Friday, August 14, 2009

weekly writing coach: 5 small brush-ups

Sometimes improving your writing seems daunting, especially if you've been doing it for a long time. There's no need to put off the chance to brush up on a new writing technique--just make the task smaller and more focused, and think of it as a touch-up rather than painting a mural. Here are five focused (and small) ways to brush up your writing, from tweets to reports:
  • Choose a unit instead of the whole work: Focus on paragraphs, or sentences within them, as your opportunity to improve. With paragraphs, you could focus on the transitions between them; the sentences within each one; their order; or strong starts and finishes, for example.
  • Tighten: I always recommend self-editing -- who better to fine-tune your work than you? Here are 5 ways to edit your copy when you run out of space, all methods of tightening your words and making your copy crisp.
  • Go for the verbs: I think making your verbs active is the single best way to improve your writing. Here's an exercise in turning passive verbs to active ones, a small effort that makes a big difference.
  • Tackle a headline or title: The shorter the better is the rule of thumb for headlines these days (think Twitter, among other things). Here are some tips for focusing on these small, but impactful words.
  • Speaker intros: These should be short and punchy, to get the speaker off to a good start. Whether you're writing them for your speaker, or for someone who's introducing the speaker, check out my tips for writing several lengths of short intros.

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