How To Tremendously Improve Your Writing Style

Greatly Improve your writing style Do choice of words matter at all when you write?  Stupid question, isn’t it?  Of course, they do.  The only problem is that at times the writer forgets that.

This past weekend I was watching a very famous French play that they’ve made into a movie, called Cyrano of Bergerac.

I’m sure many of you have heard about it. This famous play is known even here in the US.  It was translated by Lowell Blair and maybe others.  Since the whole play is in French verses, I’ve never even cared about taking a look at the translations, but I digress.

Your Choice of Words is Important

In this play, you can appreciate how Edmond Rostand, the author (and I’m sure the translator) has chosen each word very carefully, not only to rhyme but to make sense, but to create one of the most beautiful plays in history.

When you write, yes, words do count.

After all, no matter what masterpiece you’re reading, it’s all about using the right word at the right place.  The writer doesn’t invent words, he just uses words that already exist.

Another thing that made me think about the importance of words this past weekend is another beautiful French story which plot takes place during the mid-1600’s.  They just made a remake of the 1964 version this past year, and thanks to the 21st-century internet world, I was able to see it this 6-month-old movie online.

In this case, again, the writers of the script had to be very mindful of the words they chose. The quality of the storytelling depended on it. That’s what makes it much more believable, and transports the viewer in those days, simply because of the good use of words.

Wouldn’t you say that your choice of words is important when you write your article, your blog post, your guest post, your eBook or your book? Yes, it is indeed.  Even if you don’t like to write and would rather shoot a video instead, you would not only need to use the right words, but you should write the script of your videos before you shoot them.  We can’t escape words, no matter what.

So, during this relaxing weekend of mine, while I just had to be away from blogs and other social media, still a blog post was in the process. It made me want to write about the importance of words as you write.

Here are five simple rules that will Make you a better writer because it’s going to force you to think of the words you need to use for your particular project.

1 – Don’t’ be a Passive Writer, be an Active Writer

Don’t let writing happen to you. Make the decision for every word you use.

When you carefully choose your words, your writing gets stronger and speaks better to the reader. I know that most of you here don’t read French but if I write “Je n’ai pas d’amis” (I don’t have friends) or “je n’ai point d’amis” (I don’t have friends) you can easily notice that only a single little word is changed here.  I know you can see this whether or not you can read French, right?

But do you know what a difference that little word does, while the sentence means exactly the same thing?  Well, the first one is the way we speak today,  while the second one is how they spoke in the 1600’s.  Yes, that’s how much a word can do.

I know you’re not trying to write like Shakespeare, here, but when you write, think about that.  Think about what a word can do. Especially if you want your writing to be of good to excellent quality. As you edit and read your piece again, think about your choice of words and see if you could replace a word by a strong one, or a more specific one, or a more appropriate one.

Don’t let your writing take over, make all the decisions when you write. Be an active writer, not a passive one.

2 – Use Verbs rather than Adverbs

Take a look at the four sentences below:

  1. He crossed the road rapidly
  2. He ran as he crossed the road
  3. He rushed as he crossed the road
  4. He crossed the road at lightning speed

As you can see, here, the adverb “rapidly” makes the sentence much weaker than in the other three instances. So, rule number one, remember to use adverbs only if you don’t have any other better options. If you do, the other options will always be best.

3 – Avoid Ending Verbs in ing

If I write “he sat there for hours,” it’s much stronger than if I write “he was sitting there for hours.”

“She stood at the corner,” is much stronger than “she was standing in the corner.”

When you use the “ing” form it sounds like the action just happens to the character.  When you drop the “ing” is sound like the character took that action deliberately.  That’s how much the choice of a word can affect your writing. In such case, not only the word, but its form can make a difference.

Think about your use and overuse of ing form next time you write. No matter what you write. At times it’s totally fine to use it, but could it be eliminated to make your point stronger as in the examples above?

4 – Avoid Repetitions

I’m sure that when you read your first draft you realize that you’ve got too many repetitions. By repetitions I mean the use of the same words over and over in just a few sentences or paragraphs.

The rule of thumb is that if the same word is repeated more than twice in a paragraph that’s just too many times.

“I approached the gate, and the gate was closed so I tried to open the gate.”  Too many gates here, don’t you think?

A better example of this sentence would be, I approached the gate and it was closed, so I tried to push it open. Must better isn’t it?

