Writing is something everyone does every day. Shopping lists, work emails, and even Whatsapp messages are examples of writing we all do, all of the time. So why are we daunted about writing something longer? Perhaps because of knowing it will be read and dissected by an audience.
But even if writing for people is something you do not do frequently, that does not mean you cannot get better with time. Though talent helps, writing is at heart a craft. Practice makes perfect and, with time and effort, you can make sure the pieces you write get better each time.
This article shows you how to become a better writer and make your articles read better every time.
Scroll to the bottom to find our top writing resources.
1. Read more often, and more widely
Reading is the only way to nurture your writer’s brain, so read often and read broadly. Making a habit of reading will expose you to different styles of writing and ways of structuring articles and content, which will benefit your own pieces.
Read a tonne. Reading fiction will help writers learn about narrative structure, while non-fiction from celebrated authors can give lessons on writing concisely and clearly.
Make sure to read a lot of online content from other brands and your competitors, too. After all, analyzing your competition can help boost your own content marketing, as this guide demonstrates. As well as finding great articles to help inform your own writing decisions, analyzing competing content will also show you examples of bad work. These can help you avoid making similar mistakes by yourself in future.
2. Write every day
Writing is something that takes practice. Unless you are one of a few very fortunate people, you will not become a prize-winning laureate by accident. One top writing tip is simply to write as regularly as you can. This exercises that part of your brain which is responsible for your writing prowess.
Remember, writing every day does not mean churning out thousand word-long articles. If you really want to know how to become a better blog writer, writing little and often is a great way to get going. In time, you will get more practice as work picks up.
3. Think about structure
You might write a beautiful sentence and have an incredible command of the language, but if your structure is not up to standard, your message will be unclear, or perhaps even confusing.
It’s important that your content is ordered logically, leading the reader through your arguments or ideas point by point. You should assume knowledge of your reader, so make sure you build your articles like a house:
- Introduction: This is a firm foundation. Not only does it entice people to continue reading, but it outlines your reasons for writing and establishes your point of view, thesis or value proposition.
- Each sentence and each point in your article should build upon the previous one. Anything that seems superfluous or that does not move the story on should be left out or rethought.
- Avoid digressions, stay true to your introduction, include credible evidence where needed
- Write a conclusion that summarizes your main points.
Make the most of templates and workbooks
Use the below templates to streamline your content writing process:
If you’re asking how to become a better copywriter, this Ultimate Semrush Content Writing Workbook is free to download. Perfect for copywriters, content marketing specialists and anyone else who wants to either start a career as a writer, it will help reinforce the writing skills you have already developed.
Also explore this Semrush blog writing checklist from our experts. Inside you’ll learn:
- How to optimize your articles for SEO
- If it has the potential to attract backlinks
- Whether it will engage your readers
- If it will generate conversions — and more!
Finally, to acquire professional knowledge in content structure, you can can choose between a wide spectrum of courses in content writing expertise from prolific learning apps for career advancement.
4. Look up style guides and create your own
News agencies like Reuters and the Associated Press (AP) are renowned for publishing thousands of pieces of content each day, as concisely as possible. Both of these agencies urge their journalists to avoid writing with exclamation marks in place of other punctuation. They also ask writers to avoid using any other word instead of ‘said’ or ‘says’ when demonstrating speech.
A brand style guide is a must … with the AP style guide as a backup for any queries you may have”
5. Ditch adjectives and filler
Great copywriting doesn’t mean overwriting. Whether you’re writing a good blog or a simple social media post, remember to think simple.
Adjectives — descriptive words — and fancy vocabulary should be used sparingly. If you want to give your audience a clear message, use simple words. For example, instead of using the word ‘verbose’ to describe a person who talks a lot, use a word like ‘chatty’ instead. According to Mark Burdon, a senior content strategist at Retina:
Write to communicate your message, and not to impress the reader with your writing skills, or broad vocabulary. Any writer looking to show off to their audience with grandiose text should cut it out.
Quick Language Tips
- Use an in-built spell checker or plug-in like Grammarly to help identify mistakes. Note any that you commonly make and attempt to iron them out.
