Your copy isn’t converting. You’ve written things up, posted them in different places, and now you’re playing the waiting game. Then you re-read what you wrote, or ask a friend to look over it, and you realize your words weren’t as clear as you thought.
What happened? Why did your writing seem to be fine when you published it, and then on a second look, it’s a disaster?
When you write professionally, you might use language that’s too stiff, formal, or disconnected. This is a common problem if you don’t write often or writing isn’t a priority.
If you don't clarify your writing, your readers won’t know what you’re saying. That means people might see that your copy is full of jargon and look for a lawyer instead of your business.
In this post, we’ll talk about how to keep your writing clear. Here’s how to simplify your copy so your audience knows what you’re talking about.
Writing is thinking on paper. Writing clarity means you organize your thoughts in a way that’s logical and easy to follow.
When you write clearly, your customers will know what you mean. That means they’ll know what to expect.
When your customers see clear writing, they can feel secure and confident about their purchase. Making your customers feel that way means no one will mistake you for a lawyer anymore.
Instead, your writing will establish a good first impression of your business. That means your copy will be improving your conversions with every reader.
Here are 9 ways you can improve the clarity of your writing.
Be clear about what you mean. Don’t bury your ideas in a lot of extra words. It’s important to remember that burying your point isn’t the same as teasing it. When you tease a point, you’re still direct and clear.
For example, those clickbait-y pop-up ads that proclaim, “10 secrets to instant weight loss ― You won’t believe number 4” They don’t tell you what the secrets are in the ad, but they’re still direct. You know what they’re promising and where to find it.
Burying your ideas is different. When you bury your ideas, your writer won’t know what you mean, or what point you’re trying to get at. People usually only look at an ad for 33 seconds, so when you’re not direct, they’ll leave before you make your point.
Let’s say you were writing an ad for bananas and wrote:
“A yellow fruit that is high in potassium, bananas are a great snack for you.”
That isn’t likely to catch attention. You don’t wake up in the morning hoping you’ll get a chance at finding a yellow fruit. Your reader will likely have moved on before they got to your point. Instead, you could try:
“Bananas are a great snack. They’re high in potassium, so they’re healthy for you.”
That’s much more likely to keep someone reading. You do think about your eating habits. Leading with the main point, bananas being a great snack, and then adding on the other benefit is much clearer.
Your reader doesn’t see the second ad and think, “Why should I care?” Instead, they’ll think, “Oh, I’ve been looking for a better snack. This would be perfect.” Being concise and not burying the lede ensures your customers will get the full benefit of your writing.
Don’t stuff your copy full of filler. “Just,” “that,” “there is,” and “if” are usually filler words. Adverbs are often a type of filler, as well. Filler words are words you don’t need. Filler words might make logical sense in a sentence, but aren’t necessary.
As a result, they’ll make your writing wordy and lengthy without adding any benefits.
Let’s tackle removing that filler, and then we’ll talk about what can add benefits to your writing. Here are some examples of how to avoid filler words:
“There is a man who stole my bananas” is an example of using “There is” as filler. It creates a too wordy sentence. “A man stole my bananas” gives the exact same information in a more streamlined way.
“We decided that we were going to eat bananas” is another instance of a filler word. Your writing is more concise and clear if you remove “that” and say “we decided we were going to eat bananas”. Even better, you could say, “we decided to eat bananas.”
“If you want to eat a snack, try a banana” is a good example of how “if” can be a filler word.” “Try a banana for a snack” removes the filler, and as a result, it sounds stronger. There’s no waffling about what snack you mean.
Those are some of the filler words to look out for and how you can avoid them. Most writing platforms have a “search” function, where you can look for a specific word. Keep a list of filler you catch yourself using frequently, and use that to check your writing for them.
You might find it cuts your writing shorter, but that’s ok. We’re trying to eliminate words that don’t benefit you.
Strong verbs do add benefit to your writing. If you can’t cut an adverb, replace it with a strong verb instead. Avoid using adverbs as much as possible in your copy. (Hint: you rarely need an adverb.)
For instance, “leap” vs “jump quickly”. One gives you a crystal clear picture in your mind, the other sounds bland. By using strong verbs instead of adverbs, your audience can envision themselves interacting with your business.
Putting those strong verbs in visual copy is especially powerful for creating that picture in your audience’s mind. Visual copy is singular lines of copy that transport the reader to a fictional, but relatable scene. In other words, it’s telling your audience a story.
