Professional travel writer and copywriter Jennifer Stevens advocates following 7 steps to improve the quality of your text. Expert copywriter John Forde is a fan of hers.
1. The Necessity Hatchet
Is each of your paragraphs really necessary? Cut those that aren’t. Now read what’s left. Is each of your sentences necessary? Can you get your idea across using fewer of them? If so, trim.
Jennifer Stevens, travel writer, opposite.
2. The Verb Meter
Are your verbs vibrant? Search for the various forms of “to be” (am, is, are, was, were). When you find one, try to replace it with a more active, descriptive verb.
3. The Modifier Measure
Have you really said what you meant to say? Read each sentence and ask yourself, “Are these words in the right order?” “Could a reader misinterpret what I’m saying?” If so, reword or change the order of your words.
4. The Idea Straightener
Do your sentences “look back early”? You want to keep your reader moving forward through your copy. Have you arranged your sentences so old information appears first and new information last? If so, change the order.
5. The Specificity Finder
One of the best ways to engage your reader in your ideas is to make the ideas concrete. You do that by using specifics. Have you slotted in, whenever possible, “93” instead of “many”?
6. The Sentence Saw
Are your sentences short? Have you trimmed away unnecessary words? Do they express one idea each? When you have time, read a book by Ernest Hemingway, Nobel Prize-winning author. Such as The Old Man and the Sea. Hemingway had a spare style. Try to learn from it.
“If I Had More Time, I Would Have Written You a Shorter Letter.” This famous comment has been attributed at various times to Hemingway, Cicero, Voltaire, Mark Twain, and Blaise Pascal. Consensus tends to be with Blaise Pascal, along with this quote: “I have made this letter longer than usual, only because I have not had the time to make it shorter.” Get the message?
7. The Flesch-Kincaid Test
Test your edited copy in Microsoft Word by going into the “Tools” menu and selecting “Spelling and Grammar.” Ideally, you’re aiming for a grade-level score of 8 or below. If you score higher than that, get tools 1-7 out again and tinker a bit more with your copy.
Simple. Clear. Effective.
I highly recommend you print out Jen’s list and run through it every time you write something new.
At least until you memorize all seven of these techniques. Every idea is worth using with all articles you write.
Jen not just a very talented copywriter – with a great track record in financial and travel publishing – she’s used her writing talents in other ways, too.
For instance, she still writes and publishes travel articles regularly. In fact she’s author of “AWAI’s Ultimate Travel Writer’s Program.”
And she puts out her own free newsletter for anybody who’s interested in travel writing too.
If you’re into travel and writing… or just one or the other, you ought to check it out.
Top photo, spectacular Franz Josef glacier in New Zealand’s South Island. Shot from helicopter by Kim Harrison.