While we may not know which writing tips we’ll need and when, there comes a time in every writer’s life when the right turn of phrase makes all the difference.
Here are 40 simple writing tips I’ve curated and created to help writers move forward on this exciting journey we call the writing life.
Most writers share a passion for the craft but it’s easy to get stuck, lose your words or become lost in a whirlwind of insecurity or even writer envy.
Break free my friend!
Read through the writing tips below and take what you need in order to keep writing.
Because that’s the goal. Keep writing. If you don’t get anything else out of these writing tips I hope you take that away.
I’ve created images with the writing tips overlaid for those who are more visual.
Below the images I’ve expanded on all 40 writing tips offering my two cents and additional resources.
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Tip 1: What makes you an expert? Authority = Confidence.
Being seen as an expert is as much about your confidence as how much you know, or how much experience you have. If you ACT like an expert, people will TREAT you like one.
And maybe you don’t have enough knowledge yet. That’s OK, you can get it. Work on that. But what if you have the knowledge and the experience and you still feel like a fraud? OK, here’s what you do.
Want writing tips? First, realize there are no “expert police” waiting to find you and out you as a fraud
Expertise status is relative. If you want to help people, you need confidence. If you have confidence, you will build authority in your area.
More writing tips? Practice, practice, practice
Feeling like a fraud? Then apply what you have learned over the years in a more deliberate way. Want people to think of you as a professional writer? Then write. WRITE!!! Write AND publish! AND call yourself a writer! You need to get over your self-doubt and all your other me-focused thinking. Put yourself out there and shift your mindset to helping others through your work.
And then, find ways to put yourself out there
The more panels you can speak on, articles you can publish, Facebook Lives you put out, the better. Yes it’s terrifying. Yes people might not love it. And yes you may feel like a fraud the entire time. But you’re trying. You’re teaching others what you’ve learned. You’re sharing what you’re passionate about.
Go for it!
Tip 2: Have something to say.
This makes writing easier and faster. When you have nothing to say, you are forced to write sentences that sound meaningful but deliver nothing.
Read widely. Take notes. Choose your subjects wisely. Then share your information with readers.
Tip 3: Be specific.
While you don’t want to use too many words in your sentences you also don’t want to be too vague. Take a look at your writing, what could use a little more specificity? By choosing the right times to be specific you’ll add more interest to your stories.⠀
Tip 4: Choose simple words.
When you’re just starting out it’s easy to mistake an impressive vocabulary for good writing. But here’s the truth, you don’t impress people. When you use a $5 word when you could have used a $0.50 one you come across as pretentious.
Choose simple words as often as possible. Your readers will thank you.
And they’ll relate to you.
Tip 5: Write short sentences.
Short sentences are easier to read and understand.
Each sentence should have one simple thought. Multiple thoughts per sentence creates complexity and invites confusion.
Tip 6: Use active voice.
We tend to use passive voice when we speak and it sometimes carries over into our writing if we’re not careful. Readers prefer active voice, plus it keeps things moving.
Construct an active sentence this way: Subject-Verb-Object.
Tip 7: Eliminate extra words.
My writing changed forever when a journalism professor challenged me to remove the word “that” from my sentences. He explained most of the time we don’t need the word, it’s extra.
At first I thought it would be impossible. But then (cue shock and amazement) I realized I didn’t need “that” as much as I thought I did. Now I use this as a way of spotting trained writers from untrained writers. Sneaky, right?
Here are other qualifying words you should consider removing from your writing as much as possible: very, little, and rather. They add nothing and suck the life out of your sentences.
Tip 8: Avoid redundancy. Don’t repeat yourself.
I posted this tip on Instagram and someone messaged me asking, “Is this supposed to be a joke?” Well…yeah. Is it not hilarious?
Here’s the actual advice
Back in the day I think people were taught to repeat themselves in essays (say what you’re going to say, say it, say what you said) but this is not a good habit for web and article writing.