Stories can draw your audience in and make them feel as though they’re really there, experiencing what you’re describing. Unfortunately, if your visual copy is full of adverbs and fillers, your reader won’t feel that way at all.
By eliminating filler where you find it, you’ll make your writing less wordy. Less wordy writing means your readers don’t get lost. The opposite will happen. They’ll get drawn in, and you’ll be making the most of the space your copy has.
Above all, removing filler will give your writing a greater sense of professionalism, which improves your brand image.
Avoid using the passive voice in your writing as much as possible. Same as with adverbs ― the passive voice is also rarely necessary. It’s wordy and convoluted, making your writing long and hard to follow.
Worst of all, the passive voice sounds less confident than the active voice. The way the passive voice structures a sentence sounds like you’re stalling. It gives the sense that you’ve been caught off guard and are writing while you try to think of what to say.
“Your health can be improved by bananas” is weaker than “Bananas are healthy”. Not only is the first sentence twice the words, but it also sounds less confident. It sounds like someone interrupted you in the middle of a sentence and said, “Quick, what can you do to improve your health?”
It gives the sense of “well, I guess bananas will do”.
The second sentence is clear and confident. It gives the sense of “I’m certain this will improve your health.” Conveying that clarity and confidence in your writing will rub off on your customers, making them trust you.
The writing tool Hemingway is great to help if you struggle with overusing the passive voice or adverbs. You copy and paste your writing into the site and it highlights any adverbs or use of the passive voice.
By keeping your writing in the active voice, your sentences will be strong. Your readers will see that you’re confident in your product, and that’ll make them feel confident, too.
Use positive language in your writing instead of negative language. When you use negative language, your audience can be confused by what you mean. More importantly, negative language can leave your readers with a negative impression of your brand.
If you say, “Bananas don’t taste as bad as broccoli”, your sentence leaves your audience with the idea that bananas taste bad (as if -- we all know bananas are the most superior fruit). This sentence also alienates those members of your target audience who like broccoli.
Saying “Bananas are delicious” doesn’t have any of those issues. You’re telling your readers clearly what to expect from bananas. You’re giving them positive ideas about bananas and your brand. They’ll see you as someone direct and positive.
Using that direct and positive language will make your writing clear and easy to follow. Best of all, you won’t run the risk of being the “bummer” or the “scary” brand.
Using negative language can leave people feeling down. Like in the example above, the negative language of “not as bad” could make your audience feel there’s no way for them to enjoy eating healthy. If even bananas can only be described as “not as bad”, what hope is there?
Using negative language can also give people the impression that you’re fear-mongering.
Your brand looks like someone that doesn’t have anything good to offer and has to tear other people down instead. Your reader feels like you’re trying to get them to buy by saying, “Look- something worse will happen if you don’t choose me.”
When you use positive language, you avoid those problems. You don’t give off a hopeless vibe -- you’re showing them how much better their lives can be. You’re highlighting your product’s good qualities instead of only highlighting someone else’s bad ones.
Using positive language means your audience will have a good first impression of your brand.
Writing should never make your readers feel you’re speaking down to them, so it’s important to know who you’re writing to. If you water things down too much for your target audience, you can come off as condescending. That’ll turn people off to your brand and your message.
What if you were writing to advertise a knife to chefs, for instance? You don’t need to, and shouldn’t, define “julienne”. A chef already knows what “julienne” means, and you defining it will be a waste of words. It could make them feel like you think you know their job better than they do.
If you were advertising the same knife to beginner home cooks, whether you include the word at all would depend on the type of copy you’re writing.
In something brief, like a social media ad, it would be better to omit it in favor of a more common word. In something longer, like a blog, you could include and define the word, since your audience likely won’t know it.
Knowing who you’re writing to means knowing which words you can use easily, and which words would be too formal or complicated.
It’s important to be consistent with your grammar, especially when you’re making a list, comparing things, or combining two thoughts. If you aren’t consistent, your writing will seem choppy and grating.
Breaking the flow of your writing will confuse your readers and distract them from your message. And more than that, it’ll take away from your professionalism. Here’s a couple of examples so you can see what I mean.
When making a list, consistent structure would be “He likes writing, petting cats, and eating bananas” instead of “He likes to write, to pet cats, and eating bananas.”
