Want to connect with more readers? These strategies will make your writing more powerful.
Every day, 2 million blog posts hit the World Wide Web. That’s a shocking amount of written content, and it doesn’t account for press releases, scholarly articles and other forms of writing. If you want your writing to stand out in this crowded online world, it needs to be strong.
Effective writers know that writing requires skill. They also know how to use specific strategies to make their writing more polished and stronger overall. Here is a breakdown of those skills that you can embrace to become a strong writer.
- 1. Start with an Outline
- 2. Know Your Audience
- 3. Use a Strong Opening
- 4. Learn to Write Concisely
- 5. Learn and Avoid Common Grammar Errors
- 6. Choose Strong Verbs
- 7. Use Adjectives and Adverbs Sparingly
- 8. Read Your Work Out Loud
- 9. Use Tools Available to You
- 10. Revise, Edit and Proofread
- The Final Word on Effective Writing
1. Start with an Outline
Good writing is about more than just knowing where to place a comma or how to use adverbs appropriately. Effective writing also conveys thoughts in a clear way, and that starts with an outline. A good writer will create thoughts that flow together into a cohesive message.
An outline serves as the basic backbone of your paper or article. It gives you the structure that you fill in with details. The outline keeps you organized and prevents you from going off on a rabbit trail.
2. Know Your Audience
Strong writers resonate with their audiences. They pinpoint what their audience wants to learn. Then they target that information with their writing. If you want to be a strong writer, make notes about your audience before you begin writing. This will guide your writing style, communication techniques and even subject matter.
3. Use a Strong Opening
Your first sentence is your chance to hook the reader and make them want to read. It must be strong. There are several ways to do this, including:
- Share a personal anecdote or story
- Give a surprising fact
- Establish a personal connection
- Create a sense of need in the reader
Get creative, but open strong.
4. Learn to Write Concisely
Another sign of effective writing is precision. Short, clear, punchy and compact sentences are powerful. Rambling sentences lack power.
Writers who get their point across in 10 words rather than rambling on for multiple sentences are strong writers. Unnecessary words jumble up the meaning and bore the reader.
How to Write Concisely
One way to learn to write concisely is by learning about passive voice and active voice. Active voice construction places the action doer as the subject of the sentence. Passive voice takes the subject and makes it the object of the sentence. For example:
The teacher spoke to the students
This is the active voice. The teacher is doing the speaking.
The students were spoken to by the teacher.
In this sentence, the teacher is speaking, but the students take the subject spot in the sentence. It takes more words to convey the same meaning. This is not concise.
Edit to Be More Concise
Often, conciseness comes in the editing stage. After you get your thoughts on paper, go back through your piece to see what you can cut. Many writers find areas to shorten their thoughts and make them more concise.
Before you can write concisely, you must know what you wish to say. Your outline will help with that.
5. Learn and Avoid Common Grammar Errors
Good writers know their weak points. Learning to spot and fix common grammar errors will make you a better writer. Here are some to watch for:
- Sentence problems – Sentences can be run-ons, which stick two complete sentences together without punctuation or conjunctions, or fragments, which don’t complete the thought. Both are errors. A sentence needs a subject, predicate and complete thought.
- Comma use – Commas are tricky. Good writers know when to use a comma, such as when joining two independent clauses with a conjunction or after introductory phrases. Read our guide to using commas.
- Subject/verb agreement – Subjects and verbs should agree in number. Plural subjects need plural verbs, as do singular subjects and verbs.
- Misplaced modifiers – Modifiers are words or phrases that modify another part of the sentence. If misplaced, they hurt clarity. The modifier needs to be placed near the word it modifies so the meaning remains clear.
- Verb tense – When writing, the tenses of the verb needs to stay consistent throughout, unless the meaning dictates a change. For example, if you are writing an essay about something that happened in the past, keep the verbs past tense.
- Pronoun agreement – Like verbs, pronouns must agree with the nouns they represent. For pronouns, this agreement is gender and number. A man would only be replaced with he, him and his, for example.
6. Choose Strong Verbs
Strong writing uses strong verbs. Write the most descriptive verb for the action. For instance, instead of saying:
He went to the store.
He drove to the store.
The verb drove tells more about the action than went. With went, the reader could picture walking or biking rather than driving.
Read our guide to revising sentences.
7. Use Adjectives and Adverbs Sparingly
Throwing an adjective or adverb into a sentence may feel like it’s beefing up the content, but usually it's not. Trying to improve flat, boring words with modifiers falls short.
Adverbs like very or somewhat have little power. Instead, look for a more precise or interesting noun or verb.
8. Read Your Work Out Loud
When you have a draft complete, editing begins. To help catch errors and wordiness, consider reading your draft out loud.
When you hear your written work read out loud, you notice errors you glossed over when reading it silently. You catch places where the writing is unclear or overly wordy.
9. Use Tools Available to You
The Internet gives several tools to writers to help make a piece of writing stronger. The Hemingway App is one of these. Plugging your piece of writing into the Hemingway App shows you passive voice errors, wordy sentences and overall readability.
Use the app to target a specific reading level and make your main point clearer in the overall peace. For most audiences, you want a high school or lower reading level, and the Hemingway App shows you this quickly.
Grammarly is another such tool. Either through a plug-in on your browser or through the website directly, Grammarly offers powerful grammar-checking software that highlights grammar and spelling errors. It also homes in on word choice problems. This tool protects you from making glaring grammar errors that make your writing less effective.
10. Revise, Edit and Proofread
Revising, editing and proofreading are all separate steps. First, revise the piece. Make sure your main idea is clear and your writing is concise. This takes a big-picture view of a piece of writing and makes changes that make it stronger.
Next, edit the piece. Editing takes a smaller view of the piece to analyze each sentence for clarity, efficiency and grammar. This is where you focus on punctuation and spelling mistakes.
Finally, proofread. This is a final read-through of the piece before publication. This gives you the chance to find errors you missed when editing. It also lets you check for stylistic errors if you need to match a particular style guide.
Claim our self-editing checklist.
Grammarly is a top spelling, grammar and plagiarism checker. It'll help you find and fix errors fast, and it works everywhere. The free trial is useful too.
The Final Word on Effective Writing
Effective writers know that writing is not a fast process. It takes time and work to write well, and that time and work involve multiple steps. By learning these steps and applying them every time you write, you can be an effective writer.