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Do You Write Like a 5 Year Old? 3 Expert Ways to Improve Your Writing

Four quick tricks to better express yourself in writing
by Conor O'Rourke | Apr 22 2015
In the time of YOLO and hashtags, one could be forgiven for thinking that good writing is no longer important, particularly in business communications. But according to content expert Ann Handley, as more of our communication moves online, expressing yourself in writing has become more important than ever before. Here, get four quick tricks to do it better.

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Some people never put a word on the page because they are afraid of making an ugly start. What no one tells you, though, is that nobody pens poignant prose the first time. Whether or not you can tell, all of the great novels of history are products of a long, laborious editing process. Why should your writing be any different? Answer: it shouldn’t!

Here are writer, content marketing expert, and published author, Ann Handley’s, four tips for business communication that works in and out of the office.

1. Embrace that ugly first draft, then edit it

The reason for writing paralysis is because we expect too much of ourselves the first time out. Indeed, the editing process is best delayed until after the piece is mostly finished. This allows you to stay in that vital flow state as long as possible. After the piece is finished, you can go back and make edits without worrying about losing your train of thought.

2. Sleep on it

Taking a break between the writing and editing process allows you to see small errors and problems that you might not notice otherwise. The perspective gained by taking a break can be very valuable when it comes to editing. There’s a reason people tell you to “sleep on it” when you’re facing an important decision.

3. Front-pack your sentences to pique readers’ interest

When meeting new people, first impressions are important. The same goes for writing. Putting the most important ideas at the front of the sentence is an easy way to help readers comprehend your writing even if they’re skimming. Basically, just as each paragraph should start with a clue about what the reader is about to read, so should every sentence begin with the most important information.

Another way to improve your writing and help your readers follow you is to drop them immediately into the story. Instead of describing the background or fine details, describe a problem the reader can relate to, ask a question, or plunge them headfirst into the action.

4. Cut to the chase

Setting the scene can be a great way for you to build up a realistic world for your story, but it risks creating a slow start that’s hard for the reader to pay attention to. The answer, Handley says, is to chop out that background stuff you used as a warmup for a “running start” that drops your reader directly into the story.

Hopefully these four tips to improve your writing help you get the message across and make writing a little less painful for you, too!


Ann Handley’s Everybody Writes gives concrete tips about how to improve your writing and storytelling. You can also read the summary of the book’s key insights on Blinkist in just 10 minutes—free! You’ll learn:

  • why an “ugly first draft” is no reason for despair;
  • why writing less is better than writing more; and
  • why your “About Us” webpage isn’t really about you, but about your client.
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