Simplify Your Writing To Get More Readers And Keep Them

writingDo you consider yourself a writer?

There used to be a time when writing was rather difficult. You had to use your pen or type writer, when any little mistake or typo you would make would ruin your whole page.  Then, you would have to do it all over again.

Back then, if you were not a talented writer, it could take you forever to be able to write a single page.

Besides, if you were not very good at spelling, you had to have a dictionary by your side to check every single word you couldn’t spell.  And God forbid if you were not very good with grammar.

Indeed, writing wasn’t easy before PC’s came to the scene.

Nowadays, however, with computer’s word document software, writing has become much easier.  Typos, misspellings and grammar errors are not so much of problem anymore, since your computer is pointing them out to you, and even helps you correct them.

One thing that no computer hasn’t been able to replace, though, is the writer.  It doesn’t matter if you’re using a word processor system on your computer to type what you want to say, or even a voice recording device; you still have to be the one who comes up with the content, and the manner you come up with such content cannot and will not be corrected.  At least, not with the technologies that we have today.  But if you ask me, this is a good thing.

The art of simple writing still depends on you and you alone.

So, what do I mean by simple writing,  and why writing “simple” is important when you want people to read your content and come back to it?

Whether it’s a blog post, a report, or even a book, simple writing is what you should be striving to do.  In this post I wanted to discuss what you need to do to simplify your writing to be better understood by your readers and make them want to come back for more.

How can you Improve your Writing?

Do you need to be educated to be a good writer?

The very simple and short answer to this question is no.  I’ve see many people who have been in school until 18 to 24 years of age who can’t write a simple email in good English.  So, my guess is that education and writing don’t have much to do with one another.

What will improve your writing, however, is reading and practicing writing every day.  Those are the two things that made someone like me who wasn’t even speaking English until age 25 to be able to write in the English language.  So, take it from me, if you want to improve your writing read and write on a regular basis and you’ll learn something.

You should also read books about writing, grammar, and punctuation.  Knowledge and understanding of punctuation is something that is greatly lacking for most people.  But it has a cure.  Studying it, learning it and using it.

Punctuation is Important

The good thing about punctuation is that bloggers have reinvented it in a way.  We are using punctuation to make a point in such a way that it didn’t exist in printed materials or books.  I call it the blogging punctuation, which means that we use very short sentences using periods where we “should” be using a comma or a semicolon.

This is acceptable, and it works well with blogs.  Look what I’ve done in my last couple paragraphs here! I’ve done just that.

The important thing, however, is that you learn how to use punctuation to help your writing and make it more understandable to the reader.  Wrong punctuation is preventing the reader to understand what you’re saying, while correct punctuation is helping the reader to understand what you’re saying.

Simplify and Avoid Clutter

The number one rule of thumb in writing is to always try to simplify.  A good writer is not someone who is trying to write long and creative sentences to appear to be smart and educated.  A good writer is someone who knows how to write simple sentences in order to be understood from beginning to finish.

Easy enough, right? Well, not for everyone!

You know how sometimes you’re reading a paragraph, and you have to go back and read it again, and again, because you didn’t understand what the writer meant?  When that happens to us, we tend to blame ourselves, thinking that we just missed the point.  Well, have you ever thought that the reason you couldn’t understand was because it was not well written?

Most times if you’re not able to understand what was meant after you’ve read it a couple of times, it’s because it’s clutter writing.  The point is hidden because of the clutter.  That’s why you couldn’t understand what was said in that paragraph.

Have you ever tried to find a specific item in a cluttered room?  Hard to find, isn’t it?  Once you clean up that room, and put everything in its place, you can find what you were looking for much more easily.  It’s the same thing with your writing.

Simple.  To the point. No clutter.

Write it and Write it Again, and Again

Whatever methods you’re most comfortable with, editing as you write or writing first and edit later like I do, you’ve got to edit your writing over and over before you consider it to be presentable.  My friend Sue Neal has a great series about the subject of editing your writing that you can take a look at once you’re done here.

