write better
Credit: Margaret Mayo McGlynn

Give Your Message Wings

From the Huffington Post to The Onion, from Facebook to Twitter and a thousand emails in between, effective prose is more important than ever. Want your writing to stand out? These five easy tips can help.

1. Proofread

It may seem obvious, but typos make you look bad. There's a simple way to prevent them. Before you hit 'send' go over your text one more time and be sure it's exactly the way you want it.

2. Be Brief

If you can cut a sentence, a phrase, or a word, do it. Your reader is bombarded with words, so help him out. The average person will only remember three to five points from what you wrote anyway, so make them count.

3. Beef Up Your Verbs

A strong verb is worth tons of adverbs and adjectives. Compare these two sentences:

  • She walked quickly toward the escalator.
  • She dashed toward the escalator.

To find great verbs, it helps to have an excellent reference like Roget's International Thesaurus. Unlike most thesauruses, it features words grouped by topic, which gives you many more options. When I'm writing, I always keep it within reach.

Writer's Best Friend

Roget's International Thesaurus, 7e, Thumb indexed (Roget's International Thesaurus Indexed)
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A feast for the avid wordsmith!

4. Use Smaller Words

You know that guy or girl who says 'utilize' when he or she could just say 'use.' Don't be that girl or guy. Some writers love to wave their huge vocabularies in your face, but ask yourself, do you enjoy that? Big words are distracting. They call attention to themselves. The reader might stop and wonder, "What the heck does that mean?" and your message gets lost.

5. Use Short Sentences

If your sentences say too much all at once, your reader will get overwhelmed and tune out. Keep it short. Be direct. Get to the point.

If you tend to write long sentences, try this. Write down what you want to say as if you were talking to a friend, someone who knows and likes you. Don't worry if what you write is informal. You can make it formal later. The point is to get down exactly what you want to say in as few words as possible.

If you've got a long sentence, it's easy to break it up into shorter ones. Look for the commas and change them to periods. Now add in subjects and verbs to make complete sentences. 

Better Writing for Everyone!

It takes practice to improve your prose. I hope these five quick tips have helped you in your quest. Comments are welcome! Feel free to drop me a line and share your ideas!