Good writers know the importance of flow. Unfortunately, it’s easier said than done. Not only does it require connecting topics and ideas with clearly-written paragraphs, using concise wording and varying your sentence structure, it also needs to have the right rhythm, tempo and sound. Without these qualities, your writing can quickly get cluttered and dreary, causing your readers to forget or abandon your piece altogether.
So, I’ve put together some of the best techniques to make your content easier to read and understand:
Plan for Success
Before you write anything, it’s helpful to organize your thoughts. Create an outline to figure out the key points you want to discuss, the topics of paragraphs and the logical order your ideas should be presented in.
A topic sentence tells the reader the focus of the paragraph and is often the paragraph’s first sentence, like this one. You should then elaborate on that initial statement with a series of sentences that are related to a single topic. Basically, topic sentences help readers navigate your text and follow your train of thought.
In this post, we first discussed the importance of planning ahead, and then went on to describe topic sentences. What if we then started talking about the best clothes to wear while writing. Wait, what?
Unconnected ideas are like roadblocks that readers have to change gears to get around. If a topic doesn’t connect well to the previous one, reorganize the paragraphs to maintain the flow of your writing. Remove the roadblocks and you’ll give readers a smoother ride.
Clear and concise wording also adds flow to your writing, making sentences easier to follow. We could easily destroy the flow of the previous sentence. Try reading this alternative version:
“Clear and concise wording, which means using words that are unambiguous and economical, can also help to maximize the flow of your written content, which in turn improves the reader’s ability to follow each sentence and understanding its meaning.”
The sentence has the same meaning as the original, but it’s so difficult to follow. As Thomas Jefferson said: “Never use two words when one will do.”
However, this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t play around with different words and sentence structures. Avoiding repetition improves the flow of your writing. In fact, using a variety of words will not only keep readers interested, it will improve the clarity of your ideas.
Here’s a grotesque version of the two previous sentences:
“Avoiding repetition is necessary to improve the flow of your writing. Avoiding repetition is necessary to keep readers interested in your ideas. Avoiding repetition is necessary to improve clarity in your writing.”
The wording and structure just kills the flow. It also highlights another potential problem…
Short sentences are fine. But they can also cause friction. Especially when they are grouped together. This quickly becomes monotonous. There is no variation in sentence length. The reader will soon switch off. Combine shorter sentences into one. It’s more economical. This paragraph is a case in point. Consider this improved version:
“Short sentences are fine, but they can also cause friction, especially when they’re grouped together. It’s monotonous. Try to vary the length of sentences. And, when possible, combine shorter sentences into one, more economical sentence.”
Rhythm and Cadence and Beats. Oh My!
Basically, cadence is the rhythm of your writing and how words change in pitch when they’re read aloud. A compelling cadence is more than varying sentence lengths. It’s about the texture of words, the sounds of syllables, the ebb and flow of a sentence and knowing when to stop.
Remember: a pause can be as vital as a word.
The reason why many blog posts fall flat is because they lack the natural rhythm of speech. Pay attention to the rhythm of your copy. Read it aloud. When it sounds awkward, change the words and sentence structure until it works. You’ll know when it sounds right.
In case you were wondering, the previous subheading is a riff on “Lions and tigers and bears. Oh my!” from The Wizard of Oz. It highlights another subtle trick you can use to add flow to your writing: the rule of three. If a sentence lists three things, it often sounds more coherent, convincing and complete. See?
The Final Edit
So you’ve finished writing your piece. Now walk away from your screen or drop that pen. Give your mind a rest. Because in the end, it’s the editing that matters. Your composition is like a movie; the final edit creates the flow.
When you return to your work, remember these tips and apply them to your writing. You’ll produce more coherent, persuasive and engaging content that your readers will love. Discard the clutter, add a phrase here, include a comma there and listen to how it sounds. Fluent writing is a powerful force. It can turn non-believers into fanatics, window-shoppers into customers and brands into heroes.