If you’re struggling to hit word count try better developing another point or filling in a section you have further thoughts on.
Bonus tip: use outlines
Tip 9: Knowing your audience and the words they use is worth the research time.
BUT THIS IS SO HARD!
I know. It’s way easier to just write and write and write and hope for the best.
But what if everything you post would connect with your ideal reader/client and help them, encourage them and make them love you a little bit more every time you publish?
Wouldn’t that be amazing?
If you understand your audience and know what they need, this WILL happen.
How do you do this? Research. Where are they hanging out online? Which groups are they active in? Are they asking questions? Write down the specific, descriptive language they use. Which jargon do they understand? Thinking about what are your competitors are offering. What’s missing in the marketplace?
Knowing your audience and the words they use is worth every minute you spend researching.
If you want to go deeper, I’ve created a helpful training and worksheet for you to help discover your ideal reader.
Tip 10: Focus on the WHY, not the WHAT.
Also known as show, don’t tell.
It makes sense if you think about it but it takes a bit of brain rewiring to make it second nature.
No matter the kind of writing, when you write from a place of why rather than relaying what…it’s powerful stuff. Compelling. Emotional.
There’s a great TED talk to check out if you want more on this, “Start with Why.”
It’s the Why → How → What storytelling method.
Check it out.
Tip 11: Set yourself apart. Specialize, find your niche.
We all seem to start out thinking we should be generalists. But niching down is the real game changer. I met an aspiring editor who has a degree in biology and anthropology. If she didn’t specialize in science or technical editing she would be missing out big time! Start with what you know, and get as specialized as possible. Stay focused on what you do best.
Extra reading: Branding yourself: choosing a niche
Tip 12: Trim the fat.
Whether you write fiction or non-fiction, in order to be compelling a story must have the fat trimmed.
Any word not critical to the reader understanding your story is fat. No matter how perfect and precious a work feels to you, there’s always fat. Cutting is difficult. But your work will be better for it.
Tip 13: Put yourself out there.
As you already know, writing is super personal and “putting yourself out there” is terrifying. What if people hate my writing? What if I’m rejected?
OH, and what if NOBODY reads my stuff?
You are in good company. We all have these same fears. But here’s the thing: if you want to share, lead, or create, you have to go public.
If you’re frozen in fear try a mindset shift: think of publishing as self-expression rather than self-promotion. Treat it like a creative project. Try to put everything else out of your mind and just press publish. It WILL get easier.
Tip 14: Cut. Rewrite. Revise.⠀
Painful words to new writers but to launch yourself into the world of professional writing you must, as I learned in journalism school, write tight.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
This means take out the extra words, the filler, and anything not 100% necessary for people to understand what you’re saying. This is SUCH an important skill and it will set you apart from other writers.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
So go for it, put in the time and effort to cut, revise, and rewrite. Make your words SHINE! (Perhaps Mark Twain’s quote makes more sense now, “I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.”)⠀
Tip 15: Write every day.
You heard me. It doesn’t have to be amazing, it doesn’t have to be a lot, but if you’re a writer you should be writing every day.
Develop the habit and make it part of your routine, not as an obligation but as something you prioritize.
If you want to be a writer, then write.
“When it comes to writing, we can develop our skills and boost our talent through thoughtful practice…. By continuing to write, we build stamina and patience, eventually exceeding our own standards to the extend that we can raise them.”Dan Millman and Sierra Prasada in The Creative Compass
Tip 16: Use distraction-free writing software.
Distraction-free text editors, also known as distraction-free writing apps, distraction-free writing tools, and professional text editors, have a fancy way of making all the features, badges, notifications, icons, etc. disappear from your computer so all you can do is write.
Scary, I know.
I came up with some VERY creative reasons why I didn’t need to use distraction-free writing software but then I tried it…and I loved everything about it! Which is why it’s my tip for you. Give it a try.
Extra reading: What is distraction-free writing and how can Write! help?