When comparing things, consistent structure looks like “He likes to write as much as he likes to eat bananas” instead of “He likes writing as much as he likes to eat bananas.”
When combining two thoughts, an example of consistent structure is “He is writing and eating a banana” instead of “He is writing and eats a banana”.
Staying consistent comes naturally to most native speakers. To make sure that comes through in your writing, you can highlight your verbs when you edit. Highlighting your verbs will help you focus on them so you can check that they match.
This extra step of double-checking can be what saves your writing, and your business, from looking amateur and sloppy.
Make sure there aren’t any ideas in your writing that come out of nowhere. Your writing should flow smoothly from one idea to the next. Your readers should be able to tell where each sentence is coming from and why you organized your writing this way.
Imagine seeing an ad that said, “Bananas are healthy for you. You shouldn’t eat chips as a snack.” It’s not too difficult to make the connection, but it still sounds like two separate statements. You want your writing to sound connected and cohesive.
This statement also seems to be shaming the reader. It sounds like you’re saying, “What a terrible choice you made. You should know better.” Not only is your writing not cohesive, but you’re running the risk of offending your reader and driving them away.
On the other hand, imagine an ad that says, “You should eat more bananas — they’re healthy for you. Unlike potato chips, they’re high in nutrients and low in fat.” This time, the choice between two snacks is clear, and the reasons why bananas are better are highlighted.
The writing gets rid of the offensive language, instead focusing on the topic -- bananas. The chips don’t seem central in this piece. They’re used to support the idea that you should eat more bananas.
When your audience can follow your writing’s logic, they’ll perceive you and your brand as reasonable. People feel comfortable buying from someone they feel is reasonable and rational.
Nothing will make your writing unclear more quickly than a double negative. Double negatives are wordy and difficult to decipher. They’re also not true to the way people would speak and will make your writing sound ignorant or scammy.
“Bananas are not unhealthy” is confusing.
Is this trying to say that bananas are healthy? Or just that they’re less unhealthy than other options? It’s also hard to read because to make any kind of sense of it you have to hold what seems like conflicting ideas in your mind at once.
“Bananas are healthy” is much better. There are no extra words, and there’s no confusion about what you mean. It’s easy to read because it’s direct and simple.
Giving your reader a clear concept will improve your conversions. Your readers won’t be confused about what you’re saying. They won’t feel like you’re giving them the run-around or trying to scam them.
This helps you build trust with your customers before they even get to your website or give you a call.
Nouns can hurt your writing in two ways. First, you could string too many together. Or you could be overusing the noun forms of verbs, which is called “nominalization”.
When you string too many words together, it can be so confusing that your audience has to read and re-read a sentence to make sense of it. Like when you’re out to dinner and a waiter lists off specials so tightly together that you don’t know when they’ve finished the first and moved onto the second.
Here’s an example: “This report explains our investment growth stimulation projects.” It’s a sentence you have to struggle through, and even then, you feel a little unsure about whether you actually know what it’s trying to say.
Instead, you can replace one of the nouns with a verb to break the sentence up. Like, “This report explains our projects to stimulate growth in investments.” Much easier, right?
Replacing a noun with a verb is the best way to fix nominalization, too.
“The implementation of the plan was successful” is an example. It’s roundabout and feels clunky. It’s easy to fix, just replace the noun form of “implement” with the verb form. Then your sentence will read, “the plan was implemented successfully.”
Switching out nouns for verbs is an easy way to make your writing clearer and more direct.
You can keep an eye on which nouns need to be verbs by reading your writing aloud or having a friend read it to you.
Working with a partner can be more helpful than doing it yourself. Your friend won’t already know what you have in mind, so they can catch things you might miss.
Another way is to look for your verbs in your sentence. If your verb is standing lonely off at the end of your sentence, you should consider restructuring.
Keeping your nouns and verbs working together is another easy way to clean your writing up and make it sound more professional.
These tips will keep your writing clear, not cluttered. Clear writing is easy to read and persuasive. Your readers will see it as a reflection of your thoughts, and see you as someone intelligent and reasonable.
That positive relationship is easy to cultivate. By adding some extra care in choosing your words, you can communicate your passion and professionalism in a small package.
Clear writing makes you shine, and that attracts customers which means more conversions. You won’t have to worry about someone reading your writing and mistaking you for a lawyer ever again.
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