When you think about how to write anything, it’s very easy to get caught up in unnecessary details. Whether you’re writing a novel, a short story, an essay or even web copy, all types of writing share certain basic principles!
If you can master these principles, you can learn how to write anything, regardless of what kind of content piece it is.
Knowing these principles will play a key role in your success as a writer, regardless of whether you’re a student or a professional. For this reason, all you have to do is pay attention to the following to learn how to write anything:
1. Always Know the Audience
You need to be aware of the audience that’ll be reading your written piece. This will help you determine the tone and the purpose of your work.
Every piece of writing has a purpose behind it. For example:
- Web copy is used to market, advertise, inform or sell products.
- Stories, whether they are novels or short stories, are used to create engagement and interaction.
- Essays and educational documents are meant to show off your knowledge.
For each content type, you will have a different audience to deal with. While web copy and stories might seem to have a diverse audience, you can still narrow it down based on the subject. When you understand the audience, you can then shape your content to be in accordance with them.
2. Don’t Be Vague in Your Work
Details in your work are important and if you’re being vague, you cannot expect to draw in the readers. It’s a good idea to be as descriptive as possible, without losing the interest of the reader.
So, let’s suppose that you have to describe an old house, which of the following sentences gives the reader the best details?
- The house was old and neglected. It showed its age.
- The house was old and neglected. It had washed-out paint, decrepit window shutters and broken panes that showed its age.
It’s easy to see that adding more description emphasized the current condition of the house. It also helps the reader to actually picture the house better in their imagination.
3. Use an Active Voice
As a rule of thumb, you can use any voice that you feel is appropriate for your writing but it’s usually preferred that you use an active voice. An active voice uses a sentence sequence that uses subject, verb and object – SVO. An example of an active sentence is:
- The boys painted the entire fence.
The SVO sequence is preferred by most English readers. In contrast to it, the passive voice reverses the order of SVO. In this case, you get Object, Verb and Subject – OVS. An example of a passive sentence is:
- The entire fence was painted by the boys.
If you read both sentences, which one do you find more naturally appealing? Now, it’s almost impossible to write completely in an active voice but, you should try to keep the passive voice usage to a minimal. Use a tool like Hemingway or Grammarly that helps you identify and counter this issue with ease.
4. Use Simple Words for Your Readers
Having a rich vocabulary is a plus point but you need to avoid using difficult words for your readers. This also ties in with the reading level of the reader and the sentence structure. Using simple words can add simplicity, clarity and brevity to your work.
It’s a good idea to only use specific words until and unless there are no other alternatives. The following are a few examples of what simple words you should use:
|Complex Words||Simple Alternatives|
Once you master this rule, you will truly learn how to write anything. This gives you flexibility in switching up the difficulty in reading your audience will experience. The Hemingway tool is also useful here as it highlights difficult words that have a better alternative.
5. Short Sentences = Better Readability
The shorter the sentences are, the better the readability will be.
Why? Because they’re easier to read, that’s why!
Longer sentences should only be used when necessary. Even then, when you reread it, you’ll see that breaking the sentence down is better.
- As Tom turned the corner, he saw the house was really old and neglected with washed out paint, decrepit window shutters and broken panes that showed its age.
- As Tom turned the corner, he saw the house was really old and neglected. It had washed out paint, decrepit window shutters and
brokenpanes that showed its age.
By turning one long sentence into two, you can improve readability. The simplicity also helps to prevent any confusion or added complexity. This principle is used even in novels. You’ll see that the best stories have short sentences that are easier to read.
6. Reduce the Use of Fluff
Fluff refers to words that don’t add value to the reading experience but, for some writers, it is a hard habit to break. Fluff can elongate a sentence or increase the word count but it won’t bring anything new to the table. Words such as very or rather are fluff words.
If you want to avoid using fluff in your content, try to cut out words in a sentence without changing its meaning. A funny example of fluff can be seen in the title given to Daenerys Targaryen in The Game of Thrones books and series. The title is as follows:
- Daenerys Stormborn of the House Targaryen, the First of Her Name, The Unburnt, Queen of the Andals, the Rhoynar and the First Men, Queen of Meereen, Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea, Protector of the Realm, Lady Regent of the Seven Kingdoms, Breaker of Chains and Mother of Dragons.
Now, all she wants to do is stake a claim and rule the Seven Kingdoms based on the strength of her house and her dragons. So, you can remove all the fluff and break her title down to:
- Daenerys Stormborn of the House Targaryen – Lady Regent of the Seven Kingdoms and Mother of Dragons.
Without the fluff, it is brief, no-nonsense and to the point. Plus, it probably wouldn’t have made Jon Snow’s introduction seem so lackluster that it sparked memes.
7. Avoid Redundancy
Redundancy refers to when writers repeat themselves, unintentionally. It can be annoying to read it and it also turns into fluff content. Repeating one thing several times can make the work boring as well which means that your readers are not going to be happy.
If you don’t correct it, you can easily fall into a bad habit that ruins the quality of your writing and your credibility as a writer. The following are a few phrases that introduce redundancy and their correct alternatives:
|Redundant Phrases||Correct Usage|
|A total of 13 bread loafs||A baker’s dozen|
|In spite of the fact that||Although|
|In the event that||If|
|Period of 5 days||5 days|
|Number of various ways||Number of ways or various ways|
There are other phrases too but these are most common ones that you will come across in content pieces.
8. Always Have a Writing Plan
Make sure that when you’re writing, you’re using a plan or an outline. It’s a core rule that plays a huge role in learning how to write anything. Whether it is web copy, an article, a blog post or a story, you need to have a rough outline.
This helps you avoid three major problems: rambling, not covering the important points and redundancy. We’ve already mentioned that redundancy can make the reading experience unpleasant so we’ll skim over that here.
Rambling is a bigger problem since this is where you completely lose sight of what you were talking about. It’s like an algebraic solution where you found out the answer to Z but the formula said X=Y.
It should be noted though that book series such as The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy makes use of skillful rambling to add to the humor. However, it takes a certain level of skill to be able to do that and if you’re unable to use it successfully, it’s better to steer clear of it.
9. Edit with Ruthlessness
Whenever you’re done with writing, it is important and necessary to ruthlessly edit your work. This means, you go back to the start and read everything at least once. Remove any sentences you don’t like. Change the sentence structure or phrasing and look for redundancy.
By being meticulous here, you can guarantee that the final product is one worth sharing. When you’re editing, the following things should be your main focus:
- Ensure proper grammar usage.
- Correct any spelling mistakes.
- Establish the relevance of the content.
- Remove redundancy or repetition of thoughts, phrases and sentences.
- Check the readability.
- Make any last minute changes.
Just remember that if you are doing your own editing, you should do it after taking a bit of a break. Otherwise, it can be difficult to catch the mistakes in the finished piece. You can also try using apps like Grammarly for editing.
Once you have mastered all these tips, you can learn how to write anything with confidence and improve your writing skills!