This is a guest contribution from freelance blogger and email copywriter Hassan Ud-deen.
Ever feel like your writing could be better?
If you’re a blogger, there’s no way around writing.
It’s critical to everything you do, and shapes your reputation online.
This makes a lot of us dread writing.
We approach it with a heavy heart full of anxiety and minds clouded by doubt.
But what if you could ensure that your writing is at least decent every time you hit that publish button?
You’d be less worried about the mechanics of writing, and more focused on your message to your audience.
Making you a more powerful blogger.
So here are 30 high-impact ways to supercharge your writing chops, boost your blogging confidence and finally slash those paralysing doubts swirling in your brain.
1. Develop a Strong Foundation
Before you can produce writing that leaps out of the screen and grabs the readers attention, you’ll need a good understanding of the basic principles of writing.
Things like grammar, spelling and sentence structure.
One of the most highly recommended books for this is The Elements of Style by Strunk and White. Its a short compact book that’s crammed with everything you need to ensure your basic writing is tight.
2. Take Your Reader to Starbucks
Imagine you’re sitting in a class with about 30 students. You have a speckled professor droning on about a scientific topic.
Now imagine having coffee with a friend sitting across you at Starbucks, explaining the same thing.
Who are you most likely to listen and learn from?
Your friend, right? Because it’s more personal.
Your friend will:
- Ask you questions to make sure you understand
- Fluctuate his tone of voice to emphasise points
- Give you analogies, similes and metaphors to explain better
Similarly, you can do same thing with your words.
- Ask readers questions to break the monotony and keep them engaged
- Emphasise important points by making your text bold, italic or underlining
- Provide vivid metaphors, similes and analogies that help your reader understand what you’re saying with speed and clarity
So next time you sit down to write, don’t think about thousands of eyes gazing at your screen. Think about the reader you’re having a delicious coffee with.
It’ll instantly add a more conversational flow and inject personality into your writing.
3. Have an Outline Before Writing
Top bloggers like Neil Patel, Carol Tice and Michael Hyatt all swear by the time slicing power of outlines.
Not only will outlines improve the speed at which you can dish out blog posts, they also improve the flow and quality of your posts.
A good outline covers the following points:
- The introduction, where you tell your reader what your post is about, and how it’s going to make his life better to make him want to read on.
- The main body or meat of a post, where you deliver most of your tips and advice
- The conclusion, where you finish your post with a summary and a call to action
If you feel that your writing could be better and faster give outlines a try.
4. Don’t Edit and Write at The Same Time
Writing and editing involves two different sides of the brain. Writing is a more creative process and editing is more logical/analytical.
Editing while you write is like continuously switching up and down gears in your car. You’re going to be slowing yourself down.
Putting your foot down all the way instead of switching speeds will work better.
When you start editing while you write, you slow down your writing speed, lose momentum and are more likely to doubt what yourself.
Basically, don’t write and edit at the same time, it disrupts the creative process.
5. Your First Draft Will Suck
It’s tempting to think that your favourite bloggers are magically creating stellar content on their first drafts, but thats not true.
Your first draft is all about getting your thoughts down on paper.
Accept that it will suck. It will free you from the mental chains of doubt, and prevent you from being overly analytical.
6. Give your Brain a Break before Editing
Once you’ve written your draft, give your brain a break and distance yourself from it for a day or two.
This will increase your objectivity for your first round of editing and will let your mind sift through the ideas you wanted to express during your write up.
Related: Thee Stephen King Drawer Method for Writing Better Copy
7. Snap Your Brain’s Adaptations in Half
“If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.” (Stephen King)
Think of your brain as a muscle. It needs constant stimulation to grow and become stronger.
Therefore, you have to train your writing muscles rigorously by continuously reading. You’ll expose yourself to different words, sentences, styles and steadily absorb good writing habits.
I’m a little gym obsessed, and one thing you learn when building muscle is that you have to attack the body with different types of training.
Doing the same routine day in day out leads to you hitting plateaus. Your body eventually adapts to your routine and stops growing.
Similarly, when it comes to reading… try to vary what you read.
If you normally read fiction, switch to non-fiction once in a while. If you normally read action/adventure try out romance.
Reading something different will break your brain’s adaptation pattern, consequently strengthening your writing muscle and leaving you stronger and more well-balanced writer.
8. Embed Awesome Writing into Your Brain by Handwriting
Sounds odd, doesn’t it?
Well, it’s how many great writers started off.
Journalist Hunter S. Thompson started by copying the The Great Gatsby and A Farewell to Arms on a typewriter.
