This happens to me sometimes.
Let’s see if you can relate.
I find a sweet blog post that gets a ten in content writing points and I can’t help but read the whole thing and not just skim.
By the time I finish I’ve got stars in my eyes. Wow. That was such a good, smooth read. Sooo not boring and packed tight with usable info. Heck I’m sure I can write something like that!
Then I get to writing excited and all and…
All my paragraphs are bland and wobbly like they’re on the brink of collapse. Everything I write seems like I’m just droning on and on and not getting anywhere. Has this been you? It’s been me for sure.
The only way I’ve been able to beat this is by writing…writing a lot–while also keeping a few tips in mind that have really transformed the way I write for the better. These are not blog writing specific. They apply to all writing (aka not only for the awesome bloggers out there. You know who you are).
Here are a few:
- Being Specific
Have you ever read a manual that just kind of sort of told you how to use something? I highly doubt it. I mean imagine
‘ Just push a few buttons on the side panel and then hopefully the thing will work if you do it right.’
I’ve read plenty of blog posts along those same lines. Lacking specificity is like just halfway being present–you fail to capture people’s attention.
It’s a lot better to be specific with your anecdotes, your examples, your how-tos, and your ‘reasons why’.
This is sure to engage your audience a lot better even if being specific makes your post eons longer. There is always a demand out there for content that solves problems and specifically tells us how…or at least points us in a better direction.
Easy to read and memorable content is the fruit of being specific.
- Avoid These Words: Just, Thing, Kind of, Guess, Actually
Some words serve to strengthen your writing, while others suck the energy out of it. Such is life.
They are almost guaranteed to appear in our writing because they are SUCH a part of our everyday vocabulary. Hmm…now that I think about it, they don’t make your speech very convincing either. In the end, it’s all about more effective communication.
Yes of course, we want to be conversational in our writing but that doesn’t mean we must use detrimental words to make it so.
Let’s look at ‘Just’.
I just really feel like I want to share this with you.
I really feel like I want to share this with you.
Hey everyone, I feel strongly about sharing this with you today.
I just thought it would be better to fix the problem.
I thought it would be better to fix the problem.
I thought to myself ‘It’s better if I take care of the issue.’
See how getting rid of ‘just’ automatically makes your sentences stronger and bolder? The third reiterations spice up the sentence even more with a more personable approach that shows instead of just tells. That type of effective sentence will be discussed on a later point.
Thing. Uuuugh that thing. The place where I see this word does the most damage is on blog titles and pins. The word is so not specific and makes your material seem not so thought through.
‘The Things That All Entrepreneurs Need To Hear’
‘The Thing That optimizes all My Posts’
‘Things To Think About When Designing Your Opt-In Buttons’
These titles could have so. Much. More. Takeaway.And.Bang. If they were modified to be more specific and we rid them of ‘thing.’
Here are more specific revisions of the same sentences without ‘thing’
‘The Advice That All Entrepreneurs Need To Hear’
‘The Software/Free Widget/Add On That Optimizes All My Posts’
‘5 Design Rules to Think About When Designing Your Opt-In Buttons’
See/read the difference? Infinitely better. It doesn’t leave your reader guessing and only halfway interested.
Now, moving on to ‘kind of’ and ‘guess’. These words float on the same boat. They’re added when either we feel like we don’t quite know what we are talking about or we are scared someone might not agree with us.
Obviously, they are put to good use when you mean them literally. Like you had to guess on your calculus exam or that $3 Mcdonald’s burger was kind of burnt.
But. And here is the big butt. When you use the words to introduce a thought you had about something or you are making a statement, try staying far away from them.
Here are some examples:
‘I guess I just wanted to show my audience a better version of myself.’
‘I wanted to show my audience a better version of myself.’
‘I kind of think poop yellow should be on everyone’s branding palate.’
‘I think poop yellow should be on everyone’s branding palate.’