I know some bloggers, however, who have told me that they don’t edit.  I’m sorry, but when I hear this it raises the hair on my neck.  What do you mean you don’t edit?  Any good writer I know, does edit and edit and edit again.  Unless you’re the Mozart of writing I  strongly encourage you to edit what you’ve written several times over.

Only by editing can you make your writing, sharper, stronger, clearer and more specific.

One day someone said, if I edit I end up changing everything I’ve written.  Well, may be it’s because it’s needed. That has happened to me before as well.  That’s what editing is for.  If it sucks, well, it needs to be written all over again until it makes sense for anyone who will read.

So, is Writing Hard or Easy?

Some people will say that writing is hard, and some might say that writing is easy.  But that goes for everything else in life.

However, I would say that writing is neither easy nor hard, but I would say that writing takes work, practice and discipline.  It also takes a critical eye that is looking for things that don’t need to be there which clutter the story.  Then, you need to pay close attention to the missing punctuation without which your writing would make no sense.

Afterward, take a break away from what  you’ve written.  Leaving it over night and come back to it the next day with fresh eyes is best.  A very good tip that I read recently was to read it as if it had been written by someone else.

If you can’t understand what  you’ve written, no body else can.

When you edit, always ask yourself the following questions? Does it make sense? And, how can I make it simpler, shorter and clearer?  By asking those questions as you edit your writing you can only get better.

OK, you’re turn now! What do you do to make your writing simpler and better?

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48 thoughts on “Simplify Your Writing To Get More Readers And Keep Them”

  1. Hi Sylviane,
    There is no other answer to that question other than being consistent. Just like you pointed out here, the more you write, the simpler and easier it becomes to you.

    No blogger will tell me that the way he was writing when he started is still the same way he is writing now, unless he has not been writing consistently.

    I do agree very well with you on this post.

    Thanks for sharing and have a great week.

    1. I Theodore,

      You are so right, we are all writting differently and better over time.

      If anyone is still writing the same way it’s because they haven’t done much writing to start with. Getting better at writing is a normal progression that we should all be looking for, but it comes with work, efforts and practice.

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts 🙂

  2. Great tutorial and perspective on writing Sylviane! I couldn’t have said it better. You’re right, sometimes you have to wonder how some people are in school right through college and they still can’t seem to put a sentence together. That doesn’t speak very highly of the educational system. I know that not everyone is “a writer” but everyone should be able to WRITE, at a minimum, something that makes sense and makes a point. I don’t know how people can do business without that skill.

    Another point you made that’s so true: tools do not replace skills. You can have all the fancy apps in the world but if you don’t write well, they aren’t going to help you. Before the computer I wrote on an electric typewriter and made a lot of corrections. Before that I wrote with a pencil on paper and used a lot of eraser! I used to have stacks and stack of paper in my closet of everything I used to write.

    That’s also another point you made which is that you need practice. You can’t start writing one minute and expect it to be great the next. When I first started writing I thought it was awesome. A few years later I looked back and read it and thought oh my God, how embarrassing! I can’t believe I wrote such junk. The more you do it, the better you get at it.

    And of course you MUST edit. I can’t believe any credible person would put out content without editing it, especially in a business world. Heck, I even edit my tweets and those are only one sentence. Typos creep in all the time and it just looks bad for you. I even proofread my comments 🙂

    Editing can be tough because a lot of it is about cutting stuff out. Unless the words are useful, they don’t need to be there. I probably have to practice that one more 🙂 But you really do have to simplify and make your points clearly.

    Really helpful info, I know plenty of people who could learn from it!
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    1. Hi Carol,

      Well, your comment here means a lot to me, because if there is someone who darn knows how to write, it’s you my dear!

      As you know I always enjoy your posts, even if they are about a topic that is not directly linked to my business, because it’s well written and easy to understand. And I always learn something from it. That’s what good writing does!

      I’m like you, I’m ashamed of stuff I used to write. Yuck, was it me? But it’s the same as when I hear recordings of my English 15 years ago. It’s painful! But it also means that we are improving, so when we go back, wow, it’s a shock.

