How to Write Good

Punctuation Tips

Writing well starts with grammar. So does writing poorly, such as in the title above. Using the adjective "good" instead of the adverb "well" to modify the verb "write" is clearly wrong. On the other hand, "Learn to write good content for websites" is correct, but doesn't mean quite the same thing.

This blog is about writing well, not about writing good copy. There is a difference, but we'll blog later about content you need to have in effective copy.

The thing with grammar is not everyone knows all the rules, and so they depend too heavily on Microsoft Word's grammar check. Use grammar check as a guide, but think of it as one of those guides in an old movie who's slyly leading you into an ambush. You always have to be on guard when Word tries to tell you about good grammar.

Remember that grammar is mostly a common sense means for clarity in communicating, so use your own common sense when Word's grammar suggestion seems puzzling.

Limit your use of exclamation points. Never is about right.

Believe it or not, the content of entire websites can be written without a single exclamation point. See, I didn't need an exclamation point in the previous sentence.

An exclamation point has its place, a special place for, well, an exclamation. But too many people use a plethora of exclamation points because they think it makes their writing sound action packed and exciting. If your writing doesn't sound exciting without an exclamation point, what makes you think it sounds any better with it?

If your writing is already exciting, an exclamation point can take it over the edge into the realm of obnoxious, like an excited car salesman on TV. If you think about it, an exclamation point sort of looks like a sore thumb. Use them too often and that's how they'll stick out.

Ban the word "plethora"

You see this way too often. Writers use the word "plethora" to mean a generous abundance or a wide selection to attract customers with what they have to offer. Besides the word itself being overused, these writers are getting the word wrong. Plethora means an overabundance, a gluttonous amount, a sickening excess, or just plain too much. My use of the word in the previous section may have been the first time I've had the occasion to use the word correctly.

Many readers may not get the true meaning, but they will recognize the word as having become hackneyed. By using "plethora", you also risk luring English majors to look at all of your content more closely and make fun of your website on Facebook.

Don't try too hard

We can lump many problems similar to the ones above as someone trying too hard to communicate a message, such as writing with bad grammar to seem a little folksy, or just not paying attention to details because the writer is focused on getting the big message across. Don't get caught using big words when simple words would do, and do much better. Over thinking what you're trying to write can make the content more complicated, muddling your message.

Write simply. You don't have to write short sentences, but cherish them when you do. Don't pack a sentence with extra adjectives, adverbs and complex phrases because you think it sounds more sophisticated. It's likely to just sound more confusing.

Short sentences have power. Use a short sentence in the midst of longer sentences, and it is the short sentence that stands out. No exclamation point needed.

Converse with the reader, one-on-one. A simple, clear conversational tone engages the reader, and that's what you need to do to turn that reader into a customer.

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