Writing guest posts for publications both improves your credibility as a thought leader and establishes greater awareness of your brand. Although the writer may have the information and insight to craft a great article, writing quality also matters. Since weak prose can undermine an author's goals, here are tips for improving guest essays.
Above all, make sure guest essays are concise and easily understood. One common misconception is that advanced vocabulary and complex sentences impress readers. Wrong! Readers stop reading when they feel confused. Editors do too.
Instead, strive for simple, clear language, avoiding jargon and convoluted sentences. Having a friend read a passage to you out loud can help identify problems. If your friend pauses or, worse, must reread a sentence or phrase, then you should make revisions.
Subheadings also help. As you have been reading this article, your brain has registered that it’s broken into sections. This makes the text more digestible.
High-quality prose eliminates unnecessary words. While tight writing is an acquired skill, a few guidelines can help.
To start, regard articles with suspicion. Do you need that that? Could you delete the the? These parts of speech often are removed without changing a sentence's meaning.
Next, look for subjects that don’t refer to something specific (such as there and it). Look for weak verbs (to be and to have). Every sentence should have an actual subject and a strong, active verb.
This essay's first sentence provides an example: Writing guest posts for a publication both improves your credibility as a thought leader and establishes greater awareness of your brand.
Here was its first draft: Writing guest posts for a publication is a great way both to improve your credibility as a thought leader and establish greater awareness of your brand.
Getting rid of is a great way and making improve and establish the main verbs solidified this sentence. These edits started the article on a stronger note.
Sometimes you can replace a phrase with a single verb. The classic example is using to instead of in order to.
Avoid Adding Words
Look at this sentence: Establishing professional relationships requires setting boundaries, which are essential to a healthy relationship with any client.
The sentence is long. In addition, it almost says the same thing twice. The phrase at the end of the sentence doesn’t add much new content. The writer likely was trying to boost their word count.
Instead look at this revision, which deletes extraneous words and delivers the same substance with increased authority. Establishing healthy professional relationships requires setting boundaries with clients.
How can you transform the first version into the second?
- First, move healthy to gather all the adjectives in one place.
- Then pick a verb. Since requires is a stronger verb than to be, it's the obvious choice.
- The verb requires also contains the idea of something being essential, allowing deletion of that word.
- Finally, making client plural rendered any unnecessary.
If you are having trouble meeting the minimum word-count requirement for an article, then consider elaborating on an idea or adding a new one.
Editors will thank you for deleting adverbs without prompting. This goes double for adverbs that signal an extreme degree of commitment, like very, truly and really.
Writers mistakenly add these hoping to clarify their sentences or make them more engaging. However, prose communicates more gravitas if verbs stand alone.
For example, consider adding an adverb to the first sentence in the previous paragraph: Writers mistakenly add these hoping to clarify their sentences or make them more engaging.
As you can see, mistakenly is unneeded. If you spot a descriptive word that alters the meaning of a verb, ask if the sentence works without it. More times than not, it will.
Avoid Repeating Words, Phrases
Writers often repeat words and phrases in preliminary drafts without realizing it. Look for language you have employed more than once. Consider using the find tool in your word processor to highlight important terms. This will help you spot those that appear too frequently.
Substituting synonyms will help vary your vocabulary. Also pay attention to conjunctions like but and however, changing these as needed helps retain readers’ interest.
These changes may seem minor, but they help quality and establish an intelligent tone, thereby lending greater weight to your message.
Elizabeth Galewski is an account strategist at Otter PR