- Don’t make common spelling mistakes as they reflect badly on your writing. Some of these include:
- Your (possessive) versus You’re (contraction of “you are”)
- Its (possessive) versus it’s (contraction of “it is”)
- There (adverb), their (possessive) and they’re (contraction of “they are”)
Check out CNBC’s list of commonly misspelled words.
- Use commas to separate clauses, but don’t over do it. Indiana University East has a handy usage guide.
- Use hyphens ( - ) to connect compound words (e.g. The ready-made soup wasn't as nice as he’d hoped).
- Use dashes ( — ) to highlight a word or phrase (e.g. She was happy — ecstatic even — as she showed her friends the ring).
6. Research keywords
Knowing which keywords to use to make sure your articles rank well is crucial for getting your content in front of your readers. This research is a central part of your organic digital marketing effort. Researching these keywords is a great way to really start digging into these topics, becoming more knowledgeable and informative of your readers’ intent — which aids great writing — and also helps you better understand your audience’s point of view. Here's what RaShea Drake, marketing director at Essential Hub has to say about it:
Do some keyword research in Semrush, or your tool of choice. Create a list of similar words, phrases, and questions. Use that list to build a cohesive outline that tells the story. It not only helps with that article or project but often gives more ideas of similar topics to cover.
While researching, pay attention to the different categories your keywords might potentially fit into. Primary keywords see lots of searches and should place your article higher in search engine rankings. Semantically-related keywords help those search engines better understand what your article is about.
Use Topic Research to uncover the most popular questions and topics related to your primary keyword and use this information to make your writing more customer-centric.
Make use of SEO checklists
Keyword research is an important part of writing for SEO, which stands for search engine optimization. Writing good SEO will help you rank more highly in internet searches at the same time.
However, even for competent writers, optimizing content for search engines is a specific skill. It can require a degree of spoon feeding when they get started with this new genre.
Checklists like this one from Semrush offer a good introduction to writing SEO-friendly copy. Use it to increase your chances of traffic growth, which can later be turned into sales leads. Done well and you’ll have great blogs, with a much higher reach.
7. Know your audience
Anyone who wants to become a better content writer needs to be in tune with their target audience. You’ll need to focus on what issues are key to them and which topics they will want to read about. At the same time, you’ll need to think like a business owner and understand how your product or service relates to their needs.
It is also important to communicate using the words and voice familiar to that audience, via the websites and apps it likes to use.
Put effort into identifying the correct voice for your intended audience and writing copy that resonates. In one blog post, Semrush found that 75% of all pieces it analyzed used a tone of voice that was too casual for their intended audiences. Make sure all your articles are written in the voice appropriate for the intended audience. As per Henneke Duistermaat, founder of EnchantingMarketing.com:
Imagine you are writing for one person. To be a good writer, it is important to consider that person’s aims and challenges, as well as the ways your writing can improve their lives. This is the starting point for empathy, and empathy for your readers makes your writing more engaging.
Once you have established the best tone of voice for your audience, stick to it. Building a relationship with readers by being consistent has long served newspaper and media columnists. Defining the voice with which you communicate with your readers will be key to fostering a connection with your new community.
8. Tell your story
Storytelling is an engaging way of hooking your readers right from the start of an article or piece of copywriting.
It helps the reader understand why something is important and how it relates to their situation.
If you learn how to build characters, plots and storylines into your work, you can contextualize ideas and help people relate to your content.
A simple technique is to build real customer experiences into your writing. In a couple of paragraphs, sharing their problem or their challenge and how they worked hard to overcome it. Then step outside of the anecdote and relate it directly to the reader.
Alternatively, dot quick sentences throughout your copy or article to share real experiences. For example:
The megaZoom 3000 speeds up office cleaning by 30%.
“I’ve been able to get home and see the kids much earlier,” says Richard, a office cleaning manager from Wyoming.”
9. Thinking about skim readers
Skimmers are people who want to get information and get it quickly. Of course, you want to help them — but you also want to encourage people to read and absorb everything you’ve written.
Break up your article into short sections (much like this guide). Use clear subheadings to indicate what’s important and what they should expect in each section.
