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Less Is More: 10 Writing Tips To Help You Develop Your Writing

Less Is More: 10 Writing Tips To Help You Develop Your Writing
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You should always write with your reader in mind. And if you don’t waste words then you won’t waste their time. Make your points quickly and with thought so that whether your reader is an employer, hiring manager or blog reader they get to see the best of you.

Following these ten writing tips will help you write fewer words whilst still packing a punch.

1. Have a Point

Have something to say and a point to your writing. Whatever you write will then come more easily and you’ll avoid writing something about nothing.

2. Get to the Point

Read any newspaper and almost every article will have the facts first, followed by increasing amounts of context and detail. This grabs the reader’s attention and ensures that if they don’t get to the end of a story they still get the message.

Unless it is your intention to write a ‘whodunnit,’ start with your conclusion and then add the context.

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3. Keep it Simple

Don’t fall into the trap of writing long words to try and make yourself sound important. Keep your language simple and straightforward so that you do not alienate put anyone off.

4. Write Short Sentences

Shorter sentences are easier to read. Readers enjoy them and are more likely to continue reading.

Got that?

5. Keep Paragraphs Short

Paragraphs don’t have to be long, dense blocks of text, they can be a single sentence — which may consist of only a few words and sometimes only one.

By keeping your paragraphs short, your text will look more inviting to your reader and provide them with places to pause and think about what you’ve written.

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6. Choose Your Voice

Where practical write in the active voice to keep things engaging. You do this by constructing your sentences using the Subject, Verb, Object model:

The dog bit the postman.

If you reverse your sentence structure you will still have the same meaning but it has less oomph:

The postman was bitten by the dog.

Different language examples can be found on Wikipedia.

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7. Use Punctuation

Use punctuation to help you cram more meaning into fewer words. Semi-colon and bullet point lists can help keep things short and make your writing easier to consume. If you are not sure how to use the dreaded semi-colon, then have a read through this site.

8. Avoid Repetition

Unless you are writing a political speech, avoid repetition at all costs. It will bore your reader and seem as though you only have a few things to say.

9. Cut the fluff

Words such as nice, rather and very add no impact and just make sentences longer — see point 4. Either choose a substantial replacement or remove them altogether. For instance:

She had a very nice day.

becomes:

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She had a marvelous day.

Mark Twain suggested that you should “Substitute damn every time you’re inclined to write very; your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.” Not a bad writing tip.

10. Edit like you mean it

If you want to write a laser-guided message then you need to check every word is on point. Remove sections that meander, as your reader will prefer your writing if they don’t have to wade through off-topic content.

Mark Twain once wrote, “I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.” Don’t let your readers think you’ve been lazy and written the ‘long letter.’

Any more writing tips?

Do you have anything to add to my top ten writing tips? Have I missed something important? If so, please leave a comment below as I’d love to hear your thoughts. Thanks

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Featured photo credit: http://szolkin.blogspot.com/ via s3.amazonaws.com

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Last Updated on July 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
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No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

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Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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