Tip 17: Learn from others.
We need each other. Many people don’t take time to learn from others because, well, it takes time. But also because we either think we already know everything or we’re afraid others will think less of us when we reveal we don’t.
Either way we need to get over it. Here are some ways you can learn from others: through reading, through listening to podcasts, and through mentors.
All things I hope you find on this website!⠀
Tip 18: Learn the writing rules…then learn how to break them.
“Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.”—Pablo Picasso
Tip 19: Read your writing aloud.
At first you may feel silly but reading your writing out loud is such a critical step! I can’t recommend it enough!
Benefits: you get a feel for the tone and pace of your work (and where you need to fix it), you hear skipped words or sentences as well as extra words or sentences, and when you go slow and read out loud you catch awkward phrases that don’t quite work.
Tip 20: Say it in a simple way.
Good writing is like good art—it is effective when it communicates with the audience.
What doesn’t communicate well? Complicated logic and $5 words.
When you take your readers in circles and confuse them with four-syllable words it makes them feel like you’re talking down to them and they stop listening.
Make deliberate choices when deciding which words to use and get straight to the point.
Looking for complicated writing tips? You won’t find them here.
Keep it simple.
Tip 21: Write yourself silly.
I know you think this is not a serious writing prompt, but it is. Because we’re serious about our writing and this seriousness can get into our process and steal away our creativity. And we all know what happens when creativity DOESN’T strike.
Tic toc tic toc…deadline approaches!
Remember to write and write and write and don’t worry about perfection. You WILL write a crap first draft. You just will! And it’s FINE! Write yourself silly and get words on paper.
Tip 22: Use short words, short sentences and short paragraphs.
Keep it short. Serious!
Simple sentences means you’re choosing the RIGHT words to communicate what you mean. Concise thoughts mean you’re not confusing the reader by meandering through the grammatical weeds. Keeping your writing tight means you’re creating tension, haste, and urgency rather than coming off formal and stuffy.
Tip 23: Work it out in your head when you can’t write.
Staring at a blank document or page is THE worst.
And beating yourself up about it isn’t going to help. I find doing a mindless activity like gardening or going for a walk works magic for figuring out what to write. And sometimes even sleeping on an idea helps.
It’s so amazing to wake up knowing what you’re going to write. Why not let your subconscious figure things out the next time you don’t know what to write.
Tip 24: Write to connect.
Why do you write? Deep down, why do you go through the struggle of stringing words together and putting your work out there for the Internet to judge? Why do you bother?
It’s a noisy world folks. If you don’t connect with your readers they won’t stick around. Building a tribe takes more than good writing or talking about popular topics.
It takes connecting on a meaningful level and developing relationships based on authenticity and shared interests.
Take a look at the writing you’re doing and ask if you’re connecting with your readers. If not, start writing to connect. It will make all the difference.
Bonus reading: Four decisions every writer needs to make
Tip 25: Take a break. Take a walk. Change your environment.
Article going in circles? Staring at a blank page? Wondering how you’re going to squeeze 500 NEW and INTERESTING words out of your tired, exhausted, drained brain?
Take a break. In fact, go outside and take a walk.
A change in your environment can do wonders for sparking the creative challenges in a writer’s day. Try it. What’s the worst thing that can happen? You get some fresh air?
Tip 26: Use story to connect with your readers’ emotions.
Wondering how to connect with your readers and fans? Turn your advice into a story. There’s something about stories that stick with us.
In the recent past I was assigned an article on the top places to take walks and hikes in my local area. I tried so many approaches.
It just wasn’t coming together. Out of ideas and and racing towards my deadline I took all my notes and put them aside. I needed a new approach. But what?
I wondered why someone would read this post. They were looking for a good place to go for a walk or hike and didn’t know what was around. Maybe they were visiting. Maybe they had visitors. Perhaps they were ready for something new. How could I help? Well, I go for walks and hikes all the time. What if I outlined MY favourite spots?
