3 Quick Writing Tips

Writing-keyboardYeah, we all know that writing is tough and that you have to put in the hours to see some real improvement. Trial and error isn’t that fun, though; a few tips might work a little better than running around blind. For the impatient out there – yeah, you – here are a few things that you can tweak to make your prose better right away.


This is more of a web-based tip, but it can help you improve more traditional writing as well. The simple reason shorter paragraphs are better for the internet is simple – they read quicker. In a lightning-fast land of Tweets and information overload, it’s vital to grab a reader’s attention and keep a piece moving forward.

Brevity is a general tenant of solid writing, anyway, as most people have a tendency to over explain things. It’s natural to worry if your readers will understand what you’re saying, but have a little faith: drill down as far as you need to, but don’t hold their hand like a child. They’ve been crossing streets by themselves for a while now – you won’t leave them behind when you pick up the pace a little.

If you want to reel in a speeding freight train – or just make people focus on a specific passage – throw in a longer paragraph to break things up. Consistency can lull people into a certain reading rhythm – shock them out of this trance by throwing in something different. A lengthier section will play with their eyes and force them to slow down in order to adjust to the change.


This means most things that end in “-ly.” Adverbs slow down your prose and are lazy descriptors. It’s a lovely way to essentially waste a lot of the reader’s time by saying remarkably little. See how awful that was?

Adverbs waste your reader’s time and don’t add anything useful. Much better.

I aim to include no adverbs in the things that I write. Yes, this can be frustrating, as it’s easy to fall back on old standbys like “unfortunately,” “simply” and “actually.” It also might seem like there aren’t any ready replacements for these words. Don’t fret – once you restrict your use of adverbs, you’ll soon find yourself constructing sentences that you never would have written before. Cutting the adverbs might just be the easiest and quickest way to improve your writing, and all it requires is some discipline.


I’ve seen a lot of bloggers embrace the five paragraph essay as their primary means of communication. Yeah, this will work, but it’s also boring and lends itself to a distinct “the cat sat on the mat” feel. It smells like the work of a child, not an adult with grown-up ideas and ambitions.

You have to crawl before you can walk, which is why the school system outlines the traditional essay in such great detail. Once you have the five paragraph setup down, though, you can start to play with the format to keep your readers engaged. An article that follows a flexible thread will be much more interesting to people than a paint-by-numbers article.

Ok, you’ll still need a thesis (for the uninitiated, this is the sentence in the intro where you tell the reader what the hell the article they’re reading is about) and some topic sentences. But your essay should grow as you progress through your list of points. Come at your thesis from different angles and end up in a place that’s kind of different than the starting line.

A cool way to do this is to flip the conclusion. In a normal essay, the conclusion will restate the intro in different words. While this is serviceable, it’s also a bit insulting readers and implies that they are too stupid to remember what you said only a few hundred words previous. An ending of this variety is more padding than actual content.

What you can do instead, then, is go somewhere different – but related – as you wrap things up. As an example, this particular article is about some quick writing tips. I’m not going to talk about the NFL or home crafts in the conclusion. But I could do a number of things: talk a little about print and web copy, detail a basic program on how you might implement this stuff or discuss the purpose of writing. What it won’t be, however, is a retread of what I’ve already said – you got that message, you have a working memory and repeating everything is a waste of my time and yours.

This technique leaves the door open for future posts – perhaps you’ll touch on an interesting idea in your final words that warrants a closer look or a dedicated series of articles.


Change never comes all at once; while there are only three tricks here, it’s not realistic to expect that you’ll internalize them all right away. Therefore, you’d probably be best served integrating a single one into your work over the next few weeks. If you find yourself doing it without thinking too much, you’re ready to move on and try another.

People often believe that craftsmanship is a race. This is a mistake; excellent writers are the product of consistency, not speed or sheer will. It’s not so much that doing the little things is tricky. What you’ll find is that they can be wearing, because there will always be an urge to revert to lazier habits. Posting an article without re-reading? Easy. Using tons of adverbs? I can think of hundreds screaming to be let loose from their cage right now.

You’re not a writer unless you wake up every day and do the things that a writer does. That means writing crap and struggling to explain the ideas in your head. It means nailing it one time in ten and then realizing you could have done a hell of a lot better.

You wake up, set a word count, remember what it is you need to improve and then do the damn work. If you do that, congratulations – you’re a writer. No magic, no fanfare, no parades, no press releases.

Enjoy your stay. Because when everything coalesces, there’s no feeling that’s quite comparable.

Nick Johansen is the owner of tinderboxed, where he writes about creative entrepreneurship with irreverent, colorful glee. When he’s not doing business stuff, he pens novels and short fiction. His first book, Only Coyotes Die Here, is available on Amazon.

One thought on “3 Quick Writing Tips

  1. Variety is the spice of life. Boring sentence structures and paragraphs don’t help anyone’s writings. And, yes, writing requires a lot of discipline. Do it the easy way and you’ll have a hard time become that world-class writer you always dreamed of.

Comments are closed.