3 Common Writing Roadblocks and How to Tackle Them

Feb 28, 2017 Alisha Gallagher

Oh, the dreaded red pen — or the dreaded Google Drive notification that says your draft has 183 suggested edits and 24 comments. Writers everywhere have all been there — whether it’s engineers and their research papers, professors and their grant applications or public relations practitioners and their contributed articles

Writing takes time, and writing well takes even longer, but there are a few tricks to make it a little easier. Here are three common writing challenges, paired with three tips on how to overcome them so you can tell that red pen (or mouse cursor) to kick back for a while.

  1. If you’re writing in circles: Determine your “why.” Even before you type out your intro, “Webster dictionary defines success as…” (please don’t ever do that), type out your thesis. Be specific, and keep it at the top of your document for easy reference as you write.
    • Good: This article is about tips to improve writing.
    • Better: I’m writing this article to offer simple and actionable suggestions that readers can use today to strengthen their writing.
    • Why: There are already thousands of articles with tips to improve writing. But by clearly defining a “why,” I’m expressing why this piece of content can potentially add value to the writing conversation, which makes it easier to tie the piece together.
  2. If your draft sounds weak: Eliminate passive or unnecessary language. Because I was able to eliminate the passive language that was taking place in this article… you’ve already stopped reading, right? But because I eliminated passive language in this article, you can understand why I’m including this point. Here’s another example - on cutting out extra words:
    • Good: The product is able to connect distributors to their customers.
    • Better: The product connects distributors to their customers.
    • Why: By eliminating “is able to,” the emphasis turns to what the product actually does, not just what it is capable of doing. It’s a stronger sentence and helps the reader better understand what you’re communicating.
  3. If your draft sounds dull: Add color with verbs. Content tone (think blog posts) has turned conversational, even in technical industries. For writing, that means finding ways to be less formal and more approachable. The easiest way to add color to anything you write without adding fluff is by taking a hard look at verb usage.
    • Good: He examined every option before deciding.
    • Better: He pored over every option before deciding.
    • Why: The phrase “pored over” is more descriptive and paints a clearer picture than “examined.” You know what it looks like to pore over something, while examining can take on dozens of forms. Examine, evaluate, improve, attach — those types of words have their place. But if the goal is to convey warmth and personality, consider digging up a substitute.
  4. Bonus tip! If you don’t know where to start: Talk it out. This comes in handy when you’re stuck on a piece of content that requires proficiency with a new subject matter or technical language. You could regurgitate memorized phrases — or you could break it down. Take a minute to imagine you’re telling a friend about the topic. Better yet, find a friend and talk through it. How would you explain it to them? Type that out, then review and refine.

After all of this, even if your first draft still comes back with 183 suggested edits and 24 comments, take time to learn from the edits. Read through each suggestion and comment, and thoughtfully incorporate each one so you don’t make the same mistake again. Your editor will thank you, and it will build confidence in your ability to put together content that makes you proud.

Topics: Content, Writing, How To, PR, Storytelling
Alisha Gallagher

Alisha is an account executive at InkHouse, and works with B2B clients in sustainability, cybersecurity, mobile technology and identity management. Prior to joining InkHouse, she was a marketing manager for a medical technology startup and an editor at a magazine publishing company. For each project she works on, she uses her background in strategy and writing to help clients build relationships with their audiences. She obtained a bachelor’s degree in communications from Brigham Young University, where she also received a music minor and learned Mandarin Chinese.

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