This is just a simple example, but you see what I mean, right? As you edit your writing, make sure that you eliminate repetitions like this, and your writing will sound so much smarter.

5 – Make an Effort

I know at times people like to say, writing is easy. Well, it is and it isn’t.

It’s easy to write a letter to your mom maybe, it may even be easy to write a simple blog post for your blog, depending on what your own standards are, but it’s not easy to write in such a way that people want to read more of your material once they’ve started.

It takes efforts, it takes reflection, it takes some digging, and it takes practice.

All of these requires some work on your part. You’re the writer and the writing, good or bad, only happens because of you.

Once you’re done with your first draft, revise it again right away to correct the most obvious mistakes. Especially if you write as I do, subconsciously, and without editing as you write. But once you’re done, leave your work alone. As I always said, overnight or even longer if you can, is a good thing to do.

Let it ripe like a summer fruit and taste it again later.  See if it taste even better. If not, try to make it so by carefully revising every word, and see what better word might intelligently replace another. Don’t forget that your choice of words can make a tremendous difference as you write. No matter what you write.

I hope this gave you the bug to write not only more but better and better as you take action as a writer. If you take the actions mentioned above your writing will improve tremendously.

Don’t forget, for more writing tips, download my FREE writing tip eBook available here on this blog!

 

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32 Comments

  • donna merrillTwitter: donna_tribe says:

    Wow Sylviane,

    Thank you for this great lesson in writing. I’m “getting it” – the use of words is so important and I don’t really pay much attention to it. But here, you have taught so well, that it got stuck in my head.

    Where were you when I was in grammar school when I first learned how to write? lol

    I love number 4 where you mention to avoid repetitions. It reminded me of those blogs I used to read full of SEO content. Repetitions make the reader want to bang their head against the wall.

    I still see some around and when I do, I always have to struggle to find what the heck the writer is trying to convey.

    Thanks again!

    -Donna
    donna merrill invites you to read..Fear Is Just Business As UsualMy Profile

    • Sylviane Nuccio says:

      Hi Donna,

      Thanks for bringing this out, thus my strong dislike of what used to be that stupid SEO keyword stuff idiotic method 🙂 that would have turned any good writer into an idiot sounding machine 🙂 Before Google became smart they themselves were responsible for the kind of trash content they then decided to eliminate. Gosh, am I glad it’s all over now!

      I’m so glad you like the post. Well, in my case, French was the only class I ever was interested in, and where the teachers were lacking my mother made for it. She grew up with very stick teachers so she became a grammar geek. She would ALWAYS correct me and my brother at any little mistake we would speak or write. It used to drive us nuts. When we had her read something we’ve written we had to tell her, OK read it for the content first, forget about the mistakes for now, but that was so hard for her to do that.

      She was so good she used to make fun of journalists on TV when she heard a non perfect French statement or something. So, with a mother like that, we had no choice, we became pretty good too, and in my case, maybe that’s how I started to cherish the word – the language – languages 🙂

      As always, thank you so much for your feedback.

  • sherman smithTwitter: shermanksmith75 says:

    Hey Sylviane,

    I can definitely use all the help I can get when it comes to writing! I tell you these were some very helpful tips.. I never thought of words ending in “ing” would be much weaker than those that don’t.

    Also I’ve notice for myself I have a tendency to repeat. Especially for keywords! But after doing some research, this repetition can hurt you when it comes to search engines. Now you pointed out that if I eliminate this, it makes my points sound much more intelligent.

    I definitely appreciate you as a blogging friend! It’s people like you that helps us become better writers in the blogosphere!

    Thanks and have a great week ahead!
    sherman smith invites you to read..Why You’re Not Generating Traffic From Your Target MarketMy Profile

    • Sylviane Nuccio says:

      Hi Sherman,

      I very much appreciate you and your comments as well. How good it feels when people appreciate what you’re sharing with them.

      Thankfully, now, Sherman, you don’t have to repeat keywords anymore, not nearly as much as we had to do it in the past. Those days are over. Thank God. Even while pleasing search engines we can now also write smart at the same time. I surely appreciate that 🙂

      I hope you’ll be thinking about those tips as you write your next post. Good practice.

      Thanks for coming and have a great week!

  • AdrienneTwitter: adriennesmith40 says:

    Hi Sylviane,

    Every time I read a post of yours teaching us how to be better writers I have this huge wave of guilt come over me because I don’t do any of what you suggest. Of course we’ve had these discussions too and for those of us who don’t seen to have issues writing or already have a captive audience your suggestions will probably go better for those still needing this particular advice.

