How To Write Better

Rodlie Ortiz —  February 17, 2014 — 2 Comments

I’m not sure if you’ve noticed or not, but I haven’t written much on Modern Ekklesia lately.

Why?

Writing.

I’ve been finishing this e-book, which has taken up a large amount of my extra time. Much more than I expected. In the process, though, I feel like I’ve learned a few lessons on writing that I’d like to share with you. Some of these lessons came as the results of hiring an editor and seeing my e-book marked up.

1. Shorter sentences are easier to read.

It’s sometimes fun to write long sentences, but more often than not they end up being hard to follow. Shorten up. Tighten up. Delete. It will be easier to read.

2. The word “that” is almost always unnecessary.

It’s true. Here’s a before and after sentence from my e-book:

Before: “What if there was a way that we could remember the resources that we read about or listened to?”

After: “What if there were a way we could remember the resources we read about or listened to?”

See the difference?

Here’s another.

Before: “I believe that blogging is the answer to that.”

After: “I believe blogging is the answer.”

You can delete most instances of the word “that.”

3. Use “I think” sparingly.

You either know or you don’t know. If you’re writing something, it should be from a place of authority. Using “I think” weakens your writing.

4. “Of course” can be greatly over used.

5. Avoid the passive voice.

You can identify when a sentence is written in the passive voice by the use of a “to be” verb. Check out this article for more information.

What’s the bottom line?

To be honest, reading about writing sometimes makes me self-conscious about my own writing. <——Was that sentence passive?!! See what I mean? Here’s what I think is more valuable: actually writing.

You can always hire an editor. You can always get people to help with the details. Sure, you want a certain level of self-awareness in your writing so you’re not constantly making elementary mistakes all the time, but not enough that it will make you second guess whether you should be writing at all.

By the way, here’s an interesting web app called Hemingway that will highlight writing mistakes for you. And here is a great blog post for some extra tips on writing.

So what about you? What are your best tips for writing better? What are the most common mistakes you make? (To leave a comment click here)

[image by jjpacres]

Rodlie Ortiz

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On the pastoral team at Pioneer Memorial Church on the campus of Andrews University. Tech geek.

2 responses to How To Write Better

  1. Great article, Rodlie. I’ve been thinking about this for a while too. One thing that’s helping is the book “On Writing Well” by William Zinsser. He brings up a lot of great advice for good writing. Another help if you’re writing in WordPress is the Proofreading module in JetPack. If you go into the settings, you can have it check for passive verbs, hidden verbs, and a dozen other advanced proofreading functions. But as you mentioned, the biggest thing is to just write. I definitely need to start writing more!

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