Whether you're a writing newbie or an old pro, it can never hurt to have a few more tricks up your sleeve. Whether you're writing a press release, blog post, or marketing copy, drawing from a rich pool of writing tips is always a plus.
With that in mind, here are 25 quick ideas—some are old classics and some are more creative—to improve your writing:
1. Cut clutter. Can you make your point faster? Do it.
2. Use spell check. It's an obvious tip, but an important one. Check your writing for spelling and grammar mistakes. You want to communicate to readers that you care enough to be professional.
3. Read aloud. There's no substitute for reading your words with your ears as well as your eyes. Read aloud to catch mistakes and get a sense of flow.
4. Use active verbs. Active verbs add power to your writing and carry paragraphs forward. It's not that you can never use passive voice, but use it strategically.
5. Choose your words carefully. Seek opportunities to use precise, descriptive language that helps readers visualize and experience what you're saying.
6. Eliminate empty modifiers. Many adjectives and adverbs don't provide information and are mere filler (words like really, very, etc.). Avoid them.
7. Vary sentence structure. Except when it's to make a point, don't repeat the same sentence structure in all your sentences. It can come across as juvenile or repetitive. For example: This is Jane. This is Dick. They are friends.
8. Don't be afraid of simple sentences. Though you should vary sentence structure, don't be afraid to add a simple sentence structure to the mix. Short and simple is often the best way to communicate your main idea.
9. Make bullet points brief. Bullet points should help readers move through your copy quickly. Keep them brief, so they can do so.
10. Write in second person. When in doubt, address your reader and write in second person.
11. Show what's in it for readers. You want to show readers what's in it for them, and addressing them is one of the most natural ways to do that.
12. Read good writing. Whatever kind of writing you're doing, read good examples of it regularly. This will influence your work.
13. Make headlines interesting. The headline—whether for your blog post, press release, or e-book—will play a big role in showing readers whether they should keep reading.
14. Break up paragraphs. In most media, shorter paragraphs will work to your advantage. This is true on the Web, in marketing materials, and on social media.
15. Make text scannable. Work to organize your information in a way that will be easy for readers to scan.
16. Know your audience. Jargon is appropriate in some situations, but in others, you need to be more general to keep your readers interested. Know your audience so you'll know what they respond to.
17. Be credible. Back up what you write with facts and figures to make it more powerful and effective.
18. Outline or mind map. Knowing what you're trying to say is key to saying it well. It helps to first outline or mind-map (a type of brainstorming) before you begin to write anything.
19. Remember your goals. What do you want your writing to accomplish? To position you as a thought leader? To sell a product? Keep these goals in mind as you write.
20. Mix it up. Whether you're blogging or writing a press release, a great way to spur creativity is to deviate from your standard format. If your blog posts are always feature-style, try doing an interview. If your press releases always announce new products, try promoting something the company's already doing.
21. Ask and answer a question. Use your title or headline to pose a question your audience will want an answer to, and then be the one to provide it.
22. Include a call to action. What do you want readers to do as a result of your piece? Check out your website? Subscribe to your newsletter? Buy your product? Ask them. Plainly and simply, tell them what you want them to do.
23. Enlist fresh eyes. Getting a second opinion on your work can often reveal things you didn't see. Ask someone to look at what you wrote for a fresh perspective.
24. Give it a day. A good rule of thumb in writing is to give yourself some time away from the piece before you publish it. Stop thinking about it for a day, and when you return, you might be surprised at the new inspiration you find.
25. Stay inspired. Subscribe to blogs and websites that provide helpful content advice. This will help you find fresh inspiration.
Shanna Mallon is a writer for Straight North, a Chicago Web design firm providing specialized SEO, Web development, and other online marketing services. Follow Straight North on Twitter and Facebook.