What do editors say about your writing when you’re not around?
I’m willing to bet nothing good… if you’re not following these 18 very important writing tips.
1. Read. Read a lot.
“If you don’t have the time to read, you don’t have the time or the tools to write. You have to read widely, constantly refining (and redefining) your own work as you do so. It’s hard for me to believe that people who read very little (or not at all in some cases) should presume to write and expect people to like what they have written, but I know it’s true.” — Stephen King
2. Read it before you send it.
Read it out loud to yourself before you send it. This makes a huge difference. You’ll catch a lot of mistakes doing this.
3. Edit it before you send it.
Don’t be lazy. Right click, and get rid of any red squiggly lines.
4. Cut it before you send it.
This isn’t English class. You don’t get brownie points for your paper being longer than it needs to be. Don’t be repetitive. If you notice you’re using a particular word a lot, then try to use synonyms, or say it in a different way.
5. Write in small chunks.
No one wants to read your long, wordy paragraphs. Keep it two to three sentences per paragraph max.
“Short paragraphs are awesome because they make the reader feel as if there’s less to try to information to tackle and creates a flow. This is why newspapers use short paragraphs, there’s a better chance that the reader will read the entire article.” (Source)
“Writing is visual — it catches the eye before it has a chance to catch the brain. Short paragraphs put air around what you write and make it look inviting, whereas a long chunk of type can discourage a reader from even starting to read.” (Source)
“Forget the old rule you learned in English class about starting a new paragraph only when the theme changes. If you’re doing a short story, you might have only one theme. But grouping all 10 sentences together in one paragraph is difficult on the reader’s eyes.” (Source)
6. Pick a grammar style, and stick to it.
Since I studied journalism I tend to be bias toward AP Style. Many publications go by AP Style so it’s good to know. Here’s some style guidelines to remember:
- Commas and periods go inside the end quote marks. ALWAYS.
- Fuck the oxford comma. No serial commas: gummy bears, lollipops and chocolate — not gummy bears, lollipops, and chocolate.
- Single quotes belong only around quotes within quotes and in headlines and subheads. NOWHERE ELSE.
- Spell out “percent,” lazy. Only use % in charts.
- Spell out all numbers up to nine. All numbers above nine, such as 10, 11 and 12, are typed as numerals… Unless the number begins the sentence. For example, “Ten days ago…” Not “10 days ago…” (Exception: Headlines/Titles)
- Years are always expressed with numerals.
- Use “more than,” not “over” with numbers.
7. Modern etiquette uses “she,” not he.
If you can’t use a gender neutral pronoun, then use she over he.
8. Write in a consistent person.
If you start with the pronoun “you,” stick with it. Avoid mixing “we,” “I,” “he/she” and “you” all in the same article.
9. This goes for verbiage as well.
Stick with the same verb tense.
10. Use reliable sources.
- When was the last time this source was updated?
- Who wrote it? Might they have a motive for writing it?
- Does the piece seem unbiased?
- Where are they getting their information from?
- Do a lot of people trust this site?
- Did you verify this source’s information with Google to make sure the information in question is consistent with other sources?
11. Spell out the acronym the first time you use it.
If you must use abbreviations and acronyms, spell these out on the first reference (followed by the abbreviation in parentheses). For example, cost of goods sold (COGS); search engine optimization (SEO).
12. Keep sentences short.
Sentences should be no longer than 35 words. The best sentences are short and to the point.
13. Attribute sources properly.
If you’ve interviewed someone for your post/article, here’s how you refer to them.
On the first reference, use the full name: Lauren Holliday. For preceding references, use last name only. Always.
- Lauren Holliday, creator of hackthejobhunt.com, said, “Don’t capitalize titles unless they come before the person’s name.”
- According to Lauren Holliday, creator of hackthejobhunt.com, you don’t use quotation marks when you use “according to.”
14. Don’t use exclamations.
Try to keep exclamations out of your stories. I use them in my personal blog sometimes but rarely when writing for clients or publications.
15. Try to weave in a story.
The best posts tell a (true) story and have actionable advice weaved into it.
16. The way your post looks matters.
Use H2s and H3s to split up sections of your stories. For every 300-ish words you should have a picture. I usually just use an image between each section. There’s really not a hard and fast rule here. Just make sure it’s easy scannable and visually appealing.
17. Hyperlink to sources.
Always. Prove what you’re saying is accurate.
18. When in doubt, leave the comma out.
It’s always better to look like you forgot a comma than to use a comma where it doesn’t belong.