I wanted to be a writer when I was a kid. My dream was to major in English or journalism, pen beloved books, and someday see my picture in a high school literature textbook. But life got in the way, and my dream faded.
Then, thanks to the internet and a little thing called SEO, I found my way back to writing in mid-life. I’d long forgotten complicated grammar rules, and it didn’t help that many clients wanted bizarrely written articles. If you’ve been writing a few years, you probably remember the old SEO style of stuffing articles full of grammatically incorrect keywords. Thankfully, all that changed, but that meant I had to step up my game. Although I’m still far from perfect, I’ll share a few tricks that improved my writing, and maybe they will help you become a better writer too.
1. Pick a Style, Any Style
Some clients create a custom style guide to follow. Others want articles to follow an established guide such as the Associated Press Stylebook or The Chicago Manual of Style. I bought a style guide a few years ago because of a client preference. I used it as a lifeline when I had questions on how to use punctuation and abbreviations correctly. I found if I used one resource as a guide, my articles were consistent, which is important when ghostwriting for a single client. If you get stuck on writing numbers, measurements, locations, or titles, then it might help to follow the rules of a single style guide rather than confusing yourself with conflicting information from an Internet search.
2. Forget Washing Your Hair—Read Grammar Books Instead
‘Read your grammar book’ is a fun replacement for the ‘wash your hair’ excuse. Except in this case, make your excuse true. If that sounds dreadfully boring, you haven’t stumbled on a good grammar book yet. While I use a style guide for reference, I read grammar books every once in a while for inspiration to be a better writer. The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation is my favorite. I read through it every few months to keep myself on track. I develop bad habits that lead me astray if I don’t. Think about it. Most occupations require you to undergo regular training to keep your skills sharp. Continually educating yourself on SEO writing and content trends, along with brushing up your syntax and grammar skills, might be what it takes to give you an edge over other writers, and to get more repeat orders from clients.
3. Write More, Trim The Fat
There’s nothing worse than finishing an article and finding I still have 50 words to go. When I fall short of a word count, it often takes longer to come up with the last few words than it did the entire article that came before. I solve this problem by organizing my thoughts to include more words than I need, unless the client has a maximum word count. I don’t worry about writing a few dozen more words than I have to, because I find it actually saves me time. Going back and cutting out excess words improves my writing as well. I shorten wordy sentences and switch passive voice to active without falling below word count. You can be more aggressive with editing when you have plenty of words to play with, and the good news is your editor can too.
4. Imagine an Avatar or Two
Meet Millie. Millie is one of my avatars. She is a 68-year-old widow who lives alone and has quite a dramatic life. She had a light stroke that required physical therapy, home healthcare, and assisted living. She’s needed roof repairs, snap-on dentures, drain cleaning, and replacement windows. By envisioning the exact person doing an Internet search for my keyword, I can keep the article tightly focused and relevant to the reader. It’s easy to come with article angles on the fly when you have several established avatars with individual concerns to consider. But it doesn’t end there.
Besides imagining an avatar for the reader, it helps to imagine one for the client as well. Donald is a dentist who prefers conversational writing that reflects well on his practice. He certainly doesn’t want links to competing dentists’ websites in his article. He likes it when the reader is encouraged to seek out his services, yet he doesn’t want to appear promotional. Since dentistry is his business, he isn’t happy with articles that cast dental procedures in a bad light. Creating avatars may be the trick you need to overcome the ideation hurdle.
5. Proofreading and Proofreading Again
I find it difficult to always be accurate when proofreading my own work. I tend to read what I thought I said rather than what I see on the screen. The best solution is to allow a time lag between when I write the article and when I proofread it.
However, we all know that isn’t practical when writing and submitting several articles on the same day. I always use an online grammar checker for that reason. Although none I’ve tried are perfect, they at least pick up problems like the dreaded spellchecker change that causes a word to be used out of context.
Another way to improve proofreading is to read your article out loud. I’ve found hearing my article makes it easier to pick up repetitive words and phrases as well as omitted words and double words.
I hope these ideas help you overcome any struggles you may have with writing articles for WritersDomain and other clients. It’s definitely worth the effort to improve your writing. You’ll reap the rewards of more work from clients, higher pay, and less aggravation with revisions.
If you have some tricks that helped you improve your skills, please share them with readers by leaving a comment below.
This article was written by one of our writers. The author’s views are entirely their own and may not reflect the views of WritersDomain.