Four words to cut from your writing to instantly improve your impact
Want your writing to have more impact? Cut these four words
Just as we pepper our speech with filler words like UM, LIKE, SO, and BASICALLY, we do the same with our writing – often without even realising.
Here are four words to cut from your writing to improve impact and clarity.
REALLY and VERY
These are called qualifiers. They may feel like they’re strengthening your message, but they usually have the opposite effect.
Avoid using two words where you can use one.
VERY ANGRY with FURIOUS
VERY BIG with HUGE
VERY SMALL with TINY
You get the picture.
This quote from Dead Poets’ Society sums it up nicely. “Avoid using the word ‘very’ because it’s lazy. A man is not very tired, he is exhausted. Don’t use very sad, use morose.”
If you can’t think of a stronger word, take out VERY or REALLY.
Tune into this one and you’ll be amazed how often you use it. It’s often particularly prevalent in emails:
❌ “I’m JUST checking to see how you got on with my quote.”
✅ “I’m checking to see how you got on with my quote.”
❌ “I’ll JUST leave it with you.”
✅ “I’ll leave it with you.”
❌ “JUST let me know what you think.”
✅ “Let me know what you think.”
Ditch it. You’ll instantly sound more confident.
Finally, THAT – a filler word that’s often unnecessary.
If the sentence makes sense without the word THAT, delete it.
❌ “I checked THAT the document was approved.”
✅ “I checked the document was approved.”
❌ “She told me THAT it was great.”
✅ “She told me it was great.”
❌ “The website copy THAT you wrote for me.”
✅ “The website copy you wrote for me.”
Which of these are you guilty of?
Engage, inform, inspire: 10 top tips for writing better social media posts
Social media is a great way to raise awareness of your business. Platforms such as LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook are free, available 24/7 and have the potential of global reach. And with the average Brit spending up to 2.5 hours on social each day, the possibilities are endless.
Yet despite all the positives, it can be hard to get your voice heard – and your posts read! – among the chatter. Here are 10 tips to help you write better social media posts.
- Choose your platform
“Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, YouTube, Pinterest… I don’t have time!”
Damn right! Social media can be a huge time suck if you don’t keep it in check – and besides, you have bills to pay and deadlines to meet!
Trying to master every platform is a huge mistake. Instead, pick one or two where your target clients hang out and focus your attention there. As Steve Jobs famously said: “Do not try to do everything. Do one thing well.”
- You do you
Your tone of voice should reflect your brand wherever your customers find you. Trying to be something you’re not is exhausting (I speak from experience – but that’s a whole other post).
Being true to yourself helps you to attract the right clients. For example, don’t aim for serious and formal if you’re naturally warm, friendly and somewhat chaotic. And sure, if you’re edgy and outspoken you may put people off – but those are not your people.
- Be more human, less robot
Whether you’re business to business (B2B) or business to consumer (B2C), remember you’re a person trying to help another person.
Use clear, conversational language – you’re and isn’t trump you are and is not – and avoid jargon, acronyms, clichés and business speak (say no to blue-sky thinking!).
Keep it simple, stupid (rude!) is good advice whatever you’re writing, but it’s particularly true of social media, where potential customers are used to scanning and scrolling fast!*
Remember, you have milliseconds to grab your audience’s focus so get straight to the point. Aim for an attention-grabbing, thought-provoking first line (also called a hook) or headline followed by short, easily digestible bites of information. Edit ruthlessly to cut unnecessary words, and consider using emojis as bullets to help your text stand out.
*According to research by Chartbeat, 55% of web pages get less than 15 seconds of attention.
- Get emotional
Martin Luther King once said, “If you talk to a man using a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to a man in his language, that goes to his heart.”
Pronouns aside, it’s worth keeping in mind. Aim to trigger an emotional – heart – response and you’re far more likely to make a lasting impression.
To quote Seth Godin: “People do not buy goods or services. They buy relations, stories and magic.” And magic sure doesn’t come from features and benefits.
- Keep it personal
When you’re told to write as if you’re talking directly to your audience, it’s easy to imagine addressing a group. Instead, think of your writing as a direct conversation with an individual and address the reader as you. (We’re all more likely to engage when we feel like someone is speaking directly to us.)
If you’re a company of one, I’d recommend using I and me in your writing, rather than we and us* – and avoid the indirectness of terms such as ‘the company’ or ‘the client’.
*I explain why in detail in Survival Skills for Freelancers.
- Include a call to action
Social platforms are a two-way street, not a broadcast media. Finish your post with a poll or question to encourage your audience to respond. Direct readers to your website or a landing page for more info, or invite them to sign up to your newsletter. Either way, make sure they know how to contact you if they need to.
PRO TIP: think about including links to relevant pages on your website or related blogs, if appropriate.
- Remember: it’s not about you!
There’s nothing more off-putting than the hard sell in social media posts. “Hello, I’m a copywriter – let me write your website!” is more likely to provoke an unfollow than an enquiry! Instead of using your posts to talk about your skills and achievements, put yourself in your customer’s shoes. What problem do they have that you can solve with your product or service? What can you help them achieve? Address a need and you’ll get a far better response.
As with all kinds of copywriting, it’s better to show than to tell. Your customers don’t care that you pride yourself on your excellent customer service. Flip it to show what that means for the reader: fast delivery times, loyalty discounts, 24/7 support, etc.
- Prove it!
We all love to feel part of something bigger than ourselves – and if the community we’re part of recommends a company, product or service they love, we’re more likely to invest in it ourselves.
This is the concept of social proof – just one of the 6 principles of persuasion identified by Robert Cialdini in his popular book, Influence. Keep this in mind when you’re writing your posts. Can you build in stats on how many people have ordered your star product, or quotes from happy customers?
- Check, check and check again
Finally, if your website is your shopfront, social media is your window dressing. Yes, it’s less formal than a website, but that’s no excuse for sloppiness. Your posts may not be seen for long but they’re out there forever, and spelling mistakes, typos, bad grammar and poorly written copy reflect badly on your personal or company brand.
Always check your updates before posting, whether it’s a lengthy LinkedIn article or a ten-word tweet.
If you post frequently (and you should – consistency and regularity are key to social success) think about hiring a copywriter, social media manager and/or proofreader to help you write better social media posts. It’ll save you time and money in the long-run, and could increase your chances of success – which is why we’re all here, right?