Who doesn’t want to write better, faster, and with fewer mistakes?
Whether you’re writing a business email message or client proposal, crafting clear writing will go far towards advancing your career and your business.
In her Instructional Solutions infographic, Mary Cullen offers almost two dozen tips to improve your writing and create more meaningful content.
Cullen has taught writing in higher ed, worked with companies to help people write better, and offers online business writing courses.
I thought her tips were excellent!
My favorite tips were numbers 6, 8, 10, 15, and 19.
Yes, I know many of my readers will disagree with the recommendation to use the Oxford comma. We’ll have to agree to disagree on that one!
One small change is needed in tip five, where she advises writers to create paragraphs seven lines or less online. (Physical lines, not sentences.)
I recommend changing that tip to say “three or four lines”, with a note to make certain you view how the paragraph displays on a smartphone.
A paragraph with seven lines on desktop can easily display on a smartphone as three or four times the size.
Which is tiring to read on a smartphone when you see a wall of text that seems never-ending.
Check out the infographic to learn more about improving your writing. Or, if you prefer to read, I’ve included the text version of the infographic.
19 Actionable Writing Tips
Here are 19 actionable writing tips that you can start using today. When you start applying these strategies you will find you are able to write faster with fewer mistakes.
Know your audience
Writing is all about your reader. Your reader is your focus point, not what you know.
Focus on Planning
You should spend approximately 50% of your time planning a business document or email.
Drafting is Easy
Drafting a document is the easiest part and should require approximately 20% of your time.
Editing is Last
Allocate 30% of your time to editing
Paragraphs Seven Lines or Less Online
In email or other documents that will be read online, be certain your paragraphs aren’t longer than seven lines.
Make it Easy for Your Reader to Scan
Use headings to organize and add white space to your documents by using numbered and bulleted lists.
Verbs = Energy
Verbs are the pivot point of a sentence. Strong verbs have real punch.
Don’t Start Sentences with “There is” or “There are.”
Weak sentence frequently start with “There is” or “There are.” Instead, cut to the chase. Find the real subject and start there.
Active Voice is Better than Passive Voice
Active voice is more dynamic and lively than passive voice, typically.
People within organizations parrot each other with phrases that have been used so much they have become meaningless.
Avoid Exclusionary Words
Use neutral job titles that do not imply gender – chairperson, not chairman or chairwoman.
Use a One-Sentence Paragraph
A one-sentence paragraph is both correct and emphatic. Don’t be afraid to write a one-sentence paragraph.
Own Your Work
Avoid “I think…” or “I suggest…” or “I wonder if we should… Instead, confidently write “I recommend.”
Double Check Punctuation
A woman without her man is nothing.
A woman: without her, man is nothing.
Use the Oxford Comma
I recommend that business writers use it because of consistency and clarification advantages.
Avoid redundant verb modifiers.
Use Staccato Short Words to Grab Attention
Grab your reader’s attention by deliberately shifting one or two sentences to all single-syllable words.
Find an Editor
Do not be upset about criticism to your writing. Seek out an editor who will help you grow as a writer.
Start Where It’s Easiest
You don’t have to begin writing a document or email at the first sentence. The first sentence is often the hardest sentence to write. Start where it’s easiest.
Do you use these tips in your writing? Or have others to offer? Share your recommendations in the comments.