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4 tried and true ways you can improve your writing

Great content is essential to a successful online business.

 

It requires less money to reach a bigger audience. And, if done right, you can write content that sells itself.

 

Unfortunately, many entrepreneurs or startup founders struggle to find the right words to use to appeal to their target audience.

 

Luckily, you can improve your writing no matter what your skill level may be by focusing on the right areas.

The problem with bad writing...

Example of bad writing

If bad writers were honest...

Bad writing is more than just a terrible blog post or an ad that misses the mark. Bad writing leads to a bad customer experience and eventually bad business.

Here are just a few of the problems associated with bad writing and bad content:

Little to no audience engagement

It’s hard enough to get anyone’s attention these days. It’s damn near impossible if your content is poorly written.

Little to no site traffic

Would you make yourself watch a TV show you thought sucked? Same thing goes for website content. If nobody likes what you write or how you write it, they won’t bother to go read it.

Little to no brand awareness

Great content stands out and makes a name for itself (well, the brand that created it). Anything less than great gets lost in the noise of mediocre content.

Little to no conversions

If you can’t write well, you won’t convert well. ‘Nuff said.

Poor customer education

You need a certain level of writing mastery to be able to explain things so others can learn. If you can’t write well, then you can’t teach potential customers how they can use your product or service to solve their problem.

Higher marketing costs and lower marketing ROI

If your writing is weak, then it leads to content that is subpar and has little effect. Weak content needs more and more money to get it in front of the ideal eyeballs.

Even if you have an infinite budget, you will never get the return on investment to justify that spending in the long run.

Why everyone should learn to be a better writer

Whether you realize it or not, writing is an essential part of your daily life.

Think about all of the emails you send or reply to every day.

Think about all of the texts.

What about the blog posts, the tweets, the Facebook posts, the posts on Medium, your LinkedIn updates, sales calls, interviews, presentations, etc?

That’s just a fraction of all the writing you (could) do on a daily basis.

Given all the people you are in contact with regularly, can you really afford to be a bad writer?

Writing isn’t a skill that should only be reserved for the content team. Everyone on your team (yes, including you) needs to improve their writing.

Why? Simple.

Better writing internally, leads to a better business.

For example(s):

Sales

More than a reason to pick up the phone, better writing arms your sales teams with the right conversations. It’s a lot easier to convince someone to buy when your words drive towards a clear action.

Marketing

You get better ROI on your paid marketing campaigns with better content. That’s a fact. The better your copywriting, the more leads you can generate and potentially convert.

PR

Reach more influencers and get company news picked up on more news websites. Better writing means that you can turn anything into a story that others can get excited about.

Customer service

For an enraged customer, there’s nothing worse than receiving a badly written customer service reply. Handle customer complaints with the right words and sentiment to keep customers happy.

Customer success

Help keep customers engaged by sending them regular emails and tips they can use in their business. Better writing means a better connection with your best and most valuable customers.

Content

This is an obvious one here, but all writers need to work on their craft. Better writing means more versatility in reaching target audiences and more buy in internally.

Leadership

An articulate leader impresses potential customers and investors alike. Use your words to network and promote your business at greater scale than attending in person events every week.

So how do you get your writing to do all of the above?

The four essential elements of writing

Before you begin working to improve your writing, you need to know your business goals.

The best writing is driven by the right goals. What do you want to achieve with your new and improved writing?

More site traffic?

Increase conversions?

More email sign ups?

Create an awesome startup blog?

With your goals in mind, there are four key areas to focus on if you want to improve your writing:

  1. Your writing skills
  2. Your writing speed
  3. Your writing style
  4. Your writing process

All four of these elements are essential to find, develop and optimize your writing.

If there is a lack in any one of these areas, then your writing will never improve.

To keep your writing from growing stagnant (or boring) you need to work on all four of these areas continuously.

So let’s get started.

How to improve your writing skills

What are writing skills?

While some people may add more to their list of writing skills, these are the ones that are the most essential.

Grammar

The structure of the language you are writing in (going to assume it’s English…).

If you can’t figure out the right structure for what you are trying to say, then your message will make zero sense.

Punctuation

These are the marks that help distinguish one sentence or parts of a sentence from another.

They guide your readers through your words so that it flows properly from one idea or point to the next.

Spelling

Misspellings are one of the biggest giveaways of a low skilled (and/or lazy) writer.

Writing words any way other than intended not only hurts your writing, but also your credibility.

Content

More than words, this is the literal substance of whatever it is you write.

What you write about and how you write it can determine whether or not an audience will read it.

Flow

This is directly related to punctuation. The way you guide your audience through your words and the ideas behind them is through strategic punctuation and spacing.

You can dictate how you move from one idea to the next to create the ideal reaction from your readers.

Exercises to improve your writing skills

Becoming a better writer is just like becoming a better athlete. It requires the right training and dedication to see real results.

Here are a few exercises you can implement into your writing regimen:

Read all kinds of content

Don’t just read blog posts or articles related to your industry. Read everything you can.

The more you expose yourself to words, the faster you can learn to master them and apply it to your writing. It’s that simple.

And sometimes very tedious.

