10 tips to help you write better this year

It can be difficult sometimes to find the right words for your writing. You may struggle to tell your story the way you want to, but can’t find the right words. Or perhaps you are making a conscious effort this year to hone your writing craft.

How to write better

Whatever your situation is, these 10 writing tips can help you better tell your stories to the world. These writing best practices can help you take your writing to the next level. If you take these tips and internalize them, you’ll become a much better writer this year.

1. Concentrate on each sentence you write

To communicate your ideas clearly, cut through the BS, and make sure your reader doesn’t work hard to understand your message. It’s important you make your writing simple yet powerful.

The simplest sentence contains a noun and a verb.

Successful writing is honest, memorable, and concise. It’s your responsibility to make your article successful, so focus on each sentence you write. When you put together a lot of great sentences, your story will jump off the page.

Pick only one word that describes your story. Use the active voice. Don’t write a paragraph longer than three sentences.

2. Cut through the clutter

In a world of content overload, it’s critical that you get your readers to pay attention to your story, remember it, and then act up on it. We live in an ever-growing stream of content that’s easily available on our smartphones. Cutting through the clutter of content is the key to success.

To break through the noise, rise above the clutter, and overcome the hodgepodge of content; it starts with great storytelling. When you tell a short, compelling story that’s in plain English, you’ll engage your audience. They will internalize what you are saying and visual the story in their minds.

Good storytelling is simple, emotional, and truthful. It taps into our emotions and motivations. It speaks to our heart and our mind.

When you tell your story, make sure it is telling the reader something new. Make sure your article is insightful and helpful. Ask yourself: does my story make people think differently and make them feel smart?

3. Focus on your effort up top

You need to catch your reader quickly or you’ll lose them. Your headline and introduction are critical to the success of your article. How you begin a story can make or break it.

The beginning part of your story is your welcome mat for your readers. You need to make it welcoming for them, so they’ll read your entire article. This means you need to summarize your story with a powerful headline.

The next most important part of your story is your introduction. Stir your reader’s curiosity with something that’s interesting or makes the reader think differently about a topic. Curiosity is like a magnet that pulls your readers into your stories.

You have a sentence for a headline, a sentence for your sub-headline, and three sentences for your introduction. Those five sentences will be the key to the success or failure of your story. Those parts of your article are the toughest, but the most important.

The right headline and introduction can draw in disinterested and skeptical readers. We are jockeying for reader attention so make it compelling enough to bring them “home” to you so they don’t go to your neighbors next door. Tell the readers what they are getting and then deliver on that promise.

4. Make your article readable

Most U.S. adults read at the reading level of an eighth grader. This grade level is the best for the widest audience to understand what you are saying. This 8th-grade reading level provides a level of sophistication that can simplify complex ideas.

This means that if you write above an 8th-grade reading level, you’ll miss your readers. Americans have basic reading skills, so it’s important you avoid jargon and make sure you write and speak in a way that anyone can understand.

5. Stop agonizing over article length

Superb, long-form content takes time to write. For example, for you to write a 2,000-word article, it will probably take you anywhere from 2 hours to 10 hours (or even longer).

Is it worth it?

Yes, longer content is usually typically better, but that doesn’t mean length equals better. Don’t expect that when you write longer content, it will be better for you. The key is to write long enough to explore a topic, but not too long that you lose your readers.

So, what’s the sweet spot?

Think 5 minutes but 4-minute, 6-minute, and 7-minute articles work too. Don’t agonize over the length of your articles. Just write great content and don’t obsess over the length.

Don’t write the same length for each of your articles. Experiment with length and see what works best for you. Sometimes you’ll feel in the mood to write a shorter one, and sometimes you’ll feel inspired to write a longer story.

6. Read more

The key to great writing is becoming a dedicated reader. Your writing is a culmination of everything you have read.

Your writing is the voices, styles, headlines, and topics of content you have read. It’s everything you have picked up along the way. If you want to become a better writer, you need to read more.

Reading helps you connect the dots between your experiences and emotions. Writers get inspired by reading other people’s words. Read things you haven’t thought about reading.

7. Write for scanners and readers

Research shows that only 16% of people read your stories word-by-word. Most readers rarely read every word in your article. Instead, they scan your story and pick out individual sentences such as your first and last sentence of a paragraph or your story.

Now that you know this, there are some important ways you write your articles for scanners and those who read a majority of your story.

There are three things to do.

  1. Be concise. Say what you need to say in the shortest way possible.
  2. Add sub-headers. When you structure your story with sub-headers, you make it easy for them to digest the key points and then when a sub-header catches their eye, they will read that section.
  3. Include facts. Readers like objective language not subjective language where you cite research, famous people quotes, or popular books where it’s more about the facts than the hype.

Don’t use the passive voice, don’t provide too many details, don’t overload on adverbs (words that end with “ly”) in your writing. Make sure you add a lot of whitespace, bullet points, and hyperlinks so your reader has time to breathe while reading your story.

Don’t boast without proof and don’t exaggerate so you can say “one of the most important parts” instead of “the most important part.”

8. Polish your writing

Polishing your writing takes some time. When you edit, you may take out parts that people really wanted to read. When you edit your writing, be careful.

You may feel tempted to cut a story or metaphor to lower the word count, but you are also left with a flat story. If your story or article is too long and you want to cut words, go through it and highlight all the sentences you love.

When you highlight sentences in your writing that spark happiness and joy, it’s easy to cut the rest because you are keeping the writing that you love. Don’t find sentences you want to delete; find sentences you love.

The best writing is simple, useful, and polished.

9. Learn from the best

What separates excellent writers from average writers? They learn from other writers in the past and present. They hone their craft. To become the best author you can be, you need to learn from the best authors.

Words from successful authors can give you insights into how they think about the creative process of writing. You can learn how they work on their craft.

10. Write clearer

When you write clearly and concisely, you carefully pick each word you write. You write each sentence with words that add value. You understand less is more.

Bringing it all together

There’s no silver bullet, magic, or secret to writing better. It requires dedication, hard work, and belief in yourself. If you follow these 10 tips, you’ll up your writing capabilities and write better this year:

  • Concentrate on each sentence you write
  • Cut through the clutter
  • Focus on your effort up top
  • Make your article readable
  • Stop agonizing over article length
  • Read more
  • Write for scanners and readers
  • Polish your writing
  • Learn from the best
  • Write clearer

Writing is a lifelong endeavor. It’s one of the most challenging and rewarding things you can pursue in life. Tell the story you want to tell and tell it well.