Give your writing a workout: writing tips from the Confident Writing community

by Joanna on January 28, 2008

Wouldn’t it be great to be a lean, mean, writing machine?

Too right.

This month’s compilation of writing tips from the Confident Writing community is inspired by Brad Shorr’s question, with a whole host of ways to give our writing greater impact.

Cut the word flab

I always try to eliminate adjectives. It seems to cut down on word flab. Also, something I picked up from Deb at Punctuality Rules - eliminate the word “that” from your sentences. Great trimming technique.

Brad Shorr from WordSellInc

Cutting out “that” is a great suggestion - thanks Brad and -Deb. I’ve been trying it myself and it works a treat - but still some way to go (just in case any of you are tempted to go looking for them!)

Get into training

Conditioning your writing muscles is similar to conditioning your body. Exercise becomes habit as you commit to a regular engagement. Muscles become more toned and stronger as you condition. Best of all no gym membership required. ;-)

Karen Swim
from Words For Hire

Trust your instinct

The technique I try to use (assuming I have the luxury of time) to know my post is finished is when I’ve set it aside overnight, re-read it in the morning, and think to myself, “Bingo!” (or something like that).

It’s an almost subliminal feeling, that I captured what I wanted to say as best I could. You probably know what I mean, right? You just… know, because it “clicks”.

Robert Hruzek from Middle Zone Musings

Proof read for confidence

Another way to
gain some comfort, when hitting send makes panic arise, is to proofread — three times minimum. I find that to be extremely helpful in calming my nerves.

Melissa Donovan from Writing Forward

Focus on simplicity

Not only do we have to get rid of the handles under our ribs, but we also have to get a good handle on “simplicity beyond complexity.” C.S. Lewis.

Robyn McMaster
from Brain Based Biz


I chose a picture, included a quote by Einstein and then asked my visitors a question.
Now that was paring things down. I’ve had some great responses including yours and now it has prompted me to write another post that builds on this. One thing leads to another and I keep experimenting as I know you do… ;-) Experimenting leads to adventure and discovery!

Robyn McMaster at Brain Based Biz

(I’m including two of Robyn’s because she went off and put a writing idea into practice – then came back and shared what happened!)

Be human

Be human - Your readers want to learn about your mistakes, as well as your successes

Catherine L from Catherine Lawson’s Business Advice Blog

Catherine’s tip was commendably brief because it was written ‘twitter style’ in a competition at Problogger.
Congratulations to Catherine on winning the competition, but not just that, following up her win by visiting and commenting on the sites of the other bloggers who took part. That’s what I call pro-blogging :-)

Write with passion

Can I echo Lorelle’s words? She says, “Write with passion” and I have found that there is really NO better expression!

Like you said, people can tell whether we are happy or tired when we blog. So if you write with passion, I am sure that will shine through too! :D

Pelf from The Giving Hands

Learn something new

No matter how wonderful a writer is, they can always improve, switch things up, learn something new, and provide a fresh feel to their words.

Michele from Writing the Cyber Highway

Thanks to all of you for a great set of tips, and thanks to everyone who’s stopped by and left a comment at the blog this month. Even if I haven’t included your comment here (they don’t always work as quotable tips) each and every comment helps me to improve, switch things up and provide a fresh feel to my words. Thank you.

Joanna Young, The Confident Writing Coach
Because our words count

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{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Brad Shorr 01.28.08 at 1:04 pm

Joanna, you’re so innovative here, with how you build a post from community comments. All these tips are helpful, too, and it’s interesting how everybody approaches the question from a different angle. Melissa’s idea about disciplined proofreading will be especially helpful for me - thanks, Melissa.

Robyn 01.28.08 at 2:55 pm

Joanna, you have a real treasure chest here for a great writing workout. Hmmm… now that I muse a little on this, I need to go and edit out my “that’s.” “That” can be a crutch. I need to get hot and use nouns instead! What a way to challenge my brain this a.m.!

“It” and “There” bring problematics, too. Try knocking out “It” and “There” to make writing even more vibrant!

J. Erik Potter 01.28.08 