      You bet, I edit my Tweets and comments too. I edit everything, because I know I’m not to be trusted with typos and errors. I make them all the time:)

      Thank you for the great comment!

  3. Hello Sylviane,

    Loved the advice you shared on this post. I must agree with you when you said the more we write the easier it will be.

    I like to edit as I write before I post something but I’ll probably take a look another at least two times before making a final post which is an improvement because I’d hold on to a draft for days! I’m one of those who wonders what’s coming out of my head and onto the paper is making sense to those who are reading it. But I think it’s just the Virgo in me that wants everything to be perfect 🙂

    For me writing is easy because I’m passionate about my niche and still have the feeling of excitement because it’s all so fresh and new. I do wonder if there will be a time when I won’t have anything to write about, which scares me but I’m not allowing that to intimidate me 🙂

    Thanks for sharing these great tips Sylviane. Have a great week!
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    1. Hi Corina and nice to see you here again 🙂

      Yes, practice makes perfect, and that applies to writing as well, doesn’t it?

      All writers edit, no matter how good they are, so editing is totally OK. As we get better we just don’t have as much to rewrite when we edit.

      If you like your niche you should never have any trouble finding topics to write about. Don’t you worry about this, you’ll be OK 🙂

  4. Thank you Sylviane!
    I consider myself a better talker than writer. But since I started blogging, I have no choice but to write..right? lol

    You have given me chills in this post because you have just boosted my confidence. I want to share that with you because I don’t consider myself a writer. But as I read through your post, I guess I am!

    Punctuation is something I need to learn! And I do have a tendency of cluttering. That’s all on my first draft. I read it and say to myself “what the heck am I trying to say?” Then use less words to get the point across.
    As for editing, I am fortunate to have David, my husband, do that for me. Well, he was a professional writer, so while he edits, he also teaches me at the same time. Another set of eyes always helps.

    As for reading….being a blogger, I read more than I ever did in my life. Not only blogs, but information and also research articles. I just can’t get enough of that.

    So my friend, I will end this comment with a sincere virtual hug to you for helping my self esteem.

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    1. Hi Donna,

      Well, that’s great Donna, if I boosted your self esteem.

      This century will probably be the century that creates more writers than all the past centuries combines. The interested created writers that would have never been without it and I think that’s great.

      Since you write each week on your blog, then you are a writer my friend 🙂

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us 🙂

  5. Hey Sylviane,

    I know that a lot of people when told to get into blogging do not consider themselves a writer. You and I have had this conversation before and I was one of those people. I knew how to write letters and correspondence because I was an executive assistant and you cannot get that position without these skills.

    Now those people who have gone through school should at least know how to write yet some of them are horrible at putting sentences together. Like you though, if English is not your native language those can be excused to an extent while the others, there is no excuse.

    We have a lot of tools that can help us for sure and although they aren’t perfect and some of the “how to’s” change, you have to know what you’re writing about. Those types of services will not help you in that respect.

    I started out writing mostly articles and of course since I had basic knowledge I kept on going until I learned how. The learning can be a stumbling block but you don’t have to let it.

    Great tips Sylviane, thanks for sharing these. Very helpful indeed.

    Enjoy your week.

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    1. Hi Adrienne,

      Yes, I know that you’ve never really considered yourself a writer, but you know if you can write legal letters, then you are. It may be a different type of writing, but not every one can write such letters and correspondence you know?

      Writing as much as we do, us bloggers, do make us writers, whether we like it or not and we are getting better and better as time goes on.

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this topic, Adrienne.

  6. Hi Sylvianne. I’ve never thought much whether writing was easy or hard. I like to write and I write (technical writing) for a living. You bring up some interesting points and good one that clarify what people need to do in order to write their blogs well. Great info for those who are new and starting to write or those who want to get better. Great teaching blog. Love it.
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    1. Hi Barbara,

      As a technical writer you sure know a thing or two about writing, and that’s a writing type of its own.

      A lot of people are not clear when they write and it could be fixed if they only paused and read their article asking themselves the question, Would I be able to understand this if I didn’t write it?

