We all want to sound brilliant when we write. When we think of good writing, many of us will usually consider “using big words” to be a key part of an impressive review or article. We may think that long, developed sentences teeming with thoughtful adjectives and adverbs actually makes for more appealing writing.
In reality, this isn’t the case.
A recent study in psychology sheds light on the truth about writing: to sound smart and be an effective writer, we must stop trying so hard. Using complicated words that might not be understood by people in every context will do nothing but prevent your work from being understood. A relevant idea that is delivered in a clear and direct way is 100 times more pertinent to readers—and more importantly, it will be remembered.
Why Grammar Matters
No matter what industry you’re in, chances are that you will have to use writing in your job. Whether you are writing something as small as a survey response or a well-developed analysis like a research article, it is crucial that your writing reflects an intelligent use of language. Otherwise, bad writing can have many negative effects on your career, from jumbling your business goals to ruining collaboration with your coworkers or customers.
According to Time Magazine, professionals who received one to four promotions in a 10-year period made 45% more grammatical errors then other professionals who were promoted six to nine times. For people looking to triumph at work, this statistic showcases just how critical it is to develop a concise, dependable voice. In combination with other factors, strong writing has a direct effect on your success.
After all, the power of words is an extremely useful tool in this day and age when so much of the information we receive is read online. If you are hoping to advance your writing skills fast, here are some tips for writing more effectively:
Be An Authority
Nothing exposes bad writing quite like a lack of authority. If you’re writing about something for the first time, you must do the research. Many people dread doing excessive amounts of research, as the payoff may not always be tangible at first. The key is to read widely and take plenty of notes, which will help your writing voice grow mature and become more influential. Otherwise, you’ll end up repeating yourself over and over again, and your statements will slowly start to lose conviction.
Becoming an authority on your subject will also make writing easier and faster. Before long, your words will thread seamlessly together. Try your best to commit to learning as much as you possibly can. The resources are right there at your fingertips and you should use them in order to cultivate your content in a way that makes sense.
Get to the Point
One of the greatest editors who has ever lived, Harold Evans, wrote an influential guide to writing that highlights the importance of making yourself clear. Clarity, he insists, is all about concision. For certain writers (especially in American print journalism), brevity is not always enforced. This leads to loose and imbalanced writing, causing readers to miss the main points. It’s critical for writers to choose simple words and keep sentences short or else your readers will lose interest fast.
As soon as you begin to have authority on a subject, you may find it hard to curb your creative flow. The more you know, the more you probably want to share—but overwriting steers readers away. Nobody likes to read articles or even books that will take up too much time. That’s why being concise is so important to effective writing and growing your business. As Evans would attest, getting to the point is half the battle. Once you’re there, the writing will be clear and comprehensible to anyone.
Edit, Edit, Edit!
For freelance writers, especially ones that focus on turning over content quickly, it can seem obsolete to edit every single piece thoroughly. Editing is tedious and takes time away from beginning new projects. The University of Leicester defines editing broadly as the “intellectual task of raising the overall … standard of a piece of writing.” This hits the nail on the head—editing raises standards from an amateurish style to one that is admirable and logical.
If you are finding it difficult to know where to begin with editing, you can consider:
- Clarity of phrases
- Sentence length and word choice
- Structure of headings and supporting content
- Overall balance of subject matter
- Adherence to the title
- Linking of content (either internally or to external sites)
- Use of active voice
Editing should not be a dreadful experience. Instead, it should be seen as a constructive step towards the finish line. If you’re stuck, ask a friend or coworker to critique your work. Oftentimes, having another pair of eyes read over what you’ve written can lead to significant improvements that you may miss on your own. And always remember: less is more!
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