Writing tips

Master the basics in your writing – and then go with the flow

By 5 April 2022 August 11th, 2022 No Comments

Want to master the basics in your copywriting? By mastering the basics, you can become a pro. Let me show you how with this metaphorical story…

Pat McNamara is a former special forces soldier who you do not want to mess with.

But he told Can You Survive this Podcast about a fight he got into at a concert where three drunk men thought they could take him on.

He raised his hands and said, “you don’t want any of this.”

They attacked him anyway – and regretted it later.

But he didn’t defend himself with a special move that was taught to him in Delta Force.

He threw two simple punches, landed them well, and forced the men to back off. 

“Mastering the basics is what makes you advanced,” he said, explaining that his time in the special forces was mostly about practising core skills until they were second nature.

Master the basics in your writing

I’m a writer, not a fighter, but I took a lot of inspiration from that example. 

Because it’s a reminder that there is no special knowledge or secret move that will unlock superior skills. 

It’s all about mastering the basics and having those be your superpower.

So, here are three writing basics that I focus on daily that help me level up my work.

mastering the basics in your writing

Writing flows easier when you focus on the basics. 

Use active voice

Confidence is infectious. 

Writing in an active voice tells the reader that you know what you are talking about and is far more engaging than writing in a passive voice.

Active voice means that the subject of a sentence performs the verb’s action – the verb is the doing word.

In an active voice, the man walked the dog. In passive, the dog is walked by the man.

See the difference? Active is strong, clear, and compelling. Passive is careful, and bland.

A cheat for active voice is to remember this order: subject, verb, object.

Use simple declarative sentences when writing

I love this. I hate that.

When you write in a simple, direct way, the reader understands exactly what you mean.

This is especially important if you are a corporate or technical company!

If you write in a wishy-washy way that goes on far too long, you risk losing their attention, or worse, confusing what you are trying to say, and can you see how this sentence is going on too long and should probably stop?!

Use a mix of long and short sentences.

This is a good technique for creating rhythm.

Just like music, writing benefits when we mix things up a little and take the reader on a journey.

The best dramas have ups and downs, fast parts and slow. Your writing should create this kind of drama.

mastering the basics in your writing

If you get stuck typing on a computer, switch to a notebook. You might be surprised what happens! 

Cut the widow words

This is a pet peeve of mine.

When you write a long sentence that, when it gets published, there’s what’s called a widow word.

A widow word is one word starting a new line. The name originates from print newspapers, and they are the bane of any copyeditor’s life.

Words on a page look best when they are neatly organised.

Your eyes should fall down the page.

But a widow word can leave you hanging. 

The best way to get rid of them is to tweak your sentences. Cut a word. Break up the text. Keep a watchful eye out.

Go back over your copy and review it to make sure it looks visually appealing before you hit publish.

Speak clearly when your write

Finally, when I’m writing anything I always remind myself to keep it simple.

A long, complex sentence with lots of punctuation can lose a reader. It’s the sort of thing I reserve for when I’m writing fiction, and even then, I’m careful.

What matters most is meaning. 

When we keep things simple, we’re far more likely to get our ideas across. 

So, like Pat McNamara, do the basics well, and you’ll stay out of trouble.

Need help to master the basics in your writing?

If you want to learn more about writing for your business, get in touch. We can work with you to map out the content strategy from your communications. Let our copywriting firepower light you up! 

And let us know in the comments – what’s the one thing you struggle the most with when you’re writing?