Four Habits Which Hinder Good Writing
What do you do when you have to write something important? Do you dive straight in? Or do you dither, procrastinate and hope that someone else will take the task on? Everyone has moments where they question their writing abilities, like in an important email. Here are a few things which writers get hung-up on when they are determined to ‘write well’.
1. Long Sentences
If you can say it in seven words, don’t say it in twenty. Writing long, convoluted sentences is the first tactic used by a writer who is either not confident in their skills or in their subject. Many worry that short sentences could be interpreted as unfriendly, but this simply isn’t the case. Short sentences are confident, competent and professional.
If nobody can understand what you’re talking about then no one will take your writing seriously. Jargon is often used as a shield behind which the writer hides their lack of authority in the subject. There are times when specialist language is required, but it is not all the time. Knowing which jargon to avoid comes down to how well you know your audience – industry professionals will understand what GDPR is, SMB owners will not.
Overuse of punctuation is a general issue, but semi-colons and colons are particular offenders. This goes hand-in-hand with point 1, as they are used to elongate sentences well past their sensible limit. A piece of text which is rammed with semi-colons, its sentences often exceeding four clauses, tends to be the work of a writer who hasn’t stopped to think their point through. Have a read through and think of where you can simplify your sentences. Which leads me to the last hang-up…
There is no perfect piece of writing, or any one perfect way of saying something. There’s no need to search for that perfect combination of words as it does not exist. The closest we can get is in editing and reshaping; as one of my mentors told me, “writing is rewriting”. Once you have written a piece of work, edited it for jargon, shortened the sentences and simplified the punctuation, then it is time to move on to the next piece.
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