Be clear, avoid clickbait style subheadings (i.e. headings that overpromise or try to be shocking), but also don’t give away the secret sauce.
“Thinking about skim readers” gives you an indication of what to expect, but the reader also has to read the paragraphs to get what they need. This reduces the risk of too many people bouncing (or leaving) your website or article too quickly.
10. Keep it tight
Never use 20 words where five will do. You might like to wax lyrical, but that does not mean your would-be audience wants to read it. Like simplicity, brevity is key to good writing. As Emily Newton-Smith, marketing manager for Koru Kids’ home nursery says:
Less is more. After your first pass, take a break, and then go back and edit down.
Newton-Smith recommends one exercise where writers remove as many words from a sentence as possible. Afterwards, it should all still make sense. While you can always put words back if you want, using the fewest possible is a good rule to stick by, she says.
Such advice is similar to author George Orwell’s six rules of writing:
“Never use a long word where a short one will do,” Orwell said. “If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.”
In a meta-analysis of the Semrush SEO Writing Assistant data, we found articles that are scored highly in terms of SEO tend to have high readability. Having sentences and words that are too long and complex is a common trait for low-scoring articles.
Working to maximize readability is one of the best pieces of advice that Amarachi Moses, a copywriter based in Lagos, Nigeria, has ever received. She recommends writing shorter sentences with enough spacing between them.
Concise sentences are key to improving the readability of your content. Of course, you should aim to have more readable content, but readability levels will differ depending on your target audience, their goals and your message.
For example, a physics professor reading an article on quantum mechanics would expect a more complex text. After all, the article is related to their area of expertise and needs to convey specific information. That same physics professor would almost certainly want a simpler, more readable text if they were reading a listicle on comfortable hiking boots.
Pro tip: Use SEO Writing Assistant to track and improve your readability score for each content piece. This will help you boost engagement and improve user experience. It’ll also be useful for maintaining a consistent tone of voice.
Equally important to having concise sentences and appropriate readability is sticking to an overall word count.
It can be useful to assign a word count to each section or idea you'll work on. For example, you should try breaking up articles into 200-word bits. That way you focus on getting across a point in a fixed number of words.
Pro tip: Use SEO Content Template to check the average word count of the top 10 pages ranking for your keyword and establish a benchmark for your own article.
11. Get a clear brief
Whether you are writing for your own company, or your employer’s, a clear brief is key to good writing.
The brief needs to clearly lay out what the editors and clients expect from the piece. That means clear talking points, structure, and word count all need to be agreed before writing starts.
Even great writers can have a bad day and turn in a subpar article, which can understandably annoy those who commissioned the piece in the first place. Still, you will set yourself up for failure much more easily if a clear brief has not been established.
Writing for Someone Else
Before writing for someone else, ask your editors and clients which points they want discussed, how many sections the piece should have, who you should quote, and how long the piece should be. In the end, a good brief can prevent hours of unnecessary work on the part of the writer and the editors as they tussle over a lengthy editing process.
Writing for Yourself
If you’re writing for yourself or your own blog, it’s also important to keep your own brief in mind. Note that these tips can help you if you're writing for a client too. Include your:
- Aim — why you are writing this particular piece.
- Word count — stick to it to stay concise.
- Research — research ahead of time and include useful states, quotes and sources.
- Reader profile — who it is and why they should care about your writing.
- Call to action — what you want the reader to do after reading your piece.
Effective planning is important for great writing. It will also help you decide on your calls to action — so make sure you begin typing from a strong starting point.
12. Re-read your work
Re-reading your article before publishing is vital. Without reading your work, you will not find mistakes or be able to polish clumsy phrases.
Reading your work out loud is also a great way to find problems with sentence structure. You can identify poor phrasing too — this can deter a reader from finishing your piece. As per Ber Leary from Helios HR:
Always read your work aloud. Reading aloud is the only way to check the rhythm of what you've written and ensure that it flows naturally. Also, it's a great way to pick up on the kind of errors you might miss in a visual check.
