Clear Tips for Clear Writing [16 Rules – 4mins]

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Clear writing is telepathy.

Your thoughts. Your words. → Readers thoughts. Readers actions.

Some people would call it “communication”. And they’d be right.

You’re writing with a goal in mind, and it’s frustrating to not be able to get your message across. Clear writing gets clear outcomes.

A blank page is scary only if you don’t know where to start. I’ll show you how to tame that blinking cursor.

Let’s get into it.

The Tips

  • Stop putting lipstick on the pig. Don’t dress up your vocabulary. You’re looking for long words because you’re ashamed of your short ones. But your short ones will do just fine. If it is appropriate and colourful, don’t hesitate.
  • New. Novel. Helpful. That’s all people want to read. New stuff wears off quickly. Novel stuff gets you attention, but not always the right kind. Helpful stuff makes people want to read/buy/signup. Make it helpful and they’ll pay attention. Applies for emails, blogs, social media, videos, websites, conversations…
  • Casual is king. Write like you speak. No one wants to read pretentious drivel. The vast majority of people are capable of meticulously crafting excessively verbose sentences to communicate their otherwise unsophisticated message. But it’s bloody hard to read. Keep it short. Keep it casual.
  • Go learn about the AIDA framework.
  • Don’t be clever. Be clear. Jokes are only good if they don’t distract from your main message. Space. Them. Out.
  • Pass on the passive voice. Active voice sentences are far more engaging. “subject does verb” ALWAYS!
Passive Voice = ❌Active Voice = ✅
The house was built by Sally’s bare hands.Sally built the house with her bare hands.
The body was carried from the kitchen and placed on the sofa.Freddy and Myra carried the body out of the kitchen and laid it on the sofa.
My first pay check was a great source of pride to me.I was proud to receive my first pay check.
  • Nobody cares about you. Frame everything in a way that shows how the reader benefits. Always. Forever. You’re awesome, yes, but they don’t care.
  • Axe the Adverbs. Adverbs are the words that end in “-ty” or “-ly” . They’re mostly avoidable. Use a strong verb instead; He ran away quickly → He dashed off!
    If no verbs suit, try simply dropping the adverb. It probably isn’t contributing as myst as you think. The context provided by preceding sentences do the heavy lifting.
  • Get rid of just and should. Remove or modify. They weaken a sentence.
  • Proper sentences can be overkill.  Poor “stand-alone” sentences join forces to create concise paragraphs. Let your readers lean on preceding words, it’ll flow better. Perfect grammar is only good perfect sentences.
Perfect Sentences = ❌Poor sentences = ✅
Sally had crafted the table to fit the large white empty room perfectly. The table was rectangular on all sides except one. One of the legs was carved out to hug the curved inner surface of the cracking sandstone wall.Sally crafted the table to fit the large white room. Carved. Rectangular. Hugging the cracking sandstone wall.
  • Murder your darlings. Shape a sentence to make impactful writing. Don’t shape your paragraph to fit a nice sentence. If it’s not helping the user it’s not staying. Bye bye wordie.
  • Never publish your first draft. Iteration is difference between mediocre and great. Step away from your first draft. Return with the aim to make it shorter; Draft #2 = Draft #1 – 15%.
  • Don’t ever lose their attention. Each sentence must lead the reader to rest the next.
  • If it works, fine.
  • Paragraphs dictate flow. You can tell the contents of a book by the pages’ formatting. Short paragraphs with ample space are easy to read. Densely formatted text will likely require more brain juice. Neither is inherently better, but one is more appropriate.
  • Write for the reader. You talk to people differently based on social context. You should write differently too. A mechanic’s vocab is not the same as your grandma’s. Write to match the knowledge and problems of your audience.

That’s it.

If you got this far, the content was helpful. I’ll take that as a win.

Copy wriiting is a big topic. This book is worth reading, especially the “toolkit” sections. So is this one.

Go out there are write some helpful stuff.

Have a good one.