      For the most part, the blogs that I visit are clear and easy to understand, though. Lot’s of good writers 🙂

  7. Hey Sylviane! Girl, this! >> “You know how sometimes you’re reading a paragraph, and you have to go back and read it again, and again, because you didn’t understand what the writer meant?” << YES!

    So I try not to have my writing read that way for other people.

    I don't use jargon or bigger words than I need to; I do use breaks in my writing to break things up; and I can use (sometimes too much!!!) emoticons or other expression to indicate feelings. LOL 🙂
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    1. Hi Kesha,

      I’m sure this happens to many of us, right?

      We read that sentence several times and we still don’t understand what they mean. I used to think it was me, but I don’t anymore. I know some people who call themselves writers, but they have a way of writing that I simply DO NOT understand. When you read their stuff, you feel dumb because of that.

      I don’t think that’s smart to write like this way.

      Yes, Kesha, not using big words that you might be the only one to understand is a smart way to write.

      Thanks for your input.

  8. Hello Sylviane, Another truly great post here.

    I have had the term ‘simplify your writing’ drummed into my head by all of my creative writing professors both in High School and College. It was difficult for me to learn this at first as I also took technical writing and have had several technical writing jobs over the years. It was hard at first to go from one form ‘technical writing’ which has to be detailed to ‘creative writing’ which isn’t as detailed or formal.

    I have learned quite a bit about writing from you and the Diamond Superstars – thank you and much success to you.
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    1. Hi Michael,

      Nice to see you here.

      Learning simple writing in school is a very good start. I remember learning some of that as well in school, even though it was in another language. Simple is simple.

      I’ve never done technical writing, but to me it’s a totally different game.

      Thanks for your input.

  9. Hi Sylviane

    Wow writing with pens and typewriters seem such distant memories but they are not really.

    As for the educated who cannot spell or write correct grammar we have generation of them in Australia. I am not sure if it happened in other parts of the world but here the Education system decided kids should not learn proper spelling or grammar and rather write phonetically. Sadly my step kids were part of that era. My eldest step son who has a PhD was part of that time.

    I do not think it i difficult to write now days with computers from a technical perspective but I sure found it hard when I first stared blogging knowing what to write. Finding my voice and all of that.

    I love that as you say bloggers have reinvented our own punctuation. I am getting more and more into doing what I think looks good than is correct as I learned it.

    A great post Sylviane. I love it.

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    1. Hi Sue,

      I know what you mean about the teaching methods going down the drain. I remember my mother already pulling her hair out by the way I was learning stuff in school. She thought that those teachers were just jokes. The teaching of her time was much better, and gosh did they knew those grammar rules and that “orthography” (spelling).

      Why a good methods will turn into what it did? I have no idea, but obviously not form smart people.

      I do love that blogging punctuation too and use it all the time. It really helps the reader who reads on a computer screen.

      I’m glad you like this post and thank for your thoughts 🙂

  10. Hi Sylviane, I don’t really consider myself a writer. I will say the Yoast SEO plug-in has helped me to write better with their Flesch reading ease score. I used to put in too many words – stop words as they call them. It really has helped me to simplify my writing. Of course I still make typos no matter how many times I proof. Yesterday I had a word in my heading spelled wrong and a caring twitter follower DM’d about it. I was so grateful.
    Thanks for your lesson here, very helpful too!
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    1. Hi Lisa,

      I have never heard of this plug-in. I should look into it.

      Gosh I know what you mean about those typos, I make them to, way too many times. But I used to be even worse and like you I was thankful when someone would just tell me. I do the same for other people when I see big typos.

      Thank you for coming and for your input.

  11. Are you sure about this line?…..
    ……Any good writer I know, do edit and edit and edit again…..

    Sorry I am just being rotten (as always)…. thanks for the topic I think that it’s great, regards Jim T

  12. Simple is good, absolutely right on, Sylviane. Sometimes it takes a while to edit our thoughts and our writing to make it simple, but it is almost always better when we do. I think there is a time an d a place for jargon and vernacular and even grammar rule breaking, but only when those conventions contribute to a particular style or make a point even clearer.