If you limit your reading, you limit your potential to write the kind of content your audience is looking for.

Keep an open mind and eyes for all kinds of content.

Write all kinds of content

Same as above. Don’t focus on just writing journal entries or blog posts or tweets.

You need to acquire and maintain a wide repertoire of writing skills for every occasion.

Do chefs only cook with one pan? No. They have a whole array of cooking utensils to choose from for every dish.

Be a word chef. Use everything you can to prepare a feast.

Practice everyday

Write as often as you can. The more you do, the faster you can improve your writing skills.

And you know what else? You will have amassed a great body of work and ideas that you can use for anything.

Writing everyday doesn’t have to be arduous. You don’t need to write thousands of words a day.

The more you write the better, but it’s more important to create and maintain the habit than it is to hit a massive word count every time.

Quality over quantity.

Worried about running into writer’s block?

No worries. Here are some ideas to help you with your writing skills practice:

  • Journal your days

  • Expand on your meeting notes

  • Describe a scene in your daily life

  • Answer questions related to your topic

Tools to improve your writing skills

You don’t need to invest in any expensive tools or apps to practice writing. You can choose from the list below or find your own using Google.

Hemingway app

A great way to check your content for clarity and simplicity.

Answer the Public 

See every permutation of question and query about any topic that people search for online.

Quora

Write your own answer to questions that people are actually asking. Feel free to share if it’s a good answer.

Feedly 

Use an RSS feed to follow your favorite blogs and publishers. Let the content come to you.

How to improve your writing speed

Your writing speed is not only a reflection of how well you can write, but also how quickly you can put ideas into words that others can follow.

How to test your writing speed

The best way to know how quickly you can write is to use a typing test.

Mavis Beacon Typing Test

Mavis Beacon anyone?

While using a metronome is optional, you can use any typing test you find online or an app to gauge your writing speed.

Set yourself a benchmark that you can measure against as you work on increasing your speed over time.

Don’t spend more than 20 to 30 minutes to test yourself.

No matter what test you use, your results will be measured in words you can write per minute (WPM).

Remember, average WPM is relative.

It doesn’t matter how high or low your WPM score is. All you are looking for is a benchmark to measure against and improve upon.

Exercises to improve your writing speed

These are just a few of my favorites. Feel free to use your own, but these exercises are what I use and continue to use today to improve my writing.

 

Time yourself to write a certain number of words

One way to improve your writing speed is to see how long it takes you to hit a certain quota.

How long does it take you to write 100 words versus 500 words versus 1000 words?

If your goal is to write 2000 word blog posts, then time yourself to see how long it takes you to write that.

Remember that a good time is relative to your skills, abilities and goals. Some people will take a bit longer than others and some people are permanently in beast mode.

Some days or topics will be easier to write about than others. Just take it one word at a time.

The more you practice, the faster you’ll reach the ideal word counts for whatever piece you are writing.

Writing AMWAP

Blonde woman doing an Extreme CrossFit exercise

CrossFit anyone? Yeah, me neither…

With a WAMWAP (yes, I did that), the goal here is to write as many words as possible in a given amount of time.

This is my favorite way to practice my writing. I set a time (usually 30 minutes) and write all to the mother.

Some days I can write 900 words without breaking a sweat, other days I barely have enough time to write 400 words that should never see the light of day.

Still, WAMWAP is the best. And so fun to say...

You can write about anything you want, the topic doesn’t matter. What matters is how quickly you can write as many words as possible on that topic.

You decide how long or short the time is, but I’d say you should be writing for at least 20 minutes. Longer if you find yourself struggling to get into the flow.

You can set a goal for the amount of words you’d like to write or you can just track the amount of words you write over time.

Don’t stop to edit.

Your goal is to write all the way through until time is up. This is key to truly testing your writing speed.

It doesn’t count if you take breaks to think or second guess about the words you are cranking out.

Just write. Quickly!

Tools to improve your writing speed

There’s no need to go high tech here. You more than likely already have everything you need to get started.

Stopwatch

To keep time, obviously. You also have the option of using an hourglass. If you’re into that.

Google Docs

This is one of the most convenient places to write and store your writing pieces. You can add to it and see your progress over time.

Google Sheets

Track all of your numbers. You can format your spreadsheet however you like, but make sure to keep track of:

  • The date you wrote that piece
  • How many words you’ve written
  • How many minutes to write it
  • What reading level it’s written in (using the Hemingway app)

Draftback

This is a great tool that helps you watch your writing like an instant replay. If athletes improve their skills by watching themselves play, then you should watch yourself write to improve your writing.

How to improve your writing style

Your writing can be grammatically perfect and still suck.

How? Why?

A weak writing style.

Someone’s writing style is what makes their content more or less appealing.

That’s why it’s important to develop a writing style that not only suits you, but also appeals to your target audience.

How to determine your writing style

Before you can improve your writing style, you have to know what your writing style is like.

The best way is to write more words in many different ways, then actually read what you write.

How do you put your ideas on screen or on paper?

Do you like adding dramatic pauses between statements?

Do you like the ebb and flow to carry readers from beginning to end of each section or do you like sharp transitions?

