reading like a hot mess of Brittany Spears proportions.

    Thanks for the great piece James! Looking forward to more.

    (P.S., please excuse any typos or other errors…my editor is busy with the kids)

  46. Love the new design! Very cool. Look forward to seeing other changes in the new year!

  47. Each of these tips focuses on keeping the reader engaged.

    And that’s what it’s all about.

    Next time you’re turned off by a blog post or Web site content, take note of why. The copy likely does not follow these suggestions.

    You can write an excessive, tangent-filled rough draft for yourself. (Let it all flow out!)

    Craft your final draft for the reader.

  48. What great advice. This transported me right back to when I was doing my MBA – 7 Cs of effective business communication. Who hasn’t heard about it? I adhere to the principles and try to keep my writing – Concise, Clear (conversational), Clever.. or atleast I aim to!

    Great article.

  49. Wow, you’ve really cleaned the place up! Looks great. I agree with this post and you might add that doing a post last minute doesn’t work well either. I like what Stephen king advises, “Write a draft. Then let it rest.”

    When you come back to edit, get rid of all your little darlings. So hard for women to do ;-)

    Catherine

  50. James,

    Wow, I like these suggestions. What is new for me, is talk food, sex and danger..I for sure did not know this. Makes sense.

    How about danger of eating food while having sex subject? :-) That has to be killer huh? Food for thought!

  51. James—Love your article for its clarity, encouragement, and practical tips. I was inspired. And I was also surprised to discover one little thing about the way you wrote the article.

    I teach writing techniques around the world and I stress that reading is a private act performed by one individual at a time. Therefore, no matter what I write, I am always writing to only ONE person, even if 1,000 people read it.

    Twice you violated this principal. Your first sentence begins, “Many of you would love….” As a reader, I am not “many of you.” The sentence could have been a question: “Would you love to write more compelling blog posts, articles or web copy?” The other instance is this sentence: “Reading online is tiring (yes, even for you fresh-eyed Gen Ys out there).” You are addressing a herd, not an individual. I would write: “Reading online is tiring (yes, even if you are a fresh-eyed Gen Yer).”

    I don’t mean to make a big deal out of this, but I ask classes: If you are writing a love letter, would you include the words “many of you, some of you, or all of you?” I hope not. Yet, writers continue to forget the one special reader.

    Humbly submitted.

    • Good point Michael. Worth remembering. But:

      “Twice you violated this principal.”

      Shouldn’t that be: “Twice you violated this principle.” ?

      Humbly submitted. :)

    • Violations? Huh. I thought being a copywriter gives me permission to break the rules ;)

      I’m actually a little surprised that for someone who teaches writing techniques, you couldn’t see which I was using in this article for those two ‘violations’.

      You see, sometimes it’s more important to make people feel included as part of a group versus singling them out. No one likes to be the solo guy, especially when being chastized. There are times when it’s far more effective, in writing, to address the reader as *part of a group*:

      “You are not alone, buddy. Many of you do this.”

      That goes down a lot easier than, “YOU do this.” There’s comfort in numbers, which is what I did with the Gen Y reference.

      Of course, then there’s critical thinking 101, because I don’t know at all if YOU do this. You may not! In which case I’d be making a serious faux pas.

      Moving along, we have more critical thinking, which says that sweeping statements and generalizations in any case are invalid premises. “Many of you love,” implies that there are over 130,000 readers here who would love to write more compelling posts – it *assumes* that *everyone* wants this.

      Which of course, would be untrue. Not everyone wants this. And frankly, I don’t suggest the experience of being at the receiving end of hundreds readers who say, “Who are you to say what I want and what I don’t?” Never been there myself, but that’s because I write things like, “Many of you…” Safer.

      I could be using the technique for some social proof, also. As a persuasive writer, sometimes you want to make it clear to readers that there’s not just one person doing this undesired action – a bunch are. Tsk.

      And, there’s the process of establishing a bond. You don’t have to leap in to third base. Start by dating the audience slowly and address the group, then slowly engage the readers individually.

      There are probably more, but it’s 5.30am here and I’m still on my first coffee. Glad you enjoyed the article, though!

  52. Jarod Billingslea :

    I always think of staying on topic by writing it down. Like I would make a heading called “focal point”, and would write down the main point of the entire subject to keep me focused and influenced.

