When content writing the importance of clear and concise writing cannot be understated. When you are trying to get the point across it is best to get straight to the point, and not clutter it up with other information. Though some people may think that more content is better, it can often just create confusion.
It can be tough to keep things concise while also expressing yourself clearly and in a convincing manner. But with these 20 tips you’ll be able to write more effectively, without sacrificing clarity for content.
1. Use short words and sentences
It doesn’t have to be an entire sentence, but you also don’t have to make a whole paragraph. Short sentences are concise and get the point across more effectively than long, drawn-out ones. The same goes for short words; people can often find a longer way to say something, but the shorter version is almost always better.
2. Be creative with punctuation
You don’t have to use full stops after everything. This sometimes makes a sentence hard to follow, but with a little creativity, you can still be concise without them. You can use dashes, ellipses, and periods (though you should avoid both the colon and semicolon). The only thing is that they shouldn’t necessarily be a punctuation mark; they should be purely stylistic.
3. Use phrasing techniques
You don’t need to use all the fancy grammar rules, but it is really helpful if you understand how to use them effectively. For example, there is the increasingly popular but often overengineered ‘active voice’ which makes a sentence more forceful and persuasive.
4. Use proper grammar when appropriate
This goes without saying, but you don’t want to sound like you’ve never even picked up a book on English grammar; it’s also important to be aware of the difference between the two. A lot of people think that both must be used together when really it is best to use just one or the other depending on the situation.
5. Avoid the passive voice
Passive sentences are simply not as effective. As opposed to active ones, which are active on their own and ask a question, passive ones are passive on their own and just take a sentence from your opponent or the author holding the pen. And it’s very hard to make a concise thought or statement in this state; you could just as easily write ‘passive sentences are passive’.
6. Skip the unnecessary words
They are called ‘clutter words’; the key is to recognise them and remove them. Avoiding jargon, clichés, and buzzwords will make your writing more concise and appealing.
7. Don’t over-rely on repetition
Repetition can be good in a couple of situations; it can strengthen an argument or make an idea more memorable, but most of the time it just sounds stuffy and unnatural. Don’t use it too much and you won’t have trouble keeping your writing concise.
8. Remember the subjunctive mood
The past and future tenses are useful for expressing what is hypothetically happening or generally something that is unlikely to happen, but they are not always the best for expressing what is actually happening. The subjunctive is simply a form of the verb which places emphasis on a hypothetical or imaginary situation.
9. Make use of ‘factual’ words
Words like ‘actually’, ‘certainly’, and ‘obviously’ are good for emphasising a point, but they can be annoying when overused. They’re also not always the best words to use – for example, something may actually be a fact but it is in no way certain, or obvious.
10. Make sure it’s logical
A lot of times in writing, you may have to keep characters in a few different time periods or places. This can get confusing, but with some logic it can help. Keep things simple and clear so that the reader knows exactly when and where they are as well as what is happening; they will be able to follow better.
11. Remember what the reader is supposed to take away
This may seem obvious, but it’s really important to keep the point you are trying to get across clear in your mind while you are writing. For example, it can be difficult to make a reader understand that one sentence means one thing but another, so move things around to clarify. In his book ‘A Writer’s Guide’, Steven Pinker says:
“Write a passage that tells readers what you want them to know. Edit your text until it says exactly what you intended. Don’t be afraid to cut out dead wood or superfluous details. Even if your audience is an impatient, time-pressed reader, don’t write or publish anything that isn’t clear.”
12. Avoid using unnecessarily abstract terms
Abstract language can be confusing sometimes. Writing in plain language a lot of the time will make everything clearer and easier for the reader to understand what you mean or how you feel about something.
13. Match your language with the tone of the writing
This is one of the most helpful and important tips, in my opinion. In a formal essay, you would use formal language; in an informal essay, you would use informal language. These languages are words and phrases that are appropriate to specific situations, and it is important to match them accordingly.
14. Don’t assume your reader is stupid
This is a bit controversial, but it’s important to know that people can pick up on certain things if you are not careful with how you write. If you write in such a way that readers will think you hate them or don’t like them, they will form their own opinions of you. Don’t do that – it will just make your writing more difficult to take seriously.
15. Write naturally and eloquently
Writing well requires a lot of practice, but it’s not something that you can master if you don’t put in the time. The best way to do this is to write about what interests you. If writing in a particular area interests you, don’t be afraid of experimenting and trying out different things until you find one or two things that work for you the best.
16. Use the right words
It is very important that you use words that are the right ones. For example, a newspaper would be less likely to use the word ‘crap’ in an editorial piece, whereas it would be deemed acceptable in a magazine like GQ or Esquire. Therefore, use your writing style to match your audience.
17. Use editing tools like Hemingway App
Remember that editing is an important part of writing. Even the greatest writers are not born perfect; they do not write great works of art the first time around. Editing is the most important part of writing, and it’s what will help you transform a good piece into a great one. If you want to get better at writing, you need to edit, edit, edit – and if editing isn’t easy for you, use professional help like Hemingway App.
There is a lot more to writing, and we’ve tried to tackle the most important skills in this article. But remember that these are just a few of the essential skills that you need to have as a writer, but there are many more skills that you can’t do without.
Want to learn more about content writing?
We have a sweet beginners guide to content writing here.