    I do think about how I phrase things but I don’t consider the specific words to use. I mean I might write something and want to replace a word instead of the one I originally used but other than that I don’t think much further than that.

    Either way I do appreciate your lessons because you can tell it’s not my strong point. That’s why we have you! 🙂

    Enjoy your week.

    ~Adrienne
    Adrienne invites you to read..Jon Morrow Said To Ignore Most Popular BloggersMy Profile

    • Sylviane Nuccio says:

      Hi Adrienne,

      Ahaha, I had to laugh at what you said, feeling guilty. Not my intent 🙂

      Indeed, I am a nuts of the word, a fanatic of words. That I’ve always been, but for those like you who are just using some of such words to get their point across in a blog post, that’s all that matters. It’s not like you don’t like to write, ya know. Your posts are fine 🙂

      Don’t worry about it, this type of posts are not only for bloggers, but also for those who are looking to improve their writing for other things like writing an eBook or a book. And anyone looking for writing tips that they’d like to learn.

      Thank you for coming 🙂

  • Catherine HoltTwitter: cathsparty says:

    Some great tips here, thanks.

    Love the one about the repetition. This is a mistake that a lot of bloggers do when trying to write for SEO purposes. Keyword stuffing is never a good thing…and yes…far too many gates!!
    Catherine Holt invites you to read..3 Tips For Creating An Awesome Blog HeadlineMy Profile

    • Sylviane Nuccio says:

      Hi Catherine,

      Well, no one should repeat a word over and over for the sake of SEO anymore, as it’s not working this way at all today any longer. Now Google has gotten smarter and they favor articles that have synonyms to our keywords rather than a keyword being used over and over which lower the quality of any type of writing. I guess they came to their senses.

      Thank for your input.

  • Carolyn Nicander MohrTwitter: wonderoftech says:

    Hi Sylviane, Bravo to you for shining a light on our craft! We all should be wordsmiths as words are our tools of the trade. When we care about our writing we improve the quality of our articles which shows how we care about our readers.

    I joined a creative writing group in England and we would have writing exercises at every meeting. We would write a paragraph and then have to rewrite it to make it better. The fewer words the better, which means that your words should pack as much power as possible.

    Your illustration of the use of adverbs is very helpful. Using fewer, more powerful words will have a bigger impact on your readers. I also liked what you said about writing in the active voice. My proofreading tool alerts me to passive phrases.

    I often edit my daughters’ essays for school, teaching them these lessons as I edit. One of my daughters loves to use “It” so I always ask her what “it” means when she uses the word. Often she can’t tell me. When she can tell me what “it” is, I ask her if the sentence would be better if another word replaced “it”. Often she does replace “it” with another word. I guess she has the opposite problem of someone who repeats words.

    Since I often have to translate tech terms into plain English I do try to choose my words carefully. This article will help many people realize the importance of taking their writing seriously. Thanks, Sylviane!
    Carolyn Nicander Mohr invites you to read..2 Easy Steps to Greatly Increase the Chances of Your Tweets Being Read!My Profile

    • Sylviane Nuccio says:

      Hi Carolyn,

      Thank you for your excellent input and by reading your comment I know that you know about writing for sure 🙂

      Great question you ask your daughter about “it.” This is another tendency we find in articles at times, and if we’re not careful with this “it” can lose the reader.

      Less words is ALWAYS better. More words only works for things like maybe poetry, but not for prose. That’s why using verbs rather than adverbs and avoiding the weakening of the ‘ing’ form when possible is always best.

      Writing is an art, and we can all get better at it by practicing writing just like we can get better at drawing by practice drawing.

      Thank you very much for coming by and your excellent input.

  • Neamat TawadrousTwitter: nkeriakos says:

    Hi Sylviane,

    Love it!! Great tips!!

    After reading this post, I must say I have a lot to work on to improve my writing especially on numbers 2 and 4. I didn’t pay attention to the use of verbs instead of adverbs. I didn’t know they make the sentence weaker. OMG, this alone is a great tip for me to consider next time I write.

    I also tend to be repetitive for SEO purposes but thank goodness, not necessary any more.

    Thanks Sylviane for these great tips. With all these tips you will develop good writers from all of us who read your posts. Highly Appreciated. Have yourself a great week ahead.

