No matter what type of writing you are doing, it’s always important to write clearly in order to get your message across to the reader. This principle is especially true for web writing.
Here are five ways to make sure that your writing is clear and to the point:
- Good Organization. I recommend using an outline, even for short pieces. It’s too easy to jump off onto a tangent without one. An outline also makes it easier for you to resume your work when you are interrupted. Your outline does not need to be complex. For example, my outline for this post was: introduction, a list of the five points, and a conclusion.
- Active voice. Avoid using passive voice (which is basically writing that uses a lot of different constructions of the “be” verb). A whole document written passive voice is much harder to read than a document that uses active voice. For example, it is better to say: Sally threw the ball than to say: the ball was thrown by Sally.
- Specific details. Use them whenever possible. I know that many writers like to be mysterious in their writing, but (unless you are writing a mystery novel) it’s much more effective to be direct. Some things to look for include use of the word this without an explanation what the “this” is. For example, it’s much more interesting to read about something that actually happened to a specific person than to read about things that might possibly happen.
- Formatting. Good formatting can work to your advantage. Use headings, bulleted or numbered lists, and other formatting devices to break up large chunks of text. If you write for the web good formatting has the advantage of making your writing scannable. For example, if you have three or more items listed in your text, consider presenting them with a bulleted list rather than in the text.
- Repetition. Many writers have been taught that repetition is bad, but appropriate use of repetition can be good and reinforce your point. It’s important to state each point in your document clearly and then build upon your statement. If your document is very long, you will also want to repeat your main points in the document’s conclusion.
Bonus tip: Check your writing carefully for spelling and grammar errors. A document that is full of errors can distract the reader from your true point.
Through use of good organization, active voice, specific details, good formatting, and appropriate repetition your writing can become more focused and easier to read.
What are your tips for writing clearly?