Here are six of our best writing tips that will help your writing stand out among the billions of articles online.
Thanks to internet journalism, self-publishing and social media, the writing industry is now open to the masses. But could this be a double-edged sword?
As fresh content gets churned out at a blistering pace, it can feel like a struggle to set your work apart from the next aspiring wordsmith’s. Here’s how to fix that.
BY REFILOE METSING
1. Keep it simple
According to Time Magazine, the average person has an attention span of eight seconds. This means that as a writer, you only have a tiny window to grab a reader’s attention.
2. Mix up your sentence lengths
A surefire way to put a reader off is to forget to vary your sentence lengths.
Short sentences pack a punch. However, too many in a row make it difficult to maintain flow and connection between ideas. A well-placed, mid-length sentence can add description or develop tension, but one after another is monotonous – or worse, hard to read. It’s a fine balance.
Mixing up sentence lengths will lend your writing a
3. Show, don’t tell
The idea behind “Show, don’t tell” is to appeal to the reader’s senses – make them experience the scenes you create.
Telling is when you simply explain what is happening in your story. It is often brief, factual and unremarkable. For example:
Megan was hot.
Showing helps the reader feel like they are participating in the story, that they too are somehow experiencing what the characters are feeling and sensing. Showing is about using lively descriptions that bring your characters’ feelings and surroundings to life. For example:
Megan shielded her eyes against the blazing sun. She was about to sweat through her only good blouse, and it wasn’t even noon.
4. Maintain logical flow
Writing is like music – it has its own rhythm, pace and flow. When writing has good logical flow, it transitions effortlessly from one sentence to the next, one paragraph to the next and one idea to the next.
To maintain logical flow keep the following in mind:
- Plan out your work. Make sure that your ideas flow in a logical order.
- Stick to one idea per paragraph.
- Use transitions between sentences and between paragraphs.
- Read your work aloud to hear how well the different parts of your piece fit together.
5. Cut unnecessary adverbs
An adverb is a word that modifies a verb. You’ll know them as ‘ly’ words – words like quickly, softly, sneakily, blankly and so on. Critics argue that they’re only ever used to prop up weak verbs – they break the golden rule of “show, don’t tell.” Many writers avoid them.
Tighten up your prose by replacing unnecessary adverbs with strong verbs. Strong verbs convey character actions and emotions vividly and concisely.
For example, there is a subtle but powerful difference between these two sentences:
She looked at him angrily (Telling, using a weak verb)
She glared at him (Showing, using a strong verb)
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6. Sign up for a writing course
If you have worked on both your writing and your article ideas, and you are still not succeeding in building your readership online, then consider signing up for a writing course. The advantages include:
- Insightful feedback from a professional tutor and/or writer.
- Avoiding mistakes you don’t even know you are making.
- The opportunity to get creative and find new ways to express yourself.
- The ability to sharpen your skills faster than you would if you were studying on your own.
- Increased confidence in your writing ability.
Some online courses offer the added benefit of affordability, working at your own pace, and one-on-one tutoring from award-winning writers.
About the Author:
Refiloe Metsing is a freelance writer and blogger. She holds a degree in Psychology and Business French from the University of Cape Town. As a self-professed social media addict, she’s always got her eye on what’s happening with her favourite big tech companies.
When she’s not writing, Refiloe is baking, or teaching English to foreign language students online.