L&D Tools

How To Improve Your Writing

Want to know the secret to great writing? Editing.

Let me explain.

I write about 10k words a day. That’s the easy part. The hard work is formatting it into flow in a sleek way that other people (not my crazy mind) can understand.

The delete button is your friend.

Everybody writes as Ann Handley says, but not everyone edits!

My newsletter has 2 weekly editions. It takes me about 10 – 12 hours to get to a finished product. The writing is 20% of this. The editing takes 80%.

And trust me. When you have thousands of people reading your words weekly, you want to be spending most of your time editing.

4 tools to write and think better

Writing is thinking clarified. Editing is that but on steroids.

If you want to write better in any format, learn how to edit well.

Here’s a few tips that have helped me attract thousands of readers:

1️⃣ Delete the first paragraph

We all tend to say too much when we can say little. Delete your first paragraph and ask, does this intro still work? 90% of the time it does.

2️⃣ Mix up your sentence structure

There’s a meme somewhere showcasing sentence structure like a beautiful piece of music. Writing is an art, after all.

You can grab attention with a few words. You can carry your reader through the wilderness of paragraphs with a hip, skip and jump. You can even take your reader deep into the words as you tap away at your keyboard, creating an eclectic atmosphere so enticing that they can't help falling further into your story.

See what I did there?

Short sentence → medium sentence → long sentence

Variety is the spice of life.

3️⃣ Read it out loud

Something in the brain changes when you hear words from the page in a voice.

I used to read my work out loud in my office. That was until I realised I must sound like some deranged fool, leaving my wife to question who she married. Now I use the ‘Read Aloud’ feature on the Edge browser.

No matter how you do it, always read your words aloud.

4️⃣ Let tech help you

After you’ve deployed the human solutions, you can turn to tech.

I’ve never been a huge attention to detail with words kind of guy. That’s changed over the years. I’ve gone from word vomits to vastly improved writing.

A couple of tools that help me with the last line of defence in spelling, grammar and structure are Grammarly and Hemingway app.

The framework that changed the way I create

This system changed the way I create.

For both designing learning experiences and my writing.

I keep this in my note-taking app. It comes from marketing guru Ann Handley’s book, Everybody Writes.

When creating anything, I find the question is not can I, but should I?

The world is already overrun by too much stuff, so I’m not keen on adding to the bloat.

As part of my operating system, I use the below as a pre-content analysis. It helps me decide if I need to create a variety of ideas in my head.

It works especially well when designing learning experiences.

No matter if they’re digital or physical.

You don’t need to reinvent the wheel every time someone asks you to help them or a team with something. Curate, before you create, is a useful piece of wisdom I keep top of mind.

As always, if this looks useful, steal it:

1. Why am I creating this? What’s my objective?

2. What is my key take on the subject or issue? What’s my thesis? My point of view?

3. And, finally, the critical So what/Because exercise: Why does it matter to the people you are trying to reach?

Final Thoughts

Writing is a super powered skill.

You do it every day. From emails to text messages – you’re a writer.

Hogwarts very own headmaster, Albus Dumbledore, once said “Words are, in my not so humble opinion, our most inexhaustible source of magic, capable of both inflicting injury and remedying it.”

For a skill we use every day in many ways, it makes sense to know how to improve.

Anyway, that’s it for this thought.

Before you go… 👋

If you like my writing and think “Hey, I’d like to hear more of what this guy has to say” then you’re in luck.

You can join me every Tuesday morning for more tools, templates and insights for the modern L&D pro in my weekly newsletter.

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