Like my great grandmother used to say, ‘If you gon make a statement go ‘head!’ Do the second versions of those two sentences sound better? Yup. Sounds like success :).
- Tell Your Stories
Our lives are filled with stories. Whether they are two minutes of you telling your workout partner about how your toddler ran around the house with a poopy diaper singing Thriller or you pour your heart out on a three-page blog post about how you overcame a disastrous point in your chaotic life and pulled through.
Telling your stories does three things:
1. Forms relationships
2. Passes on information more efficiently
Storytelling is at the core of relationship forming. Next time you sit down and talk to your best friend ask yourself, how are we communicating?
I would be willing to bet its 80% storytelling ( I just pulled that number out of my ass but it illustrates my point). How’d you get to the point of becoming best friends? By spewing facts at each other all day long with no stories/anecdotes to tell? I think not.
This is why storytelling has been around for eons. It passes on information more efficiently. How do you think people back in the day were able to preserve their history and culture? Did they just spew facts that they had to memorize sans paper and pencil? Nope. They told stories.
And those? Those are memorable.
Everyone loves a good story. Everyone. From children, who usually like to hear them, to the elderly, who usually like to tell em.
It’s weaved into video games, branding, movies are stories, news articles, conversations. Storytelling is vital for good reason.
- Vary Your Sentence Beginnings
Starting your sentences with the same word all the time is the best way to seem like you just passed the third grade. To say its redundant is well…redundant.
It’s also a sure-fire way to seem like you are droning on about something. Sentence beginning variation will make your writing more lively, enticing, and you sound a heck of a lot smarter.
Take this short example:
‘I used to have the perfect life. I used to be able to go anywhere I wanted when I felt like it. I made sure that I was always happy and well fed. I had a cute dog and a house. I didn’t want to change anything.’
‘I used to have the perfect life. If I felt like going anywhere I could do so whenever I wanted. Being happy and well fed were always a priority. My dog + house were a cute addition to it all and there was nothing I wanted to change.’
That second paragraph is miles better. It has word and sentence variation. Again, this might not happen so naturally come morning, but it does arrive over time if you write often and purposefully.
- Active Voice
When I learned about active voice vs. passive voice writing my brain expanded by 15%. For really really. I felt it. You’ll feel it here in a little bit.
Active voice writing is simply putting the verb before the subject in a sentence.
It sounds blah. You expected something mind blowing…I mean expanding. But let me illustrate.
Most people write like this:
The world class widget was invented by Hoover.
writing in active voice would structure the sentence like this:
Hoover invented the world class widget.
A second example would be:
Danny’s feelings were hurt by Sandy.
writing in active voice would structure the sentence more like this:
Sandy hurt Danny’s feelings.
Read the difference? The second sentence sounds oodles better and gives your writing a more lively feel. Isn’t that cool?? See, I knew you’d feel your mind expanding. It tingles :).
- Change Your Monotone To A Greater Tone
This takes work.
I fear sounding like a textbook. It’s one of my secret fears when I write. I really really absolutely fo sho’ do NOT want to sound like my 9th grade textbooks. That’s why I never fully learned how to work through algorithmic functions. Just thinking back on having to read through that makes me wrinkle my nose!
I definitely don’t want sucky writing to stand in the way of any meaty information I think is worth sharing with my readers– then I feel like I’m wasting my + their time. And time is precious.
How to beat monotony you ask?? For starters giving tired words a break is one, which I have listed as the upcoming bullet point.
But three things I keep in mind to stay as far away from monotone voice as possible are:
- Show don’t tell
- Facts without illustrations are dead
- Readers are friends, not Phd holders grading you
Showing rather than telling is the reason why your teacher made you bring your three favorite objects in third grade to stand in front of the whole class and talk about them. Now you’ve gotta practice doing it in writing.
There is something about showing rather than telling that makes your writing so much more alive and readable.
How do you do it?