  53. I write and I write. It ends up being super long and it’s one of the hardest things to shorten it up!

    Thanks for the tip!

    Alex

  54. Great post, I am inspired and will share it on twitter and facebook. Thank U for sharing.

  55. As a formal J-schooler (journalism school) and editor in chief of my college paper, I like to think of blog posts as like writing editorials. I try to have a thesis – what I am arguing, saying, or trying to prove. Then I back it up with main points and evidence for those points. Ideally I would also include the counter-argument, then prove it wrong. This helps me a lot, and hopefully the technique could help another former newsroom nerd :)

    • ” . . . include the counter-argument, then prove it wrong.”

      Good idea Lauren. I’m planning to write a blog post on the multiple disadvantages/drawbacks of nursery-bred hybrids as ornamental garden plants.

      Following your suggestion, I’ll now start the post with their claimed advantages: longer flowering, increased vigor and bigger, brighter blooms.

      I’ll then expose the flaws in these claims.

      Having demolished the case in favor of garden hybrids, by the time I conclude by proving garden hybrids’ disastrous ecological impacts, the case against them will be unanswerable.

      Thanks Lauren.

  56. Hi James,
    There is so much to learn on how to write blogs. Sometimes it’s overwhelming. I’m still working on how to get WordPress working.

    Thanks for your tips.

  57. White space rocks!

    As does large font. Perhaps I’m showing my age, but teeny tiny fonts no longer flap my earlobes whatsoever.

  58. I think this works well for motivational and how-to writing, but most of the blogs I read on a regular basis go the opposite direction: slow, languorous stories with beauty and complexity, not bullet points that make me feel an urgent need to get up and do something RIGHT NOW!

  59. I’ve managed to shorten the length of my writings. It’s always been a complaint of my high school paper editor; my running sentences.

    Now, 200 to 350 words is well suited for the job.

  60. I like this, improving our writing skills is something every should be paying a bit more attention to.

  61. Remember KISS KISS? Keep It Short Stupid. Keep It Simple Stupid

    Your average person only browses with the attention span of a gnat. Write for the twelve year-old.

  62. For SEO Copywriting, I’ve figured out a cool formula for the first sentence of a web page. “WWW.” Not world-wide-web, but rather: What do you want/ Who we are/ Where we’re located. Can be a long sentence, but it doesn’t seem to hurt those hungry web bot spiders. A lot of search queries follow this paradigm “What I want” followed by “Where can I get it [Location]” Try it next time for your next online SEO copywriting assignment. Oh yeah, TERRIFIC post. Gives me new ideas for web copywriting all the time.

    Daniel Bartel
    CopyStratic

  63. This was great information that we can never hear to often. Keep it simple, easy to read and to the point. Oh yes, a little larger font is easy on the eyes, without screaming.

  64. Food, Sex, Danger. Reminds me of the guy who had sex with his wife on the table while they were dining.

    The manager asked them to leave the crowded restaurant and never ever come back there.

  65. James: Great list of tips!

    For me, I try to start with a title first (a headline). Once I’ve nailed that down, I work on outlining some bullet points to go with it. If I’ve strayed to far, I’ll work on splitting some of those ideas into more than one post. Otherwise, show and to the point works fine for me.

  66. So what about that 3 thing?

    I know it makes sense to structure posts in 3 parts, and that usually how you structure speeches and arguments as well, but that’s because of the logical transition between them (beginning – arguments – end).

    So does it make sense to try to link those 3 link building techniques into a logical chain? Or doesn’t it matter at all?

  67. Yes, yes, yes! Notice there were 3 yeses. ;)

    I teach all these concepts to my writing students, but I love being reminded of them. And I’d be thrilled to see the 3s replace these long lists that are appearing in many blog posts. “Fifty ways to improve your _____.” I barely have time for one. Don’t overwhelm me.

    I hope you’ll start a trend with this post!

  68. This was a very helpful post . I have just committed the cardinal sin and posted in longer paragraphs. Three is the magic number.

    Thank you. I shall go away and hopefully improve my technique.

  69. love your blog.. it’s inspiring and makes me want to keep writing.. : )

  70. Brilliant tips as always, hmmm looking back at some of my recent posts it would seem I’ve made all the mistakes in the book will make a note of your suggestions for the future. I particularly liked the part on the tone thing I really do understand that it’s so easy to get engrossed so much in the writing that it almost becomes personal.

