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Do you write more than you speak? I know I do! Especially in the digital world that we live in, I live, breathe, and work online.
Okay, maybe not all that much (that sounds depressing!). But I do write a lot, as do most of us. And some of us don’t realize just how much time we spend writing each day.
Think about it – we conduct much of our lives online and through our phones, communicating mainly through writing text messages, email, and social media.
Which is why it’s crucial that you’re communicating effectively through your writing, especially if you’re a blogger, freelancer, and/or solopreneur.
Your words truly do stand out, and the way you communicate defines you and your brand. It also shapes the impression you give off to potential readers and clients.
You want to be taken seriously. You want to appear credible – for people to trust you and your expertise. And to be taken seriously, what you say has to be taken seriously.
So, what’s the number one thing to avoid, because it makes you look less credible to people? Bad writing!
Just because you can read and communicate through words, doesn’t mean you can effectively write. There’s a huge difference between communicating through words and effectively communicating your words.
So, let’s check out four easy ways you can improve your writing so that people will take what you have to say seriously.
1. Don’t write the way you talk.
Often, writers aren’t good conversationalists. I can attest to that, because I can be pretty awkward in conversation. Especially small talk. I have a hard time formulating exactly what I want to say, and sometimes it comes out very jumbled.
On the other hand, there are people who are naturalists at conversation. They speak eloquently and fluidly, so everything that comes out of their mouth is super smooth. We’ve all met people like this before – and they have so much charisma about them. But for some of these types of people, you’d never guess that they were such smooth talkers based on how they write.
Which leads me to share something that may be surprising: written and verbal communication are two different processes – literally!
You’d think that writing and talking is one in the same; I mean, you’re just spewing out words in each case, right? But writing and speaking are supported by different parts of the brain! A recent study found that although writing evolved from speaking, writing and talking are now two very independent systems.
There’s a time and place for writing the way you talk. Shooting a friend a casual text message? Sure, write the way you talk. But writing business copy, or sending an email to a potential client? Not such a good idea.
However, from a teaching point-of-view, there is an exception to this. If you feel overwhelmed or have writer’s block, writing the way you talk is a good starting point to just get your thoughts on paper. It can be good as a sort of “free-write” when you’re journaling or brainstorming ideas, or trying to get an article rolling.
But if you’re writing a product description for your e-commerce site, or writing a blog post for the world to see, or even sending a professional email to a client, writing the way you speak isn’t really the way to go unless your copy has been fine-tuned for grammar, spelling, and punctuation mistakes.
So, if you start out by writing the way you talk, you need to make sure you edit and revise, and edit and revise some more. Writing can always be improved. Which leads me to my second tip, and number one writing tool…
2. Use tools like Grammarly to revise and edit.
Grammar mistakes are MUCH more noticeable in writing. People can read your words over and over, and scrutinize over them. In speaking, we can often say things incorrectly, and people probably won’t even notice.
It’s human to make mistakes – especially writing mistakes. But, they can be prevented with the right tools.
My absolute favorite automated proofreading and editing tool to use is Grammarly. It’s versatile, and super easy. Get the Chrome app, and let it go to town on all of your copy. It underlines potential errors in red, and all you have to do is hover your mouse over the word to see the correction and get it changed.
What sets Grammarly apart is that it’s super user-friendly, and it’s adaptive to your specific writing needs. From beginner to intermediate to advanced, you set your writing level, and it will personalize the tool for your use.
It’s automated, which means it works automatically as you type. It checks punctuation and contextual spelling, sentence structure, plagiarism, and can suggest better vocabulary words to use. It’s basically like having your own personal editor on your tail as you type (which isn’t always fun, but extremely helpful – ha!).
3. Make each word valuable.
I’ll be the first to admit that I love frilly, lengthy prose.
But most people don’t, especially not in the professional or academic world. Cut straight to the chase with your words. Say what you have to say, and avoid being as wordy as possible. Clear, effective writing is usually as succinct as possible.
This doesn’t mean you can’t get creative, though. If your copy needs some good ole’ humor, add it in! You can write with personality, but it doesn’t have to mean that you’re writing something super lengthy. It can get confusing for your readers, and your message can get lost in all the words.
People are lazy – and in today’s digital world, our attention span just isn’t all there when it comes to reading. So, communicate effectively in as little words as possible. Go back and trim words that aren’t absolutely necessary.
Make sure each word provides value of some sort to that sentence – whether its value that adds meaning, personality, or effect, to the overall work.
4. Avoid (excessive) exaggeration.
People will take you seriously if you sound genuine.
So, how do you sound ingenuine? By expressing too much enthusiasm or overselling to the point that it turns your readers off.
Over-enthusiasm comes off as ingenuine and the majority of people see right through it. They can tell you’re really trying to sell something, and they aren’t buying.
Yes, I know most of you may be writing with the point to sell, especially if you’re writing something like product descriptions. But trust me on this. You want your selling to be subtle – no one likes to hear a pushy sales person go on and on about a product, and no one wants to waste their time reading what that pushy salesman has to write, either.
Exaggeration is also much more noticeable in writing than it is in conversation (and it can be pretty obvious in conversation, too, so that’s saying something).
Now, this isn’t to say that you can’t ever use hyperbole, or excessive exaggeration, for dramatic or humorous effect. If your exaggeration adds personality to your message, and is in line with your brand, then go for it. But do it with tact, and make it clear that the over-exaggeration is not to be taken seriously.
It takes skilled writers to craft a message that’s expertly weaved in with hyperbole or excessive exaggeration; for all others, it just sounds cliche most of the time, so tread lightly with this.
Writing is hard, and it’s okay if it doesn’t come naturally to you at first. With a lot of practice and dedication, it will eventually. Even the best writers make mistakes, and there isn’t any writing out there that’s absolutely perfect.
In the meantime, there are quick strategies like the ones I’ve mentioned above that can help improve your writing. Implement these strategies, and you’ll see what a difference it makes in your written communication, and in how serious people take what you have to say in your writing.
Happy writing! 🙂