Whether you’re a blogger or not, you undoubtedly have to write at some point in your life. If you’re doing research for school, writing emails to coworkers and clients or drafting your weekly blog post, there’s always going to be something you need to write. And, while you read and re-read your writing to make sure everything is perfect, sometimes things fall through the cracks. Or maybe you’ve been staring at something for so long, you’re not even sure if it’s correct!
The copy on your blog or website is a reflection of your business and is what people will judge your capability on, so it’s important to make a good impression! If you have a lot of grammar errors or your writing seems boring, you may be losing customers or clients.
Many years ago, I had a writing teacher who taught me things I use to this very day to keep my writing interesting and with as few grammar mistakes as possible. As my teacher instructed us to say, “I have come from the Den of Scholars, and I have suffered greatly.” I’m going to share with you three simple tricks to improve your writing style and grammar to keep your readers engaged and coming back for more.
1. No Two Sentences Start with the Same Word
In each paragraph, every sentence should begin with a different word. This strategy forces you to switch up the structure of your sentences to prevent every sentence starting with words like “the” and “if”. It gets repetitive to read sentence after sentence that starts the same way, so by using a different word to start each sentence you will think harder about what you’re writing and if it’s important. Using different words to start each sentence also increases the vocabulary that you’re using, and if you stop to think about what you’re writing, you may come up with better, more descriptive words to use.
Check: Go through your writing and circle the first word of each sentence. This makes the words stand out and ensures that you’re not missing any of the sentences. If any of the sentences begin with the same word, change the sentence so it uses a different word. Below I’ve provided an example using the first paragraph in this section.
2. Only 50% of Sentences Can Contain a “Be” Verb
Am, Is, Are, Was, Were, Be, Being, Been
Say those words out loud, and repeat them often. These are all the different forms of the verb “to be”. We use these words in most of the sentences we write and things we say everyday. However, there are SO many words out there, why not use one that’s actually more descriptive of what you are trying to say? Only half the sentences in each paragraph should contain a “be” verb. If the paragraph has an odd number of sentences, go ahead and round up. By having to think of different verbs, your sentences become more descriptive through actionable verbs that pertain to the sentence.
Check: After fixing the first words of all your sentences, go through and highlight ever “be” verb in the paragraph. On the side, write the number like a fraction: # of be verbs/# of sentences. If the fraction exceeds half, start reworking your sentences to use different verbs. Below is an example of the previous paragraph, where I’ve circled the first words and highlighted the “be” verbs.
Don’t forget: contractions can contain be verbs. Contractions such as “you’re” and “that’s” mean “you are” and “that is”, so you must include those when counting “be” verbs.
Here is a before and after example of a rewriting a sentence without a “be” verb. Doesn’t this paint a better picture in your mind?
Before: Sara was happy when her professor canceled class for the day.
After: Sara felt relieved and delighted when her professor canceled class for the day.
3. Backwards Proofreading
Spell check is great, buuuuut it’s not always accurate. Sometimes it surprises me that spell check thinks correctly spelled words are incorrect, so it makes me wonder how many misspelled words it’s missing. Technology is helpful in so many ways, but for important papers, emails and other things you’re writing, you’ll need to proofread the old-fashioned way: on your own! However, proofreading something that you’ve written is deceiving, because you may not realize something is misspelled because you’ve read it so many times.
When you’re finished writing, print it out so you can review a hard copy. Then, start from the end of your writing and read it backwards. Doing this takes each word out of context because it doesn’t make sense to read backwards. This makes you really read each and every word, and you’ll be surprised at how the spelling errors jump out at you!
- No 2 sentences start with the same word. You will use different sentence structures by doing this to mix things up.
- Only 1/2 the sentences can contain be verbs. Get creative with your vocabulary and use more colorful and descriptive verbs.
- Proofread backwards. Read your entire piece of writing backwards, which will make you focus on the individual words and not the entire sentence so you’ll catch all of your spelling errors.