Reading content to check for flow, grammar and punctuation, and phrasing, is not like reading for fun. You should read your writing by going slowly line-by-line, underscoring areas that need work, then change them. Once you feel your individual sentences are good, re-read whole paragraphs to make sure they fit.
Remember to watch out for repetition and be brutal with your cuts. If you are torn over whether to delete a word or keep it, always cut.
13. Take a break between rewrites
Some writers also find it beneficial to re-read their work after some time away from the piece they are editing. Israel-based content strategist Osnat Naot says:
The best writing advice came from my first year university professor, who made us promise to re-read our own material after a good night's sleep.
Just remember to give yourself time to re-read your articles. Working on edits to close to your deadline adds to your stress, which will make checking for errors less effective.
14. Finish your first draft before making changes
Nothing can confuse your writing more than making changes as you go. Other than fixing spelling mistakes that catch your eye, just keep writing. Do not start rewriting entire paragraphs, or changing the structure of your article, until ALL your ideas have been written down.
Though it might feel more efficient to make changes as you go, you can end up bogged down in the finer points of your piece. In reality, the solutions to your writing challenges often become apparent as you approach the end of your piece.
15. Be open to criticism
When it comes to writing, everyone needs feedback. This is as true for novice writers as it is for Pulitzer Prize-winning authors.
Writers are known for being soft-skinned, so try not to take feedback personally. It is not that you are a bad writer. But perhaps someone with more experience can employ a sharper turn of phrase, or cut out some flabby prose. According to Joseph Saunders of INFUSEmedia:
One of the key aspects of becoming a better writer is being open-minded to criticism from others. Outside perspectives can be really useful for helping you grow and making sure you don't get trapped in your own style.
If you do not have access to an editor, or are unable to take a writing workshop, look around for more experienced friends and colleagues. Alternatively, another professional writer may be free to cast a careful eye over your content.
Once they are done, do not forget to say thank you. Reading articles, short stories as an editor is time consuming, so make sure to express your gratitude.
16. Get feedback from your audience
Where possible, get article feedback from people outside of your writers’ circle. As a wordsmith, it can be all too easy to get bogged down in the finer arguments over use of semicolons or Oxford commas. However, feedback on the content of your pieces and copywriting skills will be most useful coming from people who could feasibly be in your target audience.
Get feedback on your work. Not just from other writers and editors, but from others in your company or industry. I love to get feedback from my product or technical colleagues on how I've explained security concepts to a consumer audience.
Where possible, push for constructive criticism from potential readers and customers as well, Berger adds. “Ask them to explain what they liked — and what they did not — in your latest piece.”
Here are some of the top tools you can use to make your content writing more effective:
Evernote: Collect and arrange clippings, articles, images, research– and anything else you can think of from around the web. Perfect for writers who are research driven and need a tool to organize their work
Milanote: A great alternative to Evernote, similarly gather research and organize your notes ahead of writing the next great article!
Grammarly: Use Grammarly to spell check and proof your articles. It’s a top tool to make sure your writing is up to scratch.
Pomodoro Timer: There are many free “tomato” timers online. They are designed to help you work in short bursts, making the most of your concentration — and rewarding you for short breaks.
Toggl: Use Toggl to track your hours. Great for freelancers who need to bill, or busy writers in a time crunch. Keep a record of your hours and send or analyze later!
Semrush SEO Writing Assistant: Our writing assistant not only helps you optimize your writing for search engines, but it also helps you determine how consistent your tone of voice is and the readability levels.
Run your text through the Wordpress Plugin or Google Docs add-on. It will help you discover if any of your phrasing is overly formal or informal, and if you need to shorten paragraphs or difficult sentences. It will improve your text’s overall chances of engaging your readers.
So now you are ready to set out on the path to becoming a respected writer. This road has been walked by many. You are alongside creative writing students and English literature professors, as well as war reporters and theologians.
Reading and writing everyday and building a strong relationship between writer and editor, will give you all the tools you need to start producing excellent content.
At the start, do not be too hard on yourself. In years to come you will surely look back on some of your earlier efforts with a wry smile as you see how far you have come. For now though, it is just you, a keyboard, and a blank page.
Time to get typing.