    Be Blessed,

    Neamat
    Neamat Tawadrous invites you to read..10 Mistakes That Can Kill Your Blog Success!!!My Profile

    • Sylviane Nuccio says:

      Hi Neamat,

      I’m very happy when people appreciate my tips.

      When it comes to any rule such as these, there are always some exceptions that may apply. For example I would not ever use ings, just make sure that if I do it’s better in that particular case. Same with adverbs, they may be OK at times as well, even if they’re not more than they are. So, it’s always on each case basis, of course.

      Thankfully, we don’t have to use repetitions for the sake of SEO anymore, so that’s a great thing.

      Thank you so much for your encouraging feedback and have a great day!

  • Health Blushon says:

    Great tips Sylviane. My writing style is very bad it will help me in my daily writing. thanks again

    • Sylviane Nuccio says:

      Hi Carlo,

      Thank you for your comment on my blog and for coming of course. I’m sure that with practice your writing style will improve. No doubt.

  • Carol Amato says:

    Ciao Sylviane,

    Your headline piqued my interest because I am always wanting/needing to improve my writing skills, who isn’t? 🙂

    Such a very interesting article, Sylviane! Awesome content.

    I could relate to the example you used for the sentence with one tiny word different in the French version – this is exactly how it is in Italian as well. I speak Italian and the Sicilian dialect, and it amazes me at how such a subtle change can make a huge difference.

    Absolutely loved the info on verbs ending in ‘ing’ – will be mindful of this going forward, thanks!

    Have a great day.
    – Carol Amato
    Carol Amato invites you to read..How To Avoid Making The Biggest Rookie Mistake With ImagesMy Profile

    • Sylviane Nuccio says:

      Hi Carol,

      I’m sure glad you can appreciate what a small little detail (letter) can a difference make in a language. I don’t speak them but I’m VERY familiar with both Italian and Sicilian as you know, and I know that you know that fact 🙂 I took this example, to emphasis the fact that at times, what we may see as a small detail can have a huge impact on our articles quality.

      I’m happy as well that you found this info interesting and useful to you.

      Thank you for coming by.

  • Barbara CharlesTwitter: BarbaraCharlesl says:

    Hi Sylviane,

    Very, very interesting. I don’t think put that much thought into writing and the use between adverbs and verbs, strong or not strong. I read this intently trying to see what you see when writing. I have to study this more and put some of your suggestions into practice. Great stuff to improve our writing and I think we should all pay attention to these important tips.

    Thanks so much for keeping us on our toes about writing and how to improve.
    Barbara
    Barbara Charles invites you to read..Six Ways To Get Back To Work When You’re TiredMy Profile

    • Sylviane Nuccio says:

      Hi Barbara,

      What’s interesting about writing is that even though the reader may not be consciously be aware why they are or not attracted by what they read is because of those little details that can either make writing interesting or boring, pulling or pushing away. Even though those tips may apply more for those who write eBooks or books, it’s still good to keep in mind no matter what we write.

      Thank you for coming and glad you enjoyed this.

  • Mi MubaTwitter: BAMoneyBlogger says:

    Hi Sylviane Nuccio
    Thanks for sharing this useful tutorial on improving writing style.
    You are right appropriate word is the lifeblood of a sentence and a slight deviation can change the entire meaning of the sentence.
    You pointed well instead of using a weak verb and then making it with an adverb it is better to use a strong verb that fully depict the actual mean you want to tell you readers.
    This happens to most of the writers. Either they repeat the thoughts or they repeat the phrases and words. Actually when they start dragging their post it happens to them. That is why it well said finish your post once you think you don’t have more to write.
    Thanks a lot for sharing this wonderful post that really is a great help for improving the writing style.
    Mi Muba invites you to read..Do you know how you are dumping your each blog post?My Profile

    • Sylviane Nuccio says:

      Hi Mi,

      Sorry for the late reply on this comment of yours. I was aware of some later comments that came in but was trying to catch up on my new post comments arleady.

      Thanks for your feedback as always.

  • GladysTwitter: coachgladys says:

    Hello Ms. Sylviane

    I love this post because I need everything you wrote about.
    I just completed my post and I used “ing” a lot. I will definitely need to improve.

    Thank you for turning on the light, because as bloggers we need to work on these areas.