Robert Louis Stevenson, author of classics like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and Treasure Island, honed his chops by taking a passage from a great writer and reading it. Then turning over the passage and trying to re-write it again from memory.
Dan Kennedy bloodied his nose in the marketing world by copying out 500 sales letters by hand in order train his mind to absorb the rhythm of good copy.
I’ve used this technique myself. It ain’t easy, but it’s an excellent way to quickly absorb good flow and wording and sharpen your skills.
Try it, I dare you.
9. Take a Literary Hammer, and Smash Your Favourite Writing into Pieces
Everyone has a writer they look up to. And what better way to learn from those that you admire right?
Find a piece of writing that you admire. It could be from a book, a blog post, or a sales letter.
Now take the piece of writing that impacted you and break it down. Analyze what the writer does to make it so powerful.
- Why does this part of the blog post, book or sales letter stand out so much?
- What techniques does the writer use to make the piece stand out?
- What effects did the words phrases and style have?
- How does it make you feel?
By closely analyzing an excellent piece of prose, you gain a deep insight to what the writer was thinking and the techniques they used. You can then use the techniques for your own purposes.
10. Print Out what You’ve Written
Sometimes it can be harder to find your mistakes on a computer screen. Printing out your work can make it easier for you to spot grammar and spelling mistakes in your writing.
11. Hit Your Reader Reader’s Senses Where it Hurts
To keep your readers straight-jacketed to your post, engage their senses.
What can they see? Smell? Hear? Feel?
Here’s what a sentence looks like before engaging the senses:
“Your writing has to make an impact on your readers.”
It’s a normal, tasteless, sentence that has surface level impact on the reader.
After engaging the senses:
“Your words have to creep up on your audience and sucker punch them into paying attention.”
See the difference?
By using the sensory experiences, the sentence latches on to the readers attention and forces them to feel what you’re saying.
12. Keep Your Writing Active
The passive voice butchers your writing. Whereas the active voice, adds strength and vigor to it.
Take a look at these passive sentences:
The bat was swung by John
The ball was thrown by James
The door was broken by the dog
Look at what happens after a little makeover…
John swung the bat
James threw the ball
The dog broke the door
Not only are the sentences more concise, clear and strong. But they also carry more impact with less words.
If you want your readers to effortlessly slide down your posts, keeping your writing active is a must.
13. Use Shorter Paragraphs and Sentences
Nobody wants to process large chunks of information. They want easy digestible pieces of information they can easily understand.
That’s where having shorter sentences and paragraphs can help a ton.
Keeping sentences and paragraphs short quickens the pace of your writing; makes it easier to understand, and makes your writing less intimidating.
Aim for one main point per paragraph and one main idea per sentence.
14. Supercharge Your Brain With Words
“I often read for 5-10 minutes. Out loud.” Was Jon Morrow”s response when asked what his pre-writing rituals are.
We all know that any writer worth his salt is a serious reader.
But, did you know that when engaged in a powerful reading session, you receive a boost in connectivity in the part of the brain that is associated with the receptivity of language?
Yup, scientists from Emory University proved that reading heightens your brain power when it comes to dealing with language.
Try reading before you sit down for your next writing session and see if you don’t improve.
15. Develop a Brain Pumping Routine
High performers in any profession develop a routine to get in the “zone”.
Developing a routine for your writing trains your brain to expect to write, which warms your mind up and makes the act of writing much easier in comparison to writing cold.
Jack Kerouac would kneel, pray, light a candle and write by it’s light, then blow it out when he was done.
John Carlton would slip into a different of writing clothes to get him in the zone.
Ernest Hemingway liked to write first thing in the morning.
Experiment with different routines and see what sticks, because once you have a solid routine to get you in the mood, you’ll no longer be a victim of writers block.
16. Sharpen Your Headline Chops
When writing headlines, you have to make every single word count. Or you risk your reader turning a blind eye to your post.
Headlines force you to be selective and squeeze the power out your words. This transitions into your ability to create hard-hitting sentences that flow smoother, and read better.
17. Write Like it’s Your Job
As Stephen King said, writing is “just another job like laying pipe or driving long haul trucks.”
Let’s imagine that you’re a plumber, and it’s your first day on the job.
You wouldn’t expect yourself to be amazingly skilled at what you’re doing, right?
But you know that becoming better is inevitable. Thanks to the fact that it’s your job, and you’re doing it almost every single day..
The same applies to writing.
