I recently read the classic guide - On Writing Well by Willian Zinsser.
Here are the 10 most memorable tips that I picked up from that gold mine:
Use short words over longer ones that sound fancy (like "help" over "assistance" and "many" over "numerous").
Vary the length of sentences to create a rhythm. But use short sentences more than long sentences.
Use short paragraphs over longer ones.
Use active verbs over passive verbs - they are easier to visualize.
Start more sentences with strong words (like "But", "Yet", "Still" and "Instead").
Remove useless adverbs and adjectives.
Use contractions like "I'll", "can't" and "won't". But avoid using "I'd" because it can mean both "I had" and "I would".
Remove the qualifiers that dilute your writing (like "a little", "sort of", "kind of", "pretty much").
It's safer to not use semicolons - they are antique.
Remove words that don't serve any purpose (like "I would like to add" and "It is interesting to note").
Remember, writing catches the eye before it reaches the brain.
Most of us are still prisoners of this lesson hammered in our head by the composition teachers of our youth:
"INTRODUCTION - Tell them what you are going to tell them.
BODY - Tell them.
CONCLUSION - Then, tell them what you told them."
But think about your readers. Are you repeating because you think they're too dumb to get the point in one go?
Nobody has the time to read an introduction to your main content. Nor does someone have the time to read a compressed summary of the thing you just told them.
Here's a better framework:
Start with a captivating lead. Present a paradox, an unusual idea, some humour, an interesting fact or a question.
Then, keep the momentum. At the end of each sentence, put yourself in the reader's shoes and ask yourself - "Do I want to keep reading this?"
If you have presented all the facts and made the point you wanted to make, look for the nearest exit.
Writing is a skill that's challenging to master. So, don't be too hard on yourself.
Chances are you have not studied it as one of your core competencies. You are a programmer, a designer, a manager or a creator. Therefore, when it comes to writing, all your anxieties, your insecurities and your Imposter Syndrome are justified.
But writing is also far too important a skill to surrender to these monsters.
Especially in the 2020s.
Therefore I created this Clear Writing, Clear Thinking series. Check out previous articles in this series to learn how you can tackle the hurdles you face as a new writer on the Internet.
You can also sign up for the Clear Writing, Clear Thinking email workshop to get everything over email.
Along with the lessons, the workshop also contains small tasks that you can complete to practice what you learned.
I'm giving it all away for free!