    I will download your book, NOW! LOL

    Have a great 4th of July

    Gladys
    Gladys invites you to read..The Importance of ConcentrationMy Profile

    • Sylviane Nuccio says:

      Hi Gladys,

      I’m so glad this post helped and so sorry for the late reply, but at times can’t keep up with later comments as I’ve moved on to newer posts. LOL that’s crazy.

      Also sorry for not coming in a while at your place. Will go now 🙂

  • Ravi ChaharTwitter: ravichahar27 says:

    Hi Sylviane,

    This is really amazing to know these things.:)
    For a blogger, writer or an other business person words matter a lot. As you have explained about the using of verbs and not to use adverb is really helpful.
    I have seen many bloggers who use same word many times in a post. Though I was the one in the category but still trying to learn more now.Thanks for sharing.Enjoy your weekend.~Ravi
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  • OktoTwitter: oktohakim says:

    Hi Sylviane,Great share to develop our writing style. It is important to give a style in our post to be unique and unforgettable. On the flip side, as you said, writing is not easy thing even for long-term bloggers. It surely needs effort from us who write for the blog.Thanks for the valuable tips. Wish you have a great weekend.
    Okto invites you to read..How to Write 500 Words Blog Post in 5 MinutesMy Profile

  • Nanda RahmaniusTwitter: NandaRahmanius says:

    Hi Sylviane,

    I agree with you. In writing, every word we choose can determine the direction of reader actions. Each word can predispose a person to act. If we can use the right words, it can make our article become more powerful.

    In my writing journey, I got a lot of valuable lessons about how to write a good article. And this article also adds to my knowledge as well 🙂

    Thanks for sharing these tips with us, Sylviane.
    Nice share, indeed!

    Nanda
    Nanda Rahmanius invites you to read..6 Simple Ways To Lose Your ReadershipMy Profile

  • Babanature says:

    Hello Sylviane,

    I am guilty of all charges stated in this post 🙂 .
    I love using the “ing” because i do feel it makes thing more easy but i never knew it doesn’t have much feel than the ones without the “ing” extension.

    I have repetition of words, i feel bloggers who do it, are lost of words (That’s just my feeling) . . .

    I must admit that this post is much helpful because i did learn alot… so for that, i say thank you.

    Thanks for the lively post once again, and do have a faithful weekend…
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  • Don PurdumTwitter: unveiltheweb says:

    Hi Sylviane,

    What? No participles (verbs ending in “ing”). LOL… Thanks for making me think a little more. It reminds me of grad school. They were tough sticklers for grammar. I hated seeing an “A” but the paper was completely chocked up on red.

    Style is so important, and I think the more we read the more we take the shells were are taught and incorporate new things.

    For example, I was taught the following:

    Introduction – tell them what you’re going to tell them
    Body- tell them
    Conclusion – tell them what you told them

    Within that there is a lot of room for flexibility and creativity. Just part of the style I work with and now that you know that if you read more of my writing you will find the bookmarks, lol…

    Thanks again,
    Don
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  • Erik Emanuelli says:

    Fantastic tips, Sylviane!
    My first time on your blog, and it’s definitely worth the visit! 😉

    I always make a tremendous sacrifice to express myself in English, because it is not my native language.
    I know it can be improved by practicing, reading, and writing more.
    But still, it’s not easy.

    Of course I am out my comfort zone with english, while I find myself more at ease with Spanish, or with my native language : Italian.

    Thank you for your suggestions, I will keep them in mind.
    I am confident that with practice, you can always improve!

    Have an amazing sunday. 🙂

    • Sylviane Nuccio says:

      Hi Erick,

      Well, let me tell you, this comment sounds perfect, so may just be too hard on yourself Your English is pretty good. English is not my native tongue either, but we are lucky that English grammar is easier than Italian, French or Spanish 🙂

      Welcome here and thank you for your visit.

  • Clara says:

    Valuable tips for those of us who write a lot. Something we know but reminders are always helpful.

  • Robyn says:

    How important is it to avoid split infinitives in titles? Do we still observe this old rule of Latin grammar, of is it alright for us to boldly go where no semanticist has gone?

  • Lawrence Berry says:

    Wow,

    This is some great advice to any writer. I can really tell that you must be a very good writer, and an expert on the subject. You pointed out some things that I have never thought of before and I will definitely use. I liked how you implied not using ing, because it makes the sentence weaker, and not using adverbs, because verbs make the sentence stronger. I agree with you 100%.I will use these tips, and will revisit your blog to keep these tips in mind. Thanks for sharing!

    Regards,
    Lawrence

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