Write when you feel like it. Write when you don’t. Prioritize your time around writing.
Write like it’s your job and you’re guaranteed to level up your skills .
18. Get enough sleep
Ever tried to build muscle?
An important principle that people skim over is rest.
They pack themselves into gyms and break down muscle tissue to get stronger. But, the body doesn’t get stronger during exercise. It starts repairing and adds extra muscle tissue during sleep.
So activities like: writing and reading. Studying different styles, and analyzing great writing…are the literary equivalent of pumping weights.
They’ll challenge your writing muscle and force it to grow stronger.
But despite your attempts to sharpen your skills…something as simple as sleep could be killing your progress.
Sleep is vital for survival,and keeps your nervous system functioning properly. And according to biological psychologist Namni Goel, “there’s plenty of research showing how a lack of it cripples your mind.”
Writing is hard.
It forces you to dig deep in your brain and extract ideas, information, and feelings. Then communicate them to another human being.
Don’t make it even harder by not getting enough sleep.
19. Get Moving
Henry David Thoreau said: “the moment my legs begin to move my thoughts begin to flow – as if I had given vent to the stream at the lower end and consequently new fountains flowed into it at the upper”
As mentioned before, writing ain’t easy.
That’s why its important to keep yourself in shape. Your body is your temple, and you want it to be operating at its peak (don’t you?).
Exercise can help you do that.
Many great writers swear by exercise being a helpful tool for boosting creativity and preparing you for the act of writing.
There’s even research that proves exercise fires up your neurons and switches your brain on.
Research conducted by cognitive scientist prof colzato showed that “people who are doing exercise on a regular basis outperform those who don’t. We think that physical exercise trains your brain to become more flexible in finding creative solutions.”
I like to hit the gym or jump rope for a while before writing. It calms me down, boosts my mood and clears my thoughts.
But you don’t have to do anything strenuous, you could walk, run, or even do light stretching… just get your blood moving.
20. Release Your Inner (Doodling) Child
Sounds odd doesn’t it?
But at times, rules, regulations and emotional baggage can weigh you down and stifle your creativity.
In her book the doodle revolution, Sunni brown says that doodling helps you focus by “anchoring” a task. Especially when it comes to things that require attention for extended periods of time. Things like lectures, meetings, calls and writing.
“We think doodling is something you do when you lose focus, but it’s really a preemptive measure to stop you from losing focus,”
Find yourself feeling mentally clogged up at times? Grab a pen and blank paper. Let your thoughts flow freely.
21. Have an Editor Read Through your Work
No one ever writes the perfect draft.
And even though your second and third ones might be more polished; nothing beats a fresh pair of eyes.
An editor can also highlight your weaknesses and strengths so you can objectively look at your writing and decide what to work on.
22. Join a Group of Writers
Writing is a solitary activity.
And unfortunately, not everyone understands what it’s like to bleed thoughts from your brain into crisp, compelling words that communicate your ideas.
Surround yourself with people who write.
You’ll get ongoing feedback on your progress, and you’ll always have someone who can sympathize with your writing pleasures and pains.
23. Study Great Sentences
Sentences are the backbone of your writing.
The stronger they are, the stronger your writing will become and the more impact it will have on your readers.
If you encounter a sentence that catches your attention, stop for a second.
Go over it again. Handwrite it. Study it.
Break down why it’s such a good sentence. Is it concise and powerful? Does it contain a metaphor with killer clarity? Is it crammed with power words?
Take notes on what makes other sentences good. You’ll discover useful lessons that’ll strengthen your own writing.
24. Cut Out Anything Repetitive or Boring
This applies to both your words and the ideas you express.
Instead of using the same word to describe something; aim for a variety of accurate words to make your writing blossom inside your readers mind.
Below is a short action scene I wrote.
Before cutting out boring phrases and using different words to create vivid images, this is what it looked like…
“He fired the gun. The bullets reached each target. One bullet hit the guards head and left a bloody mess. The other bullet hit the second guard square in the jaw and left an explosion of teeth. By the time he reached his next point of cover, both guards were dead.”
Here’s what it looks like after:
“The gun rattled to life. Each shot reaching its intended destination with blinding speed. One cratered through a guards forehead, the second exploded into an anatomical firework of teeth and jaw bone as it smashed into the 2nd guards mouth. By the time he reached his next point of cover, both guards were dead.”
See the difference?
I removed everything that was repetitive, and replaced boring words with high power verbs to create a more vivid image that hits where it hurts.
25. Play with Your Words
Instead of settling for the first few words that come to your head, whip out a thesaurus and get digging.
