Matcha Senior Editor James Dziezynski shares tips for improving the quality of your blog writing.
One of the best pieces of advice I received from an editor was, “The first copy you hand into your editor better not be your first copy.” This advice seems intrinsically simple for professional writers, but when deadlines loom and you’ve wrung the last drops of creativity from your imagination, it’s very easy to hand in “good enough” copy—even for experienced writers.
What separates great writers from good writers aren’t just linguistic skills, it’s a high standard of quality, regardless if the topic is thrilling or banal. One of the absolute best resources for non-fiction writers of all levels is On Writing Well by William Zinsser. I read the book on a regular basis, even with 20 years of professional writing under my belt. Years ago, I made a checklist that applies to every bit of writing I produce that was inspired by Zinsser’s book. These tips are sure to make your editors happy— and happy editors mean more assignments!
- Always read your copy aloud to yourself, or better yet, to a trusted audience (for me, that’s often my dogs). This is a great way to catch repeated words, clumsy flow, and repeated concepts.
- While we all should write long before our deadlines are due, the reality of many creatives is that they work best with a ticking clock. If you’re having a hard time with an assignment, don’t wait for inspiration—write what you can, give the article some time (1 – 3 days is great) then revisit it. Many writers find they will mull their words away from the computer and return to dial in better copy.
- Please proofread your work, especially the stuff you write at 2 in the morning.
- Brevity is king! This is a challenge when writing about outdoors. Often, we want to put into words the incredible emotional reaction we’ve had, so paring down your words can be difficult. Trust that your readers will channel your enthusiasm and find a balance between accurate descriptions and superfluous words.
- Avoid cliches and focus on describing the experience. Empty calorie phrases like “jaw-dropping” and “awe-inspiring” are a lazy way to impart the grandeur of a scene. Rather than say it’s a “jaw-dropping view”, describe what you actually see: “From the summit, deep-green pine trees undulate across the landscape, fading into shadowy valleys” is much more moving than “Views from the top are awe-inspiring”.
- Finally, don’t be afraid to ask your editors for help and feedback. Editors and writers are on the same team, though at times it may not always feel like that. Never be afraid to reach out to your editors when you have questions. One of the best ways to prove you are serious about your writing is to ask your editors what they liked and what you could improve. This shows initiative to grow and a commitment to creating the best content possible.
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Featured image provided by Jake Wheeler