9 Simple Writing Tips For Beginning Bloggers and Freelancers
I’ve been at this professionally for a few years now, and it’s been a fun ride. While I may not be one of those freelance writers pulling in six figures, I make enough to cover the mortgage and some bills each month, so there’s that.
After 20 years of working in various areas within the publishing industry, I fell into freelance writing. I discovered I had some affinity for writing blogs and other content for both myself and others — and get paid for it.
If you’re just striking out because you read somewhere that anyone can become a freelance writer, then this piece is for you.
They weren’t entirely wrong. Anyone can become a freelance writer or professional blogger, but it takes practice.
It takes work.
But the basics of writing decent online copy are pretty simple, but don’t let that simplicity lull you into a false sense of security. You have to put in the work.
All of that said, here are nine short and simple pieces of advice to absorb and practice as you work to become a paid freelance writer or blogger.
1. Start with something to say
Know what you intend to write. Whether it’s for your own blog or someone else’s, knowing your topic and general direction will make the whole process simpler and quicker. If you try to “wing it,” you’ll end up writing sentences that sound vague and meandering until you finally get down to your main point, but by then, your reader might have moved on.
Select your topic. Have your notes prepared. Then share your information with your readers.
2. Go with simpler words
Don’t confuse longer words with sounding smart. Don’t make the reader work harder than they have to. In your writing, use near instead of close proximity, help instead of facilitate, start instead of commence, use instead of utilize, and so forth.
If you must use a longer word or phrase, try to do so only if your intended meaning is so specific that no other words will do.
3. Keep sentences on the short side
Short sentences are easier to read and understand. Ideally, each sentence should contain a straightforward thought. Stuffing more than one idea into a single sentence creates complexity and leads to confusion.
4. Use the active voice
When it comes time to work with an editor (or even if you use an app like Grammarly), you’re going to find your passive verbs keep getting red-lined. The conventional wisdom is that English readers prefer to read sentences in an active voice that follows a subject-verb-object order.
Editors are annoyed by sentences in the passive voice.
Passive voice sentences annoy editors.
There are times when you won’t be able to use the active voice without totally mangling your sentence or meaning, but do try to cut down on the passive voice when possible.
Your writing will be stronger for it.
5. Lose the qualifying words
A qualifying word is a descriptive word that adds very little to the actual meaning of the word it’s attached to and can suck the life out of your sentences. These might include: little, sometimes, very, and rather.
For instance, replace:
It is very important to basically remove qualifying words because they are rather useless and sometimes a little distancing for readers.
It is important to remove qualifying words because they are useless and distancing for readers.
I would tighten this sentence further with:
Remove qualifying words. They are useless.
6. Keep paragraphs short
Many writers debate this, but short paragraphs can make reading more accessible if you’re writing online or for client copy. Our brains absorb information better when it’s broken into small chunks.
Other forms of writing, such as academic writing, might require more extended, more fully developed paragraphs, but casual, everyday writing doesn’t benefit as much from that.
A paragraph could even be as short as a single sentence or word.
7. Don’t ramble on and on
I admit I still struggle with this from time to time. When I’m on a roll, I can just write and write and write.
Try to stick to your original topic. If you wrote an outline or listed subsections within your piece, try to follow those as best you can.
If you do succumb to the temptation to babble and ramble, be prepared to delete a good portion of it later. You want your reader to focus on your main topic and the information you have to share about that topic. If you go off on tangents, you’re going to lose that reader.
8. Edit (and delete) without pity
In the fiction-writing world, we called this “murdering your darlings.”
Even when you think a long, rambling paragraph is pure poetry, does it really serve the piece or — more importantly — the reader?
If the answer is no, then get rid of it. Shorten, delete, and rewrite anything that does not contribute meaning to your work. You can still keep your writing style casual if that’s what you’re going for, but avoid inserting extra words without good reason.
One effective way to combat this is to take a break between writing and editing. Set your writing aside for a few hours or a few days before returning to edit. You may find it easier to murder those darlings after a bit of a wait.
9. Don’t pad your writing with junk
See? This is an example of padding an article. There’s no reason for this entry. I just wanted to end with an odd number… but I’m a professional, and I’m employing irony. I’m also trusting my audience to be okay with a small joke.
Don’t try this at home, folks.
There are no perfect writers. Fortunately, writing is one of those professions where there can be leeway depending on what you’re writing and for whom.
That said, these are immediately-actionable and straightforward ways you can strengthen your writing today.
Take note of what I’ve listed above, decide which ones are your weak spots, and try to work on those specifically.
After a short time, you’ll see a noticeable improvement in your writing. More importantly, others will notice it, too.
And that’s the whole point, isn’t it?
Practice Poetry To Become a Better Writer
Another tool in your toolbox for growing as a prose professional.
Thank you for reading. I’d love to share more with you via my Bi-Weekly Word Roundup newsletter sent to subscribers every other Sunday. It will feature news, productivity tips, life hacks, and links to top stories making the rounds on the Internet. You can unsubscribe at any time.