Try using different words and phrases instead of the ones you’ve chosen.
By regularly practicing this, you’ll expand your vocabulary and develop the important skill of choosing the right word at the right time to create the perfect image.
26. Your Reader’s Cursor is Hovering on the X button
It’s easy to think your readers are browsing for fun and enjoyment. That they’ll read every word of your post; but that’s just not true.
It’s better to think of your reader like this:
Your reader is juggling a screaming baby on his lap, has dozens of tasks to finish, and is ready to click on that big red x button the second your post doesn’t provide the solution to his problems.
Now, that may not be 100% true… but this simple mindset shift will help you create more reader friendly content from the get go.
You’ll be sure to keep his pains and problems in mind, which means you’re less likely to have fluffy, bloated writing that bores his ear off.
27. Kill Cliches with Lethal Analogies
They’re tasteless phrases that readers shake off like dirt on their shoulders.
Aswell as making you look like a lazy writer, they butcher any hint of personality in your writing.
So, what to do instead?
Kill them…with high power analogies.
28. Keep it Dead Simple
Want to instantly power up your posts?
Make them easier to read by simplifying your writing.
Now, simple doesn’t mean limp sentences that pass readers by… it means taking out unnecessary ten-dollar words that make you look like a pompous show off.
Utilize when you can say use
Extrapolate when you can say estimate
Desiderate when you can say desire
And cut out words like very, really, almost, probably etc.
Keeping your writing simple allows you to communicate with your readers better. It smoothly slides information into their brains without them having to make too much effort.
29. Jump into Your Reader’s Bed
What sites does your reader like to visit? What type of content do they like to read? What do they struggle with the most?
Answering these questions gives you a deeper insight into what your reader’s most troubling problems, hopes and desires are.
Use polls, surveys, or emails to find out what they want and need.
Knowing your reader well will help you improve on the main purpose of your writing, which is…
To add value to his life through your content.
30. Dissect Bad Writing
You’ll often hear that one of the best ways to improve your writing is to… “read widely and read great writers.”
But what about bad writing?
Think about it. When you’re engrossed in reading a blogpost, novel, or article that is good, it stealthily washes over your eyes and sneaks into your brain. Because you’re enjoying it.
But when you face writing that is bad, it’s hard to read.
You notice that it’s bad instantly. The sentences might feel bloated. The flow might feel horrible. It’ll be completely boring. Making it easier to analyze.
You’ll spot exactly where the writer went wrong, and how you could improve it.
Reading bad writing also has another sneaky benefit.
It’ll give you a little confidence boost and make you feel better about yourself, because constant exposure to writing to higher level writing can lead to doubts sprouting in your brain.
31. Skyrocket Your Productivity with a Deadline
The less time you have to do something, the faster you’ll get it done.
When you don’t have a deadline, it’s tempting to think that you can keep on editing and improving your work. But after creating one, you’re forced to complete your work in a given time frame, which will increase your chances of getting it done quicker.
32. Set a Daily Writing Goal
Well, imagine a gymnast performing in front of thousands of eager eyes.
Effortlessly flipping through the air and performing feats most only dream of.
He didn’t learn how to perform on the day of the performance, did he?
He had to constantly drill the movements into his brain. Day in, day out…until they became second nature.
Similarly, the popular writers that you look up to experienced the same thing.
They had to continuously suffer creating humiliating sentences, weak content and limp paragraphs to gradually get better.
Constant practice is what sands the edges off your lack of skill.
That’s where writing daily will help you tremendously.
Set aside a small chunk of time to write everyday. Don’t concern yourself with writing thousands of words. Just be sure to write every day and make it a habit. You can increase your targets later.
Eventually, you’ll be able to produce hard hitting writing with less effort because it’s ingrained in your mind and body.
It’s no longer something takes a ton of energy and has to be scraped out your skull. It’s an embedded habit.
There you are, 30 high-impact writing ways to level up your writing. Your next step?
Pick 1-2 tips from this post and try them out for a at least a couple of weeks. Improvement will be inevitable.
Hassan Ud-deen is a freelance blogger and email copywriter (who likes to be called “The Wordslinger”). He helps businesses use content to grow. You can find out more about at www.f-bombmarketing.com or if you need help with your blog posts or copy, shoot him an email or connect with him on Facebook.
Originally at: Blog Tips at ProBlogger
30 High-Impact Ways to Level Up Your Writing
30 High-Impact Ways to Level Up Your Writing April 2nd, 2015Scott