I’m not surprised to find out that people are reading less. There is so much more happening elsewhere, in videos, memes, animated clips, illustrations and photos. But that’s largely for entertainment. At the end of the day, in order to deliver a message, a lesson or a view on a topic, we still need to cram all that info into an article, and it still needs to be read.
If you have something to share, these days all you need to do is login to blog about it, and it gets published for the world to see. However, that is no reason for you to complicate the message you are trying to deliver, be it how you can receive notification once there are changes on a site, how to block ads on Android, or how silly we get around technology.
Here are a few simple tips to help you write solid posts – the kind editors love to publish. Note however that just because the idea is that you should keep your writing simple, it doesn’t mean that it is an easy task. In fact:
"Easy reading is damn hard writing."
– Nathaniel Hawthorne
Write For Your Target Audience
You can write about a trending topic, or an evergreen problem someone will look up when they encounter it. Basically this could be anything under the Sun – and ‘someone’ will read it. Have that at the back of your head the whole time: who your target audience is. Then, write for them.
This is essential because it will help you set the tone of your piece, and help you decide the amount of jargon you can play around with. For example, when writing for the general public, you may need to explain certain terms like responsive design, but with web designers, you can skip the definition and dive right in.
This will be helpful when it comes to the word count because the next tip involves jamming a lot of content into a preset word length.
Watch the Word Count
We generally ask for posts to be between 800 and 1000 words long to keep our published content consistent. To be honest, we stretch the limit very often because the important thing is to have good content to share, and to limit that with a technicality such as the word count is just bad decision-making.
But I will tell you why it is necessary to mention our maximum word count. Many writers like to complicate their writing, use far more words than necessary, sometimes overexplaining concepts, going cycle after cycle of redundant explanations (like this sentence) about things that are already complicated in the first place.
Keep It Simple
Simple writing is essentially using just enough of the right words to deliver the message. If you can deliver the same message in one line instead of three, opt for the single-liner. It’s almost always a sure-win.
"The most valuable of all talents is that of never using two words when one will do."
– Thomas Jefferson
Note that this doesn’t mean your simple post should lack of substance. Nothing makes content good like good content.
Topics, Titles And Parameters
Now that you know who you are writing for and how much estate you need to fill up with your content, it is time to pick something to write about. More importantly, you need to figure out your title and your parameters.
"If any man wishes to write in a clear style, let him first be clear in his thoughts."
– Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Let’s put this into perspective: we’re going to go with the topic of "Facebook usage". The title that you choose will be what helps you determine what you should focus on. The parameters keep the writing on track. Parameters ensure that you keep your eyes on the prize and store the leftover raw materials for your next upcoming article. It also makes sure that you are clear of what you want to write about and will not stray (too far).
"10 Common Types of Facebook Updates" – The parameter here is that the updates have to be common and the focus is on the types of Facebook updates. You will need to set some parameters in determining what "common" here means.
"20 Things Savvy Facebookers Should Know (By Now)" – What should be in here are the prevalent things that people are still saying about or doing on Facebook (it has been 10 years since its conception) like sharing photos of sick babies. You have 20 of these, you have a post.
"Facebook Hashtags: How It Works And How To Use It Right" – Essentially there are three things to deliver here: defining hastags (in the context of Facebook use), how hashtags work (on Facebook) and how you can use them correctly (in Facebook).
Write In Multiple Drafts
It’s silly to think that you can be a single-draft writer. There is no such thing.
"The first draft of anything is shit."
– Ernest Hemingway
If you just put words together, at best you are a ‘curator’ because that’s what you do, you curate words and string them together for coherence and, if you are lucky, a bit of clarity. Copying from someone else’s final work is of course a lot faster – because they have gone through the process for you – but I seriously wouldn’t recommend it.
Cut, Cut, Then Cut Some More
When you write (for real) though, there is a minimum of maybe 3 drafts required. The first is when you pour out all your "nonsense" (because some of them may not make sense); the second is when you edit for clarity, arranging points for a better flow. The third is when you slice out what shouldn’t be there: mistakes, redundancy, factual errors, and other stuff your grammar book tells you to take out.
"Writing is easy. All you have to do is cross out the wrong words."
– Mark Twain
Now you’re halfway there. Keep cutting and slicing (you will keep finding mistakes; it is a process for a reason) until you can find nothing else to remove from the post. Then, submit it for a review. If the person who processes your work (some people call these people ‘editors’) cannot find anything to improve upon, congratulations, you have done it!
Inject Your Personality
The good thing about writing for an online audience is that you have the liberty to make a post yours by injecting a bit of your personality in the writing. It goes a long way to make the content relatable to your readers.
If you like making movie references, put it in. If you think you have a sense of humor (acceptable by society at large), show it off in the writing. Love memes? Use it as a joke to connect with like-minded souls. Love to inspire people? Don’t just think it, do it.
Leave your signature in your writing. Sometimes, that’s what readers are looking for.
If You Must Write, Then You Must read
As many great authors will attest to, you cannot write if you don’t read.
"If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that."
– Stephen King
Using the thesaurus will never be as effective as becoming a product of what you read. Having the prose and style of great authors rub off on you (from constantly reading their work) will have an effect in the words you choose.
"One day I will find the right words, and they will be simple."
– Jack Kerouac
The words will come naturally when you read a lot, and more often than not, the first word that pops into your head is the right one. It doesn’t matter what you read, be it a magazine, an online tech blog, a work of fiction or the local paper, because eventually what you read will be reflected in your writing. What you read will turn you into the writer that you deserve to be.