Good writing is clear, useful, and friendly. Some sentences may be a little plain or just the facts, ma’am , but that’s okay. A straightforward tone rarely hurts the reading experience, as long as the information is accurate.

The hardest part, of course, is making sense to someone outside your own head. To write clearly, you need to understand your subject, organize your thoughts, and present each point in a logical way. That takes a combination of research, patience, and clearheaded thinking. Style is another important layer that we’ll touch on here and explore in upcoming chapters. Your style is there to help you convey your message, which means it’s secondary to the message itself.

So let’s get to good first and bring in style later. Good means solid, not glamorous, cute, or catchy. Practice these guidelines regularly:

  • Be clear.
  • Be concise.
  • Be honest.
  • Be considerate.
  • Write how you speak.

Let’s work through each of them individually. Rules and guidelines can be a little dry, but we’ll try to make this enjoyable.

Be clear

Writing is almost always about clarity. Of course you want to be clear! But if you’re under a deadline, it can be hard to spot what’s confusing to readers. Here are a few practical tips.

Remember that you’re the expert

Don’t assume that readers will understand what you’re writing about. You know your business and your website better than they do. Invite them in as if you’re striking up a conversation or telling a story. You don’t have to dumb things down, but you do need to help readers skim and follow along. Think about what you’d tell a friend or a neighbor if they were learning about the topic you’re covering.

Keep it simple

If there’s a shorter word to say what you mean, use it.

LongerBetter
compose, authorwrite
discoverfind
incentivizeencourage, reward
objectivegoal
obtainget
optimizeimprove
purchase, acquirebuy
retainkeep
utilize, leverageuse

If you have to use a technical term that people may not recognize, briefly define it or explain it in plain language.

Keep your writing as close to speech as possible. One way to do that is to read your work aloud and see if it sounds like you. For example, do you ever hear people say “inimitable” or “natch” in person? Yikes. If it feels forced, rephrase it. Another way to write like you talk is to use contractions, which crop up naturally in conversation.