  71. Brilliant. And taking your own advice.

    Thanks

  72. A bit of first hand advice: don’t try and get your 10kh in in one year. You get better, but you produce drivel at the wrong times.

  73. I really need to share a story here. Not long ago a friend tuned me in to a software designed to evaluate your website. One of the things it looked at was my blog, and it said the blog posts were too short.

    Now, this could have spawned mass panic-but take advice like this with a grain of salt. Less is more when you’re writing to a group. 3 seconds to grab their attention, 5 minutes for them to read your blog-tops. I’m a big fan of the 350 words or less rule, unless the topic absolutely begs for more.

    If you can’t fit your blog post inside these rules, you’ve wandered too far. Time to pull your content back in and get back to the basics.

    Remember, what you cut out can always be used for another blog post later.

  74. Great advice, as always! I like your idea about the 3’s. Every college Comp 1 professor will tell you to write with 3 main points, and that’s how I’ve always written an essay, but I guess I didn’t think to have sets of three in my blog posts.

    I’m learning more and more about how much college writing is similar to corporate writing… and how different they are. The confusion comes when I don’t know which rule of thumb to follow. So I read blog posts like yours to see how the pros do it.

    Very beneficial. Thanks for posting!

  75. Hi James!

    These are super great tips that I can really use! Thanks for sharing this.

    Actually, I prefer to build an outline when writing my stuff. And yes, the best way to improve is just write and write and write some more!

    A good friend who could act as your own editor and proofreader could also be a good way to make sure you didn’t mess up things.

    Great!

  76. Great post! I am a rhetoric and composition teacher at UT and I use some of these exact same ideas with my students. Keep it up!

  77. James,

    Thanks for writing this post. I appreciate your contribution, which adds value to the art and craft of writing.

    Brevity and being succinct are important, as you have righly pointed out. However, I also feel that our society gives too much important to technology. We forget about the basics, such as taking our english classes seriously. It is important to learn the basics from, well, basic courses in the arts and humanities.

    It can also help you as a writer if you read deeply and widely. There are a lot of books out there in your local library waiing to be read. There are a lot of fabulos writers from other cultures who can also teach you a lot. It is also important to remain sensitive to the nuances of language, plot, characters, etc. Great writers have always inspired. Cheers.

  78. Excellent advice. I just loved your points. Its so important to have a good writing style especially when your blogging.

  79. Fantastic tips!

    I am guilty of writing long paragraphs.

    After reading this I shall now try to refrain.

    Thanks.

  80. Good tips. Most of them are common sense, to be sure, or things that writers are told again and again. But how many of us actually follow them? I have always been proud of my ability to be concise, but even so, a lot of my posts could be shorter, a lot of my paragraphs could have fewer sentences.

    Hmm… and now that I look at my blog, the font could be bigger as well…

  81. As a recent college PR graduate, this is one of the most helpful articles I have seen in a long time!

  82. I didn’t know that people read longer lines faster. Intuitively though, that makes sense.

    No more than three sentences per paragraph, huh? My Academic Writing 101 instructor always chastised me for my short paragraphs: The shorter my paragraphs, the lower the grade she would give me.

    Well I passed her course. And now I’m back to short paragraphs again!

    • In my experience, perfect grammar, teachings by professors, and strict rules don’t have a lot to do with getting an article or blog post read. But I’m always open to suggestions and appreciate any other feedback.

  83. That’s definitely better than practice makes perfect!

  84. Hi James,

    Thanks for the tips. I know that sometimes, if not all the time, my paragraphs are very long and my topic is very wavy but I am trying to change it.

    Thanks again,

    Paula

  85. To the “Food, Sex, Danger” point:
    I once had an interview with the senior copywriter from Leo Burnett (Toronto) and he told me that good copywriters should avoid sex puns because they’re easy and cheap. “Good copy, award-winning copy,” he said, “has to be smart.”

    I realise that web copy is about clicks and not awards, but do you think there’s merit to his advice?