Take this sentence for example:
I was surprised by her reaction and decided to leave.
I jumped up and stomped out the room as I shook with surprise and excitement.
‘Decided to leave’ is replaced with ‘stomped out the room.’
The change came from simply stating her action to DESCRIBING her action.
She ‘jumped up and stomped out room’ instead of just ‘leave’.
I’ve noticed that often, facts by themselves can be bland. Like really bland. BUT, if you state a fact while also adding an illustration to either have it make more sense or to make it more relatable then suddenly I remember what was said, and I remember who said it.
If you state:
98% of people have aliens living inside them.
You should know how to not be awkward when asking about it because you never know when you’ll come across an alien possessed person. Here’s how:
98% of people have aliens living inside them.
This means eight out of every ten people you interact with on a daily basis don’t control their own bodies. Yikes. Crazy to think about isn’t it? That’s why it’s better to ask them right off the bat if they are alien possessed or not.
And that’s why you need to read this post. You don’t want to do it awkwardly.
It took me a while to come up with that fact. But there it is. 98% of people you encounter are alien possessed. Which post would you read if you needed to learn how to not be awkward about it?
I put my money on the second one.
You’ve gotta remember this: Your readers are not PhD holders deciding if they’ll pass your dissertation. They want to hear what you’ve got to say (hence the reason why they read your sh*t) and most importantly, they want to relate to you.
So that means? Chill. Perfection should not be on the to-do list.
But striving for greater, better writing definitely should be.
- Do A Trade-Off
Many of us try to give emphasis to certain parts of our writing and make it sound exciting to all that read it by using the beloved “!” point!!!!!!!!
While there are sentences that no doubt do call for exclamation points. Many don’t.
There’s a better way to go about it (gasp) that will make your writing vivid, clearer, and easier to engage with. How can that possibly be true without the ever present exclamation point?
The secret: Trade them off with stronger words. Big deal, right? But let me explain.
If I say:
‘The blog post was so well written!’
I could do a trade-off and say:
‘The blog post was extremely well written.’
You trade the ‘!’ for ‘extremely’ and not a bit of emphasis was lost. If anything the sentence sounds smarter and makes the same point.
If you try it with another sentence, you’ll get the same results.
I can say:
‘The old lady went by really fast!’
But instead trade it off to:
‘The old lady flashed by.’
Shorter, clearer, and paints a vivid picture. I mean, imagine an old lady flashing by. Pretty breathtaking.
- Give Tired Words A Break
This is probably one of the easiest points you can start changing about your writing right away. I started doing this years ago and to this day it’s become an automatic reflex.
Every time I’m tempted to write ‘awesome’ I stop myself, open a new tab, and google other awesome words for awesome.
Don’t get me wrong. The word awesome is well…awesome. It’s awesome to use, but it gets less awesome when it’s overused.
Deep breath. There’s magnificent, stunning, breathtaking, astonishing, outstanding, grand, fantastic, outrageous, mind-blowing…you see? There are awesomer words to use in the place of awesome.
This holds true for any other overused words.
Some common tired words in need of a break are: Good, fun, great, awesome, cool…
Notable writing takes work. It’s not a five step process that can be achieved in three and a half minutes. I’m sure you’ve heard someone say ‘anything worth having takes effort’ or something along those lines.
Strong writing, if you are serious about the blogging world, your lit class, copywriting, content marketing, e-mail writing, and on, is very much worth that effort.
Try it. Take the next blog post from your blog list ( if you are stuck on what to write about for your next post check out this handy list). Try writing your usual post and get a first draft going. Then, go through the points this post one by one and tweak your writing according to each one.
Add storytelling when appropriate, get rid of tired words, pick out every sentence beginning and vary it, replace textbook droning and stop ‘guessing’ about your statements every time you make them.
It’ll be like writing detox for your content. No mo’ writing bloatedness.
When was the last time you revised the way you wrote? Let me know in the comments below!