So I did. And the words FLOWED. I shared my top tips for walking and hiking in my town. And I said why. I said who would like them and who wouldn’t. I put myself in the reader’s shoes and mentioned all the things they’d need to know if they were going to a new spot on an outing.
And you know what? It was the site’s TOP article of the year.
Tip 27: What does your reader want to feel? Write it.
When you know your readers you know what they want from you. Have you ever wondered what your reader WANTS to feel? Informed, excited, empowered, wise, swept away, good, better, happy, solemn, smart… what is it?
Figure that out, and then write it for them. It will land every time.
Tip 28: Don’t shy away from controversial writing.
This one is SO hard for me! I don’t like putting my opinions out there, I don’t like ruffling feathers. But if you stay shy then you risk being called “vanilla” like I’ve been called.
You know, boring, plain, forgettable.
I’m not saying be an Internet troll or stir the pot just for the sake of it, but if you have a point of view and feel passion for a subject… don’t let fear of what others think hold you back. Not only are you being your true self, but you’ll find your tribe. Trust me on this.
Tip 29: Structure your articles for readability.
Writers love words. But great writers use the right words. This helps whatever you create become more readable.
How is this done? Here are a few things to keep in mind.
First, use shorter sentences
If you need (want) a lot of commas in your life save it for your journal. When you find yourself reaching to the comma consider a period instead.
Second, avoid jargon
What’s jargon you ask? Any type of industry term, acronym or term you “assume everyone knows.” Don’t assume. Choose a different word or term.
Third, use active voice
Using passive voice is an easy habit to form but it adds extra words to your sentences and makes them clunky and difficult to follow.
There’s your quick fix and a laser as far as writing tips go. Now get out there!
Tip 30: Keep a running list of ideas.
Here’s how I use a content calendar.
I try and plan at least three months of content at a time. When I say “plan” it’s not like I have draft posts written up, but I have a blog topic and maybe a few notes of the direction I want to go with it. I also have coloured labels for my different types of content and label ideas right away.
All the blog topics go in a list I’ve called Articles in Progress. Then when I go to plan a new month I create a new list with the month name and pull the different brainstorms from Articles in Progress to the month blog lineup.
From there I look to see each theme is covered (easy to tell when they’re colour-coded!) and assign dates.
Of course, none of this is set in stone so if a sponsored post comes up, I’m able to swap my calendar around to make room.
Oh, and how awesome is it to actually know when you can post something when speaking with a client? I mean…pro!
Once a month is over I archive the list and set up the next month of content, so I always have a rolling three-month plan. And when I have a new idea? I add it to the Articles in Progress list. A sponsored post comes up? I figure out when is the best time to post and move my calendar around.
It was a lot of initial set up but now that it’s rolling I don’t know how I blogged before this. Not only am I keeping on track but it is an enjoyable experience.
No more stress!
If my story isn’t enough to convince you to build and keep to an editorial calendar, I don’t know what will. You can’t be strategic without a good plan.
If it helps you, great! If not, find something that works for you.⠀⠀
Extra reading: How to create a blog content calendar
Tip 31: Make boring topics interesting.
Nonfiction writers get a bad rap. But nonfiction doesn’t have to be boring!
It’s up to you, the writer, to present the facts in a compelling way so the reader realizes how interesting the plain truth is.
Try it today
Tell me something boring you did today and make it spicy!
Tip 32: Batch write what you can.
As a writer, producing content is one of the most important things you do. No matter your goals.
Batch writing. I can’t stress enough what a game changer this is. STAY WITH ME! You can do it! Doubt me? OK here are a couple tips for batch writing.
Batch writing tips | Blocks of time
First of all you need to block out dedicated, uninterrupted time for writing. My block? Early in the morning. This was not something I thought I could do but careful planning and discipline has got me there. Put it into your calendar and it’s more likely to happen.
Make writing a priority and it will become one.