    • It depends on WHO the ideal prospect is. And I know that the best PERFORMING ads are usually not award winners. David Ogilvy said, “If it doesn’t sell, it isn’t creative.” Too many copywriters are going for the award and for “polished” instead of EFFECTIVE. That’s my two cents…

  86. Thanks for the post. Its wonderful.

  87. Awesome article! I usually get scared at the thought of writing, which is usually my blog, and this post helps me gain the confidence. Thanks! :)

  88. Hi!

    I love to write and I’m constantly writing speeches for school and meetings that I have to attend with important people at the college. I was looking for items to help me start out on my new blog and I found your post. I absolutely think its awesome. I tend to write exactly how I speak and I sometimes have to revise things due to my tone or just the words I use in general. One of my mentors has actually helped me alot in my writing and this post reminded me so much of what she has taught me.

    Thanks!

  89. Despite the fact that you probably won’t read this since I’m posting WAY after-the-fact, thank you for sharing this very usable bit of information. The last three “conferences” I’ve attended have placed major impact on leaving our “virtual footprint” in view, telling us that without a website/blog, we do not exist. I was told to look at the websites of my favorite writers and recreate a format. There is one major difference between those writers and me: I DON’T HAVE ANY PUBLISHED BOOKS! (Do manuscripts fully printed and in 3-ring binders count?) To me, setting up a blog to look similar to theirs is ludicrous.
    I’m going to do this blog thing if it kills me, since I don’t want to die thinking I don’t exist. Not only did I get some great info from your article, but I also found another way to pass the time and not work on starting my blog. I LOVE reading about writing. I love the way I nod my head and agree with almost everything you say. It’s like having a conversation with your best friend. I think I’ll look for more things you wrote. This could go on all night. Maybe I’ll start the blog TOMORROW….
    Oh well, thanks for posting.
    Really!

  90. This is awesome advice. I’ve been working through “The Elements of Style” by William Strunk, Jr. His key advice is also to keep it short. Although you managed to hit home this point in the one article.

    I’m well aware I need to keep my writing short, yet often go off on the dread tangent. So much to learn!

    Cheers,
    Matt

  91. Ouch! Painful to read..but so true! I’m guilty!!

    Hate to think of how hard it’s been for my readers up until now.

    I promise, on a stack of bibles, to write shorter posts from now on. And I’ll think before I write to. (Helpful huh?)

    Can’t wait to write my next outline! (I could use today’s article as a ‘format’). :o)

    Thanks!

  92. I enjoy this post because it has clear-cut ideas to be a successful writer. Why? I didnt think keeping to the three was all that important but as I think more of what your saying. Your absolutely right. Especially using bullet points.
    People are attracted to bold or highlighted text.

    I’m learning so much from these post.

  93. My favorite writing tip is simple. Know what you are writing about. When you know a lot of information on the topic you are writing about or have done your research, this not only makes your writing better and easier, it shows your audience that you are someone to be trusted and a go to for information on that subject. How many people have read a post or article on the internet and were like “wow, this guy doesn’t know what he’s talking about.” This is a major turn off and waste of time for readers.

  94. Great points. I have also found that it is much easier to write high quality content when I read high quality content. Just reading through some of the posts here gives me a ton of ideas and topics for creating content. As Earl Nightingale said, “Your mind is like the land. It will return what you plant. It will return what you plant but it doesn’t care what you plant. That is your job. Plant wisely.”

    In the writing world, it is all about planting your mind with great ideas by reading good quality content because we don’t want Garbage in, garbage out.

  95. Thank you for this wonderful post. What is said is straight to the point and easy to apply.

    Stacie Walker
    EssentialMarketingSuccess.com

  96. I absolutely love these tips. I love the idea of having three bulletin points that people can remember and not having a long blog post. Yes, people sometimes just want to read through for a minute or two. They don’t want to spend 10 minutes reading one post. Its just the society we live in today – the drive by and microwave society. Thanks for sharing such great tips.

  97. Straight,Simple and Insightful.

  98. I figured out my writing is terrible, today after asked many bloggers “why no-one comments on my blog” all of them has the same answers, “BAD WRITING”.

    So I decided to have a teacher for writing. Unfortunely, it was like what you said above: “10,000 hrs to be perfect” or gain to be PRO.

    Luckily, I found you with these great tips. Really Straight, Simple, Insightful and feelling love coming up to me.

    Finally, I will use these method as long as I blog, really thank you. As well I trying to use it, right now!

  99. Thanks for the tips particularly rule no.3.

  100. Thanks a ton for these amazing tips should be taken care while writing blog post :) #LikeThem