    Thank you for sharing this idea with us in such a simple way. 🙂
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    1. Hi Michael,

      Yes, I agree when we simplify it’s almost always better. The more we read an article in order to edit it, the more we can cut off the unnecessary and leave only what matters for the meaning of the story.

      Thank you for your input.

  13. I think talent plays a major role when it comes to writing. Not all of us have that, and those who don’t, the only way they can achieve a decent writing stile is through a lot work and practice.

    I remember my first blogs posts ever. They were awful, I know I don’t have pure talent, English is not my native language so this is also a factor, but I’m not really brilliant in my main language either.
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    1. Hi Christian, and welcome to my blog.

      Yes, talent helps, but frankly hard work can even help more at some point. Talent without any practice can also become mediocre over time.

      Talent to tell the story really doesn’t depend on the language once you’ve mastered that second language. English is not my native tongue either, yet I work as a freelance writer in English 🙂

      Thank you for your thoughts and input.

  14. Hi Sylviane,

    This is a great post on how to improve our writing and make it simple and to the point for everyone to understand.

    I know practice makes perfect. I totally second what you said: to learn to become a good writer, we have to read and write on a regular basis. That’s exactly what helped me as I am the same as you, English is my second language but I learned it. I don’t consider myself that good but still I am learning as I go. I mean there is no excuses here. If there is a will there is always a way.

    Thanks Sylviane for such a great educating post about simple writing. Lots of value shared.

    Be Blessed,

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    1. Hi Neamat,

      Yes, I like this. Where is a will there is a way. Imagine if you and me could learn English to the point of writing the way we do, anyone who’s language is English shouldn’t have any excuse, should they?

      Thank you for coming, as always 🙂

  15. Hi Sylviane,

    Woopies… If you don’t know about writing who does know? 😉

    Reading really helps me Sylviane 🙂 Well, movies too. Writing makes it better and personally I find it’s very helpful in the learning process. I think speaking matters, but it’s very rare I speak English though.

    Lately I’ve been through Sue’s series of posts about writing and they were very interesting. Exactly like the series you have written last year with 3 parts and now this one is another masterpiece 😉

    I’m like you, editing after writing Sylviane. Else I’d miss what comes to my mind that time. Once an editing made a whole new post for me too 😀 Got more interaction on that post and way lengthy than the first time. As I remember, I’ve seen a comment at Sue’s place about writing without no editing. That’s amazing, but I rather read several times after writing and even a simple edit is possible.

    Initially, I do note down what needs to be included in the post Sylviane. That really helps me to see whether I’ve included all points or missed when I read it again. For me, it’s kinda check list I use when editing.

    I used to write essays in my school days and competitions made me to focus on writing with less mistakes dear 🙂 Sometimes, the fault with me was exceeding the word limit 😀 Me neither fond of English as I’m not a native English speaker. May be that’s why I tend to write simpler as I know how it feels or it’s just me like being simple.

    Fresh eyes on writing is a very good tip Sylviane 🙂 Usually I take my eyes off for some time and come back to read again. Even being off for few minutes works for me. I think it’s the experience I had when I work at an E-book publishing company. We had to check for errors right after digitizing the book, with no fresh eyes on it 😉

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    1. Hi Mayura,

      I know that you like to write and you are making great efforts to improve, Mayura. Your comments are always little posts on their own, and it shows that you sure read that post fully.

      As a matter of fact, your English has improved since the first time I met you, and I think that for someone who doesn’t live in an English speaking country and don’t speak English at home it’s simply great!

      Thank you so much for your feedbacks, and input.

  16. HI Sylviane

    Great post!

    I always believe that writing has to be practiced, the more one practices the better it will become.Having said that I have seen that for me, writing does not comes naturally, the reason being English not a native language for me and therefore practicing takes a toll.

    I’m trying to write on any topic that I feel relevant and interesting.When the topic is really not interested I don’t feel writing about that and I need to overcome this sort of inertia.

    Thanks Sylviane for sharing this.


  17. Sylviane,

    I would rather give a speech any day than to write.