See and get a feel for how your words flow and the kind of tone you prefer because that determines what your style is.

Once you have that figured out, you can work to improve it.

Is your writing style ideal for your content and business goal?

What are the weak points that are holding you back?

Would another style be more effective?

Remember that everyone’s writing style is meant to be unique. Don’t worry if you can’t find any examples that feels right or if you have to mix a Frankenstein of different styles to create your own.

Which style is right for you? That all depends.

If your writing conveys the right message to the right audience in the right way and convinces them to take the right action, then you’ve found the perfect writing style.

Exercises to improve your writing style

Copy what you like

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

It is also the quickest way to test out different writing styles without committing to any.

All you need to do is find writers you like and write their words as your own to test their style.

Think of it as your very own elaborate shopping montage. Try on as much as you can until you find something fabulous!

You can have yourself a content fashion montage!

For example, I used to download the scripts of my favorite movies and TV shows to learn how to write better dialogue and scene descriptions.

I chose this NEET life it didn’t choose me...

I read Quentin Tarantino scripts because I admire how he uses dialogue between characters to develop a story.

I would read his scripts and write them myself to get a sense of his tone and flow, then I’d write my own projects in the same way.

Not only did it make it easier to write in new formats, it also takes the pressure off of getting it right.

Do exactly as the pros do and you’ll become a pro yourself.

Do this kind of copy cat training often enough and you will adopt elements of various styles to create your own unique writing style.

Write in a variety of formats

Aside from rewriting scripts from Tarantino, I also wrote my own version of everything: ads, product jingles, spec scripts, short stories, infographics, blog posts, social posts, etc.

I tested my writing style across all kinds of content. You should too.

Versatility in writing is not only key, it is essential. You can’t be a better writer if you can only write one way.

I think a lot of content created today suffers from engagement because it’s boring. It’s the same content, written by the same content writers, shared by the same influencers that solves the same problems in exactly the same way.

So write in a variety of formats.

This kind of practice tests and then expands your limits until you can tackle any kind of writing project with ease.

And gusto!

If you struggle with any format in particular or with incorporating it across different kinds of content, then great. That means you need to adjust your writing style to make it more ubiquitous.

If your style only works for certain aspects of your writing, then it is too inflexible.

Settle on a style and perfect it

Eventually you’ll adapt or create a style that resonates with you.

Find what you like. Figure out what you don’t. Adjust as needed.

Writing is like a fingerprint.

Everyone has their own style and flair that is unique to them. It’s not only okay to be different, it’s absolutely necessary if you want people to get (and act on) your message.

Tools to improve your writing style

You don’t need many tools to improve your writing style.

Content or writers you like

You like certain kinds of writing and writers over others for a reason. Learn from them. Adapt what you like and learn to recreate it in your own writing style.

Google Docs

You have the option to organize your practice content under style or format. Read over to see what works best for your needs and goals.

How to improve your writing process

It doesn’t matter what kind of writer you are or what kind of writing you do. Everyone needs a writing process.

 

What is a writing process (and how to create one)?

Your writing process is the set of activities you need or do in order to go from idea to a completed piece.

That being said, everyone’s writing process is different and in tune with their writing style.

There are two extremes when it comes to process: either you are a planner or you are an improviser.

Planner vs improviser slide that better details both writing processes

The planner plans every word they write before they write it.

The create an outline and use it as the foundation for their piece. The planner uses their outline to take ideas and break them down to the smallest individual fragment.

They tend to have multiple drafts of the outline versus the actual document or piece.

The improviser usually has an idea of what they write before they write it.

They may create loose outline to organize their thoughts into distinct sections. The improviser uses their outline to collect vital points and good lines to use for the final piece.

They tend to use their basic outline to create an initial draft that goes through many revisions before it is considered finished.

Two very different writing styles, two very different processes involved. One requires more legwork before writing begins and the other saves the hard work for the actual writing.

And then there’s everyone else who falls along the spectrum in between.

Create a process that works for you based on your needs and flow.

 

Exercises to improve your process

Honestly, the only exercises to improve your writing process involves — you guessed it —- lots of writing.

Luckily, with all of the practice exercises mentioned before, you will be able to figure out your writing process easily.

Do you need an outline to work off of or do like to wing it?

Keep track of what you do and don’t do as well as what works and what doesn’t. There’s no right or wrong process, only what works best for you.

 

Tools to improve your process

Look familiar? That’s how versatile these tools are. Perfect for your goals.

 

Draftback

Not only can you watch your writing playback, you can see whether using an outline or free writing works best for you. Hint, the better your writing process, the faster and better your writing is.

 

Google Docs

As always, a great way to store and read over what you write. You also can’t use Draftback without it...

Next steps: how to use better writing for your business

Being able to improve your writing is for beneficial to everyone no matter what your role is.

The ability to write great content is a competitive advantage for any growing business because:

  • You can scale content production to fuel your marketing automation

  • You can improve lead generation and increase conversions with better sales copy and scripts

  • You can raise brand awareness by creating content for guest blogging and influencers to share

  • You can better engage your customers by creating content they care about and share with their network

The sky's the limit with what you can achieve by improving your writing.

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