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  • Writer's pictureCory Morrison

What Have I Learned as a Writer: My 8 Best Writing Tips

Updated: Sep 15, 2023

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Being a writer, while a lot of fun, is not as easy as it looks. There are many things you have to consider such as who your target audience is, how relevant and timely the content is, how engaging the post will be, what kind of format you should write in, whether to write conversationally or in a more academic tone, and whether you should follow a style guide or not. It is also a good idea to ask whether the post could use numerous visuals, videos, or other interactive elements.


So, particularly for journalistic or marketing writing, what kind of things have I grasped through the years and often through trial and error? Here are my eight writing tips to help you write your best posts ever.


My Main Writing Tips


Simple Language

SIMPLE (YES)

Person A writes in a clear manner that keeps readers interested.

COMPLEX (NO)

Picture your fourth-grade self reading both sentences. What would've kept you interested? The simple or complex sentence? You will most likely answer the simple sentence because it has words that you came across in your everyday life.


I've had professors and other experts in the field teach me that ideal news or marketing writing should be in the fourth to eighth-grade range to make readers want to come back to my content.


I recommend you use apps such as Readability or Hemingway to assess whether your writing is simple and at a grade school level.


I would also suggest you limit adverbs, especially in news writing, where they aren't necessary.


Active Voice

ACTIVE (YES)

Me and my family drive to the store today.

PASSIVE (NO)

The active sentence is something you are more likely to read in a story or hear in a conversation than the passive sentence. Plus, I find it's easier to picture me and my family going to the store when I start with the subject instead of the place. If you watch a cartoon, for example, it will likely hook you more to see the people walking inside the store instead of having the store with no people before they arrive.


This brings me back to the Subject Verb Object rule I learned in college. For clear writing, sentences should start with a person, then what they are doing, and then end with what they are doing it to. The active sentence has me and my family as the subject, drive as the verb and the store as the object.


Some exceptions may include if you don't know who is doing the first action. For example: If there is a new school, one would often say "A new school has been built" instead of "Construction workers built a new school". We know construction workers built the school. Therefore, we can just say that the school has been built. However, if the name of the person or company is known, which it should be in publishable writing, then "*Insert company or person* built a new school" is fine.


Either Present or Past Tense but Not Both at the Same Time


PRESENT AND PAST (NO)

I go to the pub and order a wrap for lunch. I also ordered cheesecake for dessert.

PRESENT (YES)

PAST (YES)

You'll see in the present and past together paragraph that the first sentence is in the present tense, while the second one is in the past tense. The other two paragraphs, however, have one tense but not the other.


My best advice for anyone who wants to avoid making this mistake, is before you start to write something, ask yourself if you want to write in present and past tense and be aware that you're doing so on your rough draft. I too often have proofread my work to find that I've used both.


Specific and to the Point

Not specific but to the point (NO)

An artist paints a sculpture.

Not specific and not to the point (NO)

Specific and not to the point (NO)

Specific and to the point (YES)

The specific sentences show the artist's residence, name, type of sculpture and what the sculpture is made of. The to-the-point sentences don't include details that have little to do with the main idea such as that it's near a museum and a courthouse. The goal of this main idea is to hook the readers to the artist and sculpture, and not less important details.


Most Credible Sources as Possible


When you do research or want to interview people, it's important to know what or who can answer a question with the best possible accuracy. Let's say you want to do a research report on new space discoveries. You have five sources, but only three may be the most reliable.


  • Academic journal (secondary source) (YES)

  • Interview with astronomer (primary source) (YES)

  • Astronomer's cousin with little knowledge in the field (primary source) (NO)

  • Website with an unknown owner or their expertise (secondary source) (NO)

  • YouTube video from astronomy company (secondary source) (YES)

Since the academic journal, astronomer and astronomy company YouTube video all have information from people in the field, it is safe to say that this information is most likely reliable. When a website doesn't indicate whether the person writing the information is knowledgeable in their field, using their information can mean you risk presenting information that is not accurate.


Past Events Okay if They Relate to Today


Unless you write a blog where one of your niches is to look back at memories, you should make sure that your idea is timely. It doesn't always have to be something that is happening today, but there should be a clear reason why a reader would read your content today.


For example, you can write about summer drinks and their qualities, but if you include items from McDonald's or Tim Horton's that these companies no longer sell or mention an event with summer drinks from last summer where there is no new information, you would lose credibility. It will also be important for you to keep up to date on changes so you don't report old, untimely information by accident.


However, if you found out from a friend that something newsworthy happened at the event from last summer that was never reported, such as a person at the past event saying that they met with the company managers to come up with new marketing strategies for the drinks that are still around, this would be acceptable.


Also, if you look up old information that still works today, such as "best social media marketing tips to gain followers", then that is also good.


Canadian Press Style Rules


If you want to do news writing in Canada, understanding the Canadian Press style guide is useful.


Here are a few examples of what I have learned from the guide:


Father

Father does not need to be capitalized when you don't refer to their name. If you do say their name, however, you would capitalize father. You say Father John instead of father John.

Today's date

Time at end of sentence


Content Vs. Copywriting


According to Don Dodds, Founder of M16 Marketing, content writing is writing that is meant to engage readers, while copywriting is meant to increase sales.


In addition, copywriting is meant to make readers react with more emotion than content writing.


Here is an example I have come up with to show the difference:


CONTENT

These beef burgers are juicy and have Purple Glazer garlic.

COPYWRITING


Conclusion


There are lots of things you should know as a writer to ensure your viewers will want to return to your content. The above tips are sure to prevent high bounce rates and pogo sticking with your viewers. I hope these all help!


Note: I wrote a similar post when I had a previous blog several years back, but I thought I should also write one for ASD Today.


You may also like: How Did I Get Into Writing?

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