German author Thomas Mann once said, “A writer is a person for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.” Regardless of whether or not you agree with that sentiment, most of us can appreciate that writing well isn’t easy. While there are no magic bullets or formulas to follow to guarantee your success, below we have put together a checklist that contains what we view as some the most important questions you should be asking yourself to help improve your writing. If you can answer yes to all of them, you’ll greatly increase the chances that your writing hits the mark.
Those questions fall into five main areas:
1) Message and Audience
Before you start writing you need to have a very clear picture of what the message is that you are trying to communicate and whom you’re communicating it to.
- Can you clearly articulate in a sentence or two what the main idea is that you are trying to communicate?
- Do you know what points you are going to make to support that idea?
- Do you know who your audience is and how to write for them? Specifically:
- What do they care about?
- What’s the appropriate tone to use with them?
- What’s the right length for what you’re about to write?
- What’s the best way to get them engaged?
2) Style and Tone
Once you start writing, it’s important that you pay attention to a variety of things, starting with the style and tone of the piece. For example, ask yourself:
- Are your style and tone consistent with your corporate standards?
- Are you using jargon that your audience might not understand or buzzwords that are overused or cliché?
- Are you writing at a level that’s appropriate for your audience in terms of vocabulary, sentence structure, and complexity?
- Are your sentences too wordy?
- Are you using a combination of short and long sentences to avoid monotony and create a good cadence?
3) Grammar and Spelling
Grammar and spelling may seem like table stakes, but they’re still very important and increasingly being overlooked. There are lots of different points to consider, some of the most common of which are:
- Do all of your subjects and verbs agree?
- Do all of your pronouns and subjects agree?
- Have you eliminated any instances of passive voice?
- Do you have run-on sentences or comma splices?
- Have you checked your usage of “its/it’s”, “there/their/they’re,” and other commonly confused words?
- Have you spell checked?
- Are all of the names, terms, titles, etc. (that won’t be in your spell checker) spelled properly?
4) Overall Effect
Perhaps most important of all, you need to assess what overall impact your writing will have on your audience.
- Is it interesting to read and easy to follow?
- Does it quickly capture people’s attention because you start with the highlights? (You’re not writing a novel, so don’t try to build suspense.)
- Is it visually engaging (i.e., is broken up into digestible chunks, does it contain headlines, does it have an image, etc.)?
- Is the intent of the piece clear throughout (i.e., do you stay on track and give readers reminders of what you’re trying to achieve)?
- Is it consistent with all of your other writing in terms of style and tone of voice, overall personality, terminology usage, etc.?
Finally, your content needs to be optimized to ensure that it’s working hard for you to rank well in search, encourage comments and social sharing, and most importantly of all, drive conversions.
- Have you included the best keyword in the headline, opening paragraph, and meta data of your content?
- Have you done everything you can to encourage comments (if appropriate) and made sure that your content can easily be shared socially?
- Do you have a clear call to action to get your audience to do something as a result of consuming your content?
Writing well may not be easy, but if you think about it in terms of addressing these five main areas, you will be much better off. Having the right tools in place to support your efforts, including content optimization software, can often make that effort a lot easier. To learn more about how Acrolinx can help, check out our product tour.