Whether you’re writing a blog post, a newsletter or a white paper, it’s essential to get your message across quickly and in a way that is easy to understand. If you don’t, readers will stop reading or skim your content.
With verbal communication, you can use body language, facial expressions and vocal tone to get your message across. But when you write, you only have words.
Most writers agree that to become a better writer you must read and write a lot. But there are also a few exercises your can do to further flex your writing “muscle.” Here are six exercises to help you tighten up your writing and produce more compelling content.
How to Add Clarity to Your Writing
When you have a message to give, it’s imperative that nothing about that message is muddled. How can you go about being more clear in your writing?
Think of all the homonyms (words that are spelled the same but have different meanings) in the English language: crane, date, dog, rose, type – the list goes on. A dog could be an animal, but it could also be a wicked person. And there are thousands of different breeds of the animal (there’s a range of differences between a bulldog and a great Dane). By being specific, you’ll make sure that the reader isn’t confused by your message.
Use Positive Language
The word “not” gets thrown around quite a bit in writing. With some revision, however, we can spin those “not” phrases into something more positive and interesting. For instance, “not known” becomes “unknown” and “Not interesting” becomes “boring.” It’s a small change, but it will subconsciously keep your readers reading.
Writers sometimes fall into the trap of padding their word count with repetition. But precision is more important that word count most of the time. Think about what words you’re using. Writing should be more like archery than shooting a machine gun; preciseness is more impressive than just spraying words around and hoping something sticks.
6 Writing That Will Improve Your Writing Clarity
1. Tweet More
Tweeting forces you to sharpen up your writing because you have only 140 characters to communicate your message. You have to be more direct.
The last paragraph was only 140 characters, but it explained why Twitter can be an effective tool for writers. It makes you focus on the reader and get your point across in as few words as possible.
2. Explain a Complex Subject in 100 Words or Less
This is actually a more difficult exercise than it sounds. If you need some inspiration, check out HubSpot’s “In Under 100 Words” series, which addresses some complicated subjects in short form. Choose a subject you love or one you know very little about. Remember to include as much information as possible, without being vague.
3. Write a Sonnet or Haiku
Choose a topic and then explain it within the framework of a sonnet. This is a poem of fourteen lines, using ten syllables per line. If you’re feeling brave, try writing a haiku. This is a poem of seventeen syllables, in three lines of five, seven and five. The poems don’t have to rhyme, but they force you to make every word count. They also make you to consider how words sound and how sentences flow together.
4. Summarize an Article
Take any article from the Internet and summarize it in as few words as possible. Try to include all the main ideas and leave out anything that is not essential. Not only will this help you write more concisely, it will help you recognize waffle in other people’s writing as well as your own.
5. Write a Flash Fiction Story
Flash fiction stories can be anything from 100 to 1,000 words. When you try to write a complete story in so few words, it makes you think about the beginning, middle and end. It also forces you to cut out unnecessary details and use words that convey more emotion and meaning.
6. Edit Someone Else’s Writing
If you have no trouble getting words on the page but you think your finished content needs tightening up, try an editing exercise. Find a blog post online and copy the text into your text editor. Then look for as many ways to improve it as you can. Check for the following:
- Spelling or grammatical errors.
- Long sentences that can be shortened.
- Unnecessary words.
- Formatting problems.
- Confusing ideas that could be made clearer.
Remember to take away the positive aspects of the writing, which will help improve your own style.
Techniques for Writing Clarity
1. Strong introduction
A good introduction to an essay explains what will follow, and this strategy is no less powerful in all forms of writing. Telling the reader what to expect will help them follow your logic and understand your ideas.
2. Proper formatting
Formatting text correctly is often overlooked by writers, but it’s a powerful technique. A headline in bold will emphasize a key point. Bullet points will help to clarify your ideas. And an italicized word will clarify your tone of voice.
Focus on one idea per paragraph. It helps to break down your content into distinct ideas, making your overall message clearer. It also gives readers time to digest each point you make.
4. Avoid Jargon
Remember your audience. Your readers may not know as much as you do about your area of expertise. So, drop the jargon and use simpler words whenever possible. Clear communication means the reader should never have to look up a word in the dictionary.
5. Use an Active Voice
Avoid the passive voice as it weakens your message. For example, write “Our company received an award,” not “Our company was chosen to receive an award.”
Never Be Complacent
Generally, clear writing means getting to the point as quickly as possible. It’s about knowing what you want to say before you start writing. It involves using simple words and uncomplicated sentences to express your ideas and help your readers understand your ideas.
Keep these tips in mind before your next writing project. Hopefully, these techniques and exercises will improve your writing clarity, help you communicate more powerfully and leave your readers engaged and hungry for more.