Let’s start with some basics
This article isn’t about the basics of improving your writing. If you’re looking for basic information, the internet is full of it. But just to recap:
- Boost your basics and get to grips with grammar, spelling, punctuation and sentence construction
- Read well and widely — not just any old thing, but well-written quality publications you can learn from
- As you’re reading, analyse the flow, word choices and sentence structure
- Practise writing regularly.
When you’ve got the basics under your belt, it’s time to step it up with effective, customer-focused and conversational copy. So how do we achieve that?
10 Super-sensible writing tips
1. Write for your audience
Your customers will be the ones who read your copy, so it’s super-sensible to write it for them.
- Who they are
- Why they’ll be reading what you’ve written
- What they already know about you and your products/services
- What they’ll want to know
- How much you’ll need to explain.
And when you write for them:
- Write for their agenda, not yours
- Talk to them directly, using ‘you’ and ‘your’ more than ‘we’ and ‘our’
- Focus on the benefits for the customer first.
2. Stop writing for Google
When you write for Google, you take the phrases your customers are typing into Google’s search box and put them on your website.
But you could end up with some awkward, clunky and unnatural phrasing that will turn your human audience away.
Take the phrase ‘emergency plumber near me’, for example. You might think this is a good phrase to use.
But can you use it in a sentence? A grammatically correct, coherent sentence that you would write as the emergency plumber?
No, of course you can’t.
The ‘emergency plumber’ part is for your customers. You can use that.
But the ‘near me’ is for Google to decide. It will work out where the customer is and show them the emergency plumbers nearby.
Removing unnatural phrasing like this from your website is super-sensible. It will please Google’s natural language algorithm — and it will definitely please your human audience too.
3. Research, research, research
Making sure you know your stuff before you start writing is super-sensible because it will:
- Flow easily from your brain to the page
- Be easier to write it in your own words, without copying or constantly referring to someone else’s original
- Make you sound natural, knowledgable and authoritative.
4. Plan what you want to say
It’s super-sensible to plan out what you want to write before you write it.
This will help you make sure you’ve included everything, so you’re not left with important points left over that you then have to shoehorn in.
Make a list of all the sections you need to include and put them in a logical order, so you’re introducing each section at a point that makes sense.
5. Use simple language
You might think fancy, highfalutin language sounds more professional, but it just makes it harder for people to read and make sense of it.
And you might think using lots of industry jargon makes you seem more knowledgable, but if your audience doesn’t know those terms, you could end up losing them instead.
If you’re writing for ordinary people, it’s super-sensible to meet them at their level. Use language they can read effortlessly and make it easy for them to understand.
It’s also important to note that simple language isn’t the same as basic language. You can read more about the differences here.
6. Use contractions
If you want your writing to sound less robotic and more chatty, you need to use contractions.
A contraction joins two words together by removing one or more letters and replacing them with an apostrophe.
Here are some examples:
- It is —> it’s
- That is —> that’s
- There is —> there’s
- Is not —> isn’t
- Was not —> wasn’t
- Has not —> hasn’t
- Would not —> wouldn’t
As you can see, this is less formal and more like spoken English, which makes you sound more human.
It’s super-sensible for connecting with your audience of fellow humans.
7. Cut to the chase
Your readers won’t thank you if you lead them on a wild goose chase, going all around the houses before you eventually get to the point.
And many won’t tolerate a lot of pointless waffle either. If you don’t get to the point quickly, you could lose them.
If you’re making an important point that needs some clarification, it sometimes helps to make the point first, then put the explanation after it.
8. Pause for breath
Some sentences just go on, and on, and on. And by the time you get to the end, you’ve lost all sense of what they were trying to say.
To keep your sentences shorter, try making just one or two points in each one. Then add a full stop and move onto the next.
You can detect excessively long sentences in your writing by reading it back to yourself aloud. If you need to take a breath before you get to the end, it’s super-sensible to break it up.
Add some punctuation, like commas and full stops, to create some natural pauses and breathing spaces.
9. Use the right words
Is it practise or practice? Affect or effect? Principle or principal? Stationary or stationery? There, their or they’re?
There are so many words that sound the same, but are spelt differently. Using the wrong one can be an embarrassing mistake — especially if it’s been printed or put into circulation.
If you’re not sure, it’s super-sensible to check the dictionary, or ask someone else to proofread your work for you before you send it out.
10. Keep it consistent
If you have several people writing material for the same document or piece of content, your writing could sound jumbled, with no clear voice or identity.
And if there’s no consultation or agreement between the contributors, there could also be several different or contradictory messages.
The best brands are super-sensible when it comes to their written communications and they understand the importance of consistency.
Your communications should be consistent in their:
- Writing style
- Tone of voice
- Use of language
There are two ways to achieve this: Have one person to take care of all the writing. Or prepare a comprehensive style and messaging guide that everyone who writes for you can follow.
Do you need a super-sensible copywriter to help you?
Getting all these things right can be a challenge. But you don’t have to do it all yourself. Copywriters are seasoned professionals who can take care of all the writing for you. Leaving you to focus on the things you do best — and would probably rather be doing!
I’m Jenny Lucas, a super-sensible freelance copywriter based in Leicester.
I can help you with:
- Copywriting for your sales and marketing communications
- SEO copywriting for your website
- Content writing for your blog
- Copy-editing to improve the quality of words you’ve written yourself.