To me, there is nothing sweeter than a beautifully written article or blog post (no comments, please).
When I find one, I will reread and study the words that have been used and try to figure out why I have liked it so much. What was it about the writing that resonated with me?
A good blog post or article will often have an interesting story attached to it. But it’s not just a good story that makes for a well composed article. If it has not been written properly or the rules for easier reading haven’t been taken into consideration, it doesn’t matter how interesting the topic is, people are going to switch off and click away!
Writing is a skill. Think of those endless hours in English class, writing sentences, stories and essays only to have them pulled apart and slashed in red ink by the teacher. It isn’t hard to write well, when you know the rules to follow. They will make a huge difference in making your article or blog post easier to read, interesting and one that keeps your reader engaged, right to the end.
Better still, these tips will help them read on small screens and mobiles, no easy task especially for the older generations.
The biggest skill is getting the rhythm of the words - putting them together to form almost a music like trance or a poetic verse.
1. Use short sentences
Long sentences are usually sentences that are three lines or more in length. They are associated with hard reading. The reader has to work hard at understand it and may lose their train of thought half way through the sentence.
Long sentences will usually have several thoughts in the one line which you can easily break into two or more sentences. Try it, it’s easy.
2. Vary the length of sentences
Use a short sentence and then a longer one, then a medium sentence. This adds some interest to the reading.
How? It is all to do with the flow of the words. Longer sentences bring a certain smoothness to the writing whereas shorter sentences are punchier.
Use the right sentence length to match what you are trying to say.
3. Vary the structure of the sentence
Now for a little English lesson (I promise to be quick!). There are four sentence structures –
1. Simple sentences contain a single subject and verb. For example. ‘the mobile rang right before the meeting’
2. Compound sentence contains two complete sentences (independent clauses) joined by a coordinating conjunction (but, for, so,). For example, ‘the mobile rang right before the meeting, so the manager quickly turned off her phone’s ringer.’
3. Complex sentence contains an independent clause joined by one or more dependent clauses. For example, ‘to avoid an interruption during the meeting, the manager turned off his phone’s ringer’.
4. Compound-complex sentence contains a combination of a compound sentence and a complex sentence. For example, ‘To keep his attention on the meeting, the manager turned off his phone’s ringer and put his headphones in his briefcase’.
Using a combination of these sentence structures will add interest to the reading and the subject matter. It will also add to the flow of the blog. If you used just one or two of the sentences structures the writing will come across as stilted, choppy, and irregular.
4. Using dialogue tends to make for easier reading
Introducing dialogue or quotes to your blog post, is an easy way to humanise it, give it a voice. It will also break up your information, give it credibility if quoting someone of authority and add interest to the information.
Not sure where to put those pesky exclamation marks around your dialogue? It can get tricky. Here is a blog post I reference if I am unsure.
5. Use active verbs
Active verbs keep your writing alive. Active verbs are where the person or thing does something rather than the person having something done to it, which is a passive verb.
The sentence with an active verb is structured like this – subject verb object.
The sentence with a passive verb is structured like this – object verb subject.
Here is an example:
They will complete the blog (Active)
The blog will be completed by them (Passive)
My manager used to write blogs (active)
Blogs used to be written by my manager (passive)
6. Use words with less syllables
Usually words with several syllables are generally more complicated words, and there is usually a shorter syllabled word you can use in its place.
Of the 1000 words we use the most in English language, only 36 are of more than one syllable.
For the word – procedure, try process
Important, try vital
7. Be selective with each word
Be sure that each word carries its weight, throw out words that are not needed. Where one word will do the work of two or even three words, use that one.
In this sentence, ‘Try it, it’s actually quite easy’, the words 'actually' and 'quite' are not adding anything extra to the sentence. ‘Try it, it’s easy’ is a better sentence for clarity and word count.
I find this tip really transforms my writing, it is amazing the number of words you can cut – think of Twitter with its 140-character limit.
8. Avoid words that don’t say anything
For this sentence - ‘Use a really short sentence and then a longer one’.
This sentence doesn’t need the word ‘really’ before ‘short sentence’ – it is either a short sentence or not.
These words creep into our writing and the culprit is usually highlighted by the grammar checker in our software. Eliminating these redundant and unnecessary words often improves the readability, and therefore our enjoyment of the article.
9. Practice, practice and then practice
As a professional football player, or a talented musician would do, keep practicing your writing, it is amazing at how quickly you improve over time. And your enjoyment of the process will increase as well, as you see your writing transform.
10. Edit, edit then edit again.
‘The first draft of anything is shit’ Ernst Hemingway
Even professional writers edit. The process of editing can be painful and time consuming, the writing is the easy part.
Personally, I would spend more time editing than writing. But what keeps me inspired is the transformation of the article after every edit. It is an amazing process to see your writing come alive as you get rid of words, use more appropriate words and fine tune what you want to say in a succinct and easy to read manner.
Here are some online tools to help you write better –
Flesch-Kincaid option on Word
This measures the readability of your writing, that is the reading grade. This blog post has a grade level of Year 8. Most blog posts should aim for a Year 7-8 reading level, but thsi will also depend on your target audience.
The reading ease of my blog post is 65.9 – perfect, as you want to aim for a reading ease of between 60 and 70. It considers the length of the sentences and the number of syllables in each word.
Now that you have some writing skills under your belt, go forth and write!
If your writing confidence is waning, I am happy to help. Shoot through an email and I can give you some direction to improve your writing and get more readers clicking. If however, you realise it's all too hard, I'd love to give you a quote for copywriting - contact me now
Here is some further reading on writing blogs -