I have a passion for words and people not sounding like idiots when they communicate. It’s a cause near and dear to my heart.
So it breaks my heart when someone has a message worth sharing and wastes what they have to say on poor delivery.
In this increasingly connected world of email and social media, it’s more important than ever to talk, write, and speak in a way that sounds professional and intelligent.
To help get you started, here are some quick tips on how to write like the pro that you should be:
1. Avoid commonly misspelled words
There is a very difficult (and painful!) way to avoid this pitfall: learn how to actually spell them. If you don’t know where to start, begin with this list of commonly misspelled words.
2. Do some real proofreading
Never substitute an automatic spell checker for real editing and proofreading.
Watch this video on the importance of proofreading. It’s hilarious. And true.
Proofreading is so impotent (er, I mean, important). Don’t neglect it.
3. Write to your audience
Knowing your audience is essential. How else can you know if your writing is relevant?
If you don’t know to whom you’re writing, do some research. Even an informal survey can give you a lot of great information.
Take some time to get to know your readers. They’ll thank you (by not ignoring you).
If this sounds like selling out, do what I do: write for yourself, believing that there are other people just like you (there probably are).
4. Never settle for your first draft
FACT: All first drafts suck. If you’re calling your first draft your “final draft,” then you’re settling for less than your best.
Often, when I write a preliminary draft, I end up cutting it down a lot once I edit it.
Learn to slice and dice your content. Nothing’s as good as you think it is the first time around. Do the hard work to make it better.
5. Get an editor
Have someone besides yourself review your writing to check for errors and readability.
There are plenty of online proofreading services that can do this for you.
Just ask Google (not Jeeves, oh please, not Jeeves).
6. Write with authority
Regardless of how confident (or insecure) you may be, write with conviction. Write as if you know what you’re talking about.
Avoid using phrases such as “I think” or “I believe” in excess. Of course you believe what you’re writing. That’s why you’re writing it. Just say it, already.
If you write with authority, you will win people’s trust and loyalty.
7. Never use words you don’t know
What you must absolutely avoid is phoniness. The best way to do that is to avoid using a word or phrase you read in a novel once and still don’t understand what it means.
It will sound contrived, and you will probably misuse it, anyway. (Excessive use of the phrase “When in Rome…” from Anchorman comes to mind.)
Introduce new words into your vocabulary in moderation, and make sure you know how to use them.
8. Don’t try sounding smarter than you are
Write naturally. If you want to sound smart, get smarter. And then, write from the heart.
But don’t be pretentious. If you are smart, people will pick up on it. No need to try and prove it to them. You can write with both conviction and humility, after all.
Stop sounding like an idiot — there are plenty of those in the world. It’s time to start taking small steps towards writing like a pro.
Further reading: 5 Editor’s Secrets to Write Like a Pro
What tips for not sounding stupid when writing do you have?