Batch writing tips | Research first
Do your research ahead of time. You may need to block out time for this as well, but separate your research and your writing and you’ll find a great rhythm, trust me.
This gives you time to make a solid publishing plan plus allows a buffer for the research to settle. For me the gap of time between research and writing helps me pre-write in my head.
When I sit down to write, I don’t stare at an empty screen. I pull up my notes, thoughts, and ideas and go from there.
Tip 33: Productivity hack: Start with your most challenging project.
I’ve found the most important projects for my professional life are also the ones I procrastinate most on. Why? Because they’re difficult. I’m either overwhelmed and don’t know where to start or I believe I don’t have time to do a deep enough job so I put it off.
But I’m learning this is a signal that I should be tackling it FIRST.
Here’s the thing about these mega hard projects I’m putting off. They’re going to move the needle forward WAY more than the easy ones. They’re going to allow me to reach my writing goals FASTER than the little projects. So yeah, they’re hard.
Do the hard work and reap the rewards. Hope this helps someone out there today. Keep at it!
Tip 34: Want to get better? Keep showing up.
Feeling insecure and blah about your writing and/or writing career isn’t going to help you move things forward. If you want to get better, you need to keep showing up. Keep pushing, keep learning, keep growing, keep trying.
If you don’t carve out time to make progress and improve you will never find the time. No one has time, we are all CRAZY busy. If you have #writinggoals you have to make time for them.
Make time. Be intentional. Have courage.
“You pile up enough tomorrows and you’ll find you’re left with nothing but a lot of empty yesterdays.”—Harold Hill⠀
Tip 35: Treat writing like cooking.
I grabbed this tip from CBC Books and I think it’s such a great tip. Treat writing like cooking.
After you’ve found your unique, creative voice, each time you sit down to write, put your nose to the grindstone, stir and re-stir the words as many times as necessary, then simmer your literary gumbo into a delicious piece de resistance and proudly serve to your famished readers.
Tip 36: When writing, perfectionism is your enemy. Keep moving forward.
And before you get stressed out about publishing something that’s not perfect let me say I’m with you. I get it. It bothers me too.
Nothing will ever be PERFECT and if you want to PUBLISH you have to LET IT GO.
Can’t see the forest for the trees kind of thing. Effective work is about moving forward towards you goals. Mistakes WILL happen. You need to accept it as fact. You will not have a perfect journey, but you are gaining momentum with every step you take in that direction.
Don’t let perfectionism hold you back. Keep moving forward.
“Perfection is the enemy of progress!”⠀—William Churchill
Tip 37: Feeling stuck? Try handwriting. On paper.
Whenever I need a boost of creativity I take to my spiral notebook. There’s something about handwriting that triggers motor memory in a way keyboard clacking doesn’t.
Why not give it a try?
What’s the worst that can happen? You get a hand cramp?⠀
Tip 38: When are you the most productive? Create a writing rountine around those hours.
I know, I’m talking about routines again. But here’s the thing, they work. The important thing to figure out is what works for you and build a routine around that. Don’t build your work day around what works for someone else. You are unique.
It will take some trial and error but you WILL find something that works, I just know it.⠀⠀
Extra reading: How to be productive even when you’re unmotivated
Tip 39: Embrace bad writing.
In some ways this is a similar tip to moving past perfectionism but this writing tip takes things to the next level. Don’t just work towards imperfect prose, write a terrible first draft and then celebrate.
It’s so much easier to make existing words better than write things well the first time around.
Write your horrible first draft and get all that bad writing out of the way so you can get to the good stuff.
Tip 40: Track your time. You might be surprised where your time goes!
I’ve learned a lot of my time goes to waiting for my Internet to reconnect, playing games on my phone, and scrolling through social media.
But on a serious note, tracking time spent on tasks is almost as important as the task itself. Knowing how long it takes to complete a project helps you plan properly, charge correctly, and meet your deadlines!
One more thing
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