    When I started blogging that was something I really had to get past.

    I don’t know that I am a great writer but I think I do ok
    The thing I think bloggers need to do is to edit. I read so many posts where words are left out or there is wrong punctuation. Creative punctuation is great but when it is just wrong that is not.

    I always write first and then edit at the very end. I am sure I miss stuff on my posts but I really try not to.Great post.

    Dee Ann
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    1. Hi Michael,

      Yes, it’s been the recurring feedbacks on this post, practice makes us better writers. There is no substitute for practice and that’s acquired only through writing constantly.

      Thanks for coming

  18. Hi Sylvianne,

    Good tips and information on writing. I started about a year ago and I agree with you..the more you practice the easier it gets. I am beginning to see myself more as a writer but also realize I have a ways to go before I am satisfies with my abilities.

    I am learning more and more everyday. I really appreciate people like you who have already gone down the path and are willing to share with others what they have learned and experienced.
    Thank you for the insightful blog post…and the nuggets you shared.

    1. Hi Tony,

      Yes, practice makes us write better and better as time goes on. There’s no substitute for practice.

      When we compare our aticles from the beginning we can tell how much better we’ve got. That’s ghe good thing about letting time and practice do their thing.

      Thank you for coming by, Tonya

  19. An enlightening share!!! It takes a considerable amount of time, to become a good writer. Nobody can become a good writer in just a fraction of a second. It takes life to become an iconic writer. The tips mentioned in the post are enthralling and simplistic, in order to adorn the shoes of a great writer. I agree that editing, editing and editing is capable of delivering a great content. Simplifying the content is definitely the key. Thanks for the share.

  20. Hey Sylviane,

    I’m ashamed to say I’ve only just found this post, after reading your latest comment on my blog – particularly as you’ve been so kind as to reference my articles! I don’t understand why I haven’t seen a ping-back for that on my blog – it’s very strange.

    As I’m sure you can imagine, this post is one after my own heart! I love your analogy of the cluttered room – that’s a really good way of putting it. Like you, it drives me mad when bloggers say they don’t edit – I don’t know how they ever dare click ‘publish’ – I find it unbelievable. I can tolerate lots of mistakes if I know the person’s done their best, and I appreciate a lot of bloggers, like you, are not writing in their native language, so I think we have to give people a bit of slack and not be too pedantic, but I find it hard to accept if writers just don’t bother.

    I think what a lot of bloggers fail to realise is that writing ‘simply’ and with clarity is quite an art – if you just blurt out your thoughts and ideas, they’re likely to end up in a confusing mess that’s not much fun to read.

    Way to go, Sylviane – this is a message that needs to be heard!

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    1. Hi Sue,

      Ahah, that’s OK. I’ve missed some posts that mentioned me or my blog before or got them late. Not a problem.

      I was asking you about the pingback because I really don’t think that it works every time. I have seen links to my blog when I was never notified by a pingback. Go figure!

      I don’t know how can anyone not edit themselves, it’s beyond me, but I actually know someone who doesn’t and yet his posts look fine. Lucky him I guess, but I wouldn’t recommend anyone to do this.

  21. Being original is the only key to great and simple writing. The first draft for any writing piece should be as original as possible; it can later be proof read for corrections and how it looks like to readers.

  22. Writing can be both hard and easy, depending on the circumstances. You are right, the computer cannot replace the writers but it can help them alot. Also, since they don’t need to deal with spelling problems, layouts or other things like that, the writers should indeed concentrate more on their writing and making it simple enough for people to understand them.

  23. I agree that we should keep what we write simple. This makes it easier for the readers to understand. Besides keeping it simple, let us make sure that our grammar and punctuation are correct. Happy writing!

  24. I really agree with the editing! One thing that turns me off quickly is a badly edited post. I normally write my blogs and then let them sit for a few days, so I can read them with fresh eyes.

    1. Hi Arla and welcome to my blog.

      I agree that letting your article sit and going back to it later is the best way to spot any errors and make an improve the article as well.

      Thank you and sorry for the late reply. I just moved and just still settling down.

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