You know your writing needs to improve, but you’re not sure where to start. Enroll in a pricey writing course? Check out every writing book in the library? Consume all the writing blogs you can find? It may not be as complicated as you think.
Stefanie Flaxman, writer for Copyblogger, suggests a simple editing technique in her post 3 Advanced Ways to Craft Better Sentences, which we have excerpted here:
While the goal of “improving your content writing” may seem complex, it’s not necessarily more complicated than improving each sentence you write.
Better sentences add up to better content.
So, let’s break down content writing into sentence writing.
I’m not about to show you how to write a “perfect” sentence. Instead, these three tips will help you remember that every sentence you write is an opportunity to practice.
And during your writing practice, you can implement smart changes that keep your reader focused on your message.
1. No sentence is an island
Even if you’re examining just one individual sentence, it’s helpful to review the sentences that surround it.
There are two main reasons why:
- You may have overused a word. Sometimes you’ll intentionally repeat a word for emphasis or because it fits the rhythm of your writing. But we often overuse words without meaning to. When you review your writing, vary your word choice to create a more stimulating reading experience.
- You may have belabored a point. Give each sentence you write a specific purpose. If you communicate the exact same idea in two different sentences, it’s probably wise to delete one.
When you look at the broader context of your writing while aiming to improve one sentence, you kick off a sort of domino effect. Noticing one weakness helps you correct other weaker sections.
2. Writing skin needs exfoliation
The most “advanced” skill you can learn is to examine your own writing with a critical eye.
A critical eye doesn’t mean you’re so hard on yourself that you get discouraged. It just lets you swiftly identify areas of your sentences that either hinder comprehension or lack the details that magnetically hold attention.
I like the comparison to skin exfoliation because rough drafts, like dry skin, are … rough.
For example, you’re probably already familiar with the benefits of using active verbs instead of passive verbs.
Changing a sentence from “Joplin was devastated by the twister” to “The twister devastated Joplin” exfoliates the sentence to make it smoother.
Removing extra words is another form of exfoliation.
Here’s an example from my recent article on finding more loyal readers. I’ve bolded the extra words in the draft of this paragraph.
Edith likes Frank’s article idea, but she needs to consult with him andeducate him on the type of content that is the right fit for Cosmopolitan. She’ll give him their writer guidelines so he can use them to match the tone and style of his article to the publication’s specifications.
Here’s the published version of that paragraph.
Edith likes Frank’s article idea, but she needs to educate him on the type of content that is the right fit for Cosmopolitan. She’ll give him their writer guidelines so he can match the tone and style of his article to the publication’s specifications.
To give you one more example, in the draft of this article I wrote, “Here’s the final version of the paragraph that we published.” As you can see above, that sentence turned into, “Here’s the published version of that paragraph.”
Developing an eye for excess will sharpen your writing.
3. “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”
When I edit, I always have a browser tab with a Google search bar open.
Because I’m constantly looking up the meanings of words or idioms that I don’t consider straightforward — anything that sticks out and makes me question whether or not it is correct.
Even if I’m 95 percent certain, it’s always beneficial to verify that it’s the most appropriate word or phrase.
My Google search browser tab is also helpful for double-checking the spellings of proper names, places, products, and companies.
The bottom line here is valuing professional editorial standards that help guarantee accuracy. Take the time to ensure your readers effortlessly understand your content and aren’t distracted by a misspelling, or the incorrect use of a word or idiom.
At Certa Publishing, we are passionate about the editing process. How can we help you?