13 Ways to Produce Stellar Work
by Andrea Watson | October 15, 2020
From poetry to academia, you can increase the effectiveness of your writing. Whether your work is web content, copywriting, blogging, articles, or anything else, you can always improve. I believe that as a writer, you should always look to improve. In this post, we will go over 13 ways to make your writing more powerful, compelling, and efficient. If you want to impact, persuade, or influence your audience at all, you gotta punch ’em in the gut. Or the brain. You gotta stand up and yell “Hey! You listen to me, you!” A good writer can do this. You are about to learn some pro ninja skills.
Around age ten, I told my mother that if I wanted to write novels (and I did) then I would need to read novels first. This was my way of asking to be allowed to read more adult books. One of the best things you can do for your brain and your writing ability is to read, read, read! This is a great way to brainstorm, learn, and find inspiration.
Know Your Audience
Who is going to read your stuff? Most writing does not cover every demographic or age group. It’s for a specific audience. If you are writing a term paper, be sure to use proper academic style. If you are writing for young adults, loosen up and make it simple yet compelling. Knowing your audience is one key to success.
Find a Concise Topic and Stick to it!
Sometimes when we write, we don’t know what we are writing about. Before you begin, find a clear and specific topic. Don’t be tempted to wander off. One thing in our brains often leads to another and another until we are completely lost in the weeds and rambling about something entirely different than when we started. This will make the credibility and rationale of our work blurry. Readers may get confused. I know I am.
Know Your Content
Most topics we write about are not in our area of expertise. Research. A lot. You must know your content. If not, your credibility suffers and your readers slide through your fingers. Always find credible sources. Depending on what you are writing, these can vary. For reliable web content, blogging, or academia, things like Wikipedia or the Bible are not-I repeat- NOT reliable sources.Unless you are stating your opinion or fit into a lifestyle niche (like me!) For the serious stuff, find serious backup. When I am reading about how to take care of my pet’s dental needs, I do not want to hear about what your grandma always said. I want to know what the vet knows. Where can you find these credible sources? Go to the experts in the field. Look up scholarly articles written by researchers and experts on The Google Machine. Conduct interviews. This takes investment and being interested in your own work. At the end of it all, you must be prepared to answer questions that your audience may ask. One more thing: never, ever, EVER plagiarize. Dang, I’m bossy!
Inspiration and Influence
It seems all songwriters/performers/ artists can name and talk about their influences and inspiration. This should be the same for you. Think of poetry. It’s generated almost entirely out of inspiration. Creativity flows from influence. If you do not know yours, then why write in the first place? With academia, these are not so important to writing that stretches beyond your topic. Otherwise, know thyself. Usually the audience will appreciate the more raw, emotional, authentic experience of seeing things the way you do.
You Ain’t Got no Style!
The more you write, the more your individual style(s) will develop. To become known or at least consistent, stick to your own style. Nobody wants to hear you tell them a story in Jimmy’s voice. Use your own. Of course, style can adapt and evolve, which is great. You will have more than one style, and you better-if you are writing for more than one audience.
Expand Your Vocabulary
Have you noticed how often I have used the words “write” or “writing” so far? I have. Unfortunately there aren’t many alternatives in this case. The more you use a word, the less impact it makes. Certainly try to stay away from using multiples in the same paragraph or sentence. Avoid overkill, and people won’t get bored or frustrated. Don’t be afraid to use the dictionary. I do, all day long. Look up every word you come across that you don’t know the meaning of. Become best friends with your thesaurus as well. It’s a magnificent tool that will help elevate the quality of your work. Trust.
Critical thinking is “The objective analysis and evaluation of an issue in order to form a judgment” I used the Google dictionary for that one. You’re welcome. Why is this important? It removes us from our content far enough to drop bias and thinking errors. This helps in academic writing and anything else that relies on fact. The fun thing about critical thinking is that it helps our writing, while our writing improves our critical thinking skills.
Become a Secret Grammar Nazi…
…And keep it all to yourself. As long as you don’t wave your freak flag around for everyone to see (something I usually condone but not in this case), being a secret grammar Nazi is not a bad thing. Don’t correct others, but correct yourself. Grammar has rules. Learn them. Sometimes you can bend these rules, if your style is tongue-in-cheek or sarcastic. PLease don’t completely break them, though. They are fragile. You don’t want to hurt them, do you?
This is a big section, so I’ll break it down for ya. Please don’t get bored and leave.
Use the correct format for the piece you are writing. There’s no specific layout for prose; but, even poetry requires specific order depending on the style. Be sure to write a great intro and killer conclusion (not for poetry or prose, of course, but for other stuff like articles and blog posts). These are the parts people will remember the most. If you can, make the layout creative and inspiring so it stands out from other work.
This can be a hard one to nail down. Remember subject, predicate, direct or indirect object, subject complement, and detail. Consider length. Nobody likes to read long-winded sentences. They are frustrating and confusing. Shorter ones can pack a bunch of punch if you do it right. Mix it up. have some longer ones and some shorter ones. Add a knockout word here and there like this. Boom. Okay stop talking now, Andrea too many words!
This is arguably the most important point in this whole post. Choose. Your. Words. Carefully. Your choice of words will make or break your piece. This is why expanding your vocabulary and using a thesaurus is so important. You have other words to consider as well.
- Alliterations: use them with purpose. They can hurt or help you.
- Adverbs: cut them. Your work will read better.
- Fillers: don’t use them if you can help it at all. They will ruin your work. And you will stagnate.
- Fluff: same as fillers.
- Keep it simple. No flowery stuff.
Make sure that the length of your piece is right for the audience, topic, and requirements. Be concise. Don’t repeat yourself. I am breaking this rule right now as we speak. Shhhh! Maybe nobody will notice!
Use proper headings as well as the correct font. Consider bolds and italics and use them sparingly. Otherwise, you’re just yelling at people. Punctuation matters, people. “I like eating dogs and grandma” is a much different statement than “I like eating, dogs, and grandma.” Learn the rules of punctuation and use them. Don’t shun the Oxford comma. I tend to stick to it, as it clears sentences up and separates them nicely.
Passive vs Active Voice
Try to stick to an active voice. This is when the sentence has a subject that acts upon the verb. For example: The author wrote her heart out. Passive voice equals bad if you want your work to read well and sound legit. An example of passive voice: The article was written by the author.
Past, Present, First, or Otherwise
If you are writing in the present tense, keep it that way. Make sure all your words align with this rule. This also applies to whether you are writing in first, second, or third person.
You shouldn’t add too many questions to your work. After all it’s you who is writing the dang thing, not your audience.
Images and Such
When the purpose of your work calls for it, use images, graphs, tables and lists appropriately. Don’t let them dominate the piece (unless you’re doing something like one of my latest posts, Life With Boys, which was really a show-and-tell thing for me (I love my son!); rather, let them add highlights.
You will need to edit yourself if you do not have an editor. I like to do this as I go along and when I think I’m finished. Be flexible. Consider changing it up if it will make your work stand out more. Reserve rigidity for academic writing. I like to walk away from a piece for a day or two and then come back to polish it. I get a fresh perspective every time I do this. Add this system into your deadline requirements. You may need to start early to get it done, but the results are worth it.
Sharing and Feedback
Allow your work to be critiqued. Be confident enough to take negative feedback in a positive way. Use it to get better. It’s also a good idea to critique others’ work, as you may have done in college. This helps you to spot errors and hone your own skills. If you are sharing your work with others, know that you will get at least a little negative feedback. You can’t please everyone. You gotta move on from this. Take it in stride and keep going.
Believe in Yourself
I certainly do, and you should too. You have skills. Even if they are dull or brand-new, you have them. You are learning. You must be confident. Mistakes happen. So what? Most of the time the audience will forgive your mistakes. If you move boldly, your screw ups will be noticeable, but so will everything good about your work. Do this and continue without fear.
The last bit of information I have for you today is practice. Write every day. Whether it be for pleasure or something more serious, the biggest way to improve is through lots and lots of practice.
Summing it up
We have gone over a buttload of information in this piece and hooray to you for sticking through it with me. Thank you. Whether you are writing for business, school, or pleasure, there’s lots of ways for you to improve and expand your skill set. A dedicated writer will want to do this. Knowing your content, developing your style, adhering to correct mechanics, and more will elevate your work from average to savage. Stand out. Mess up big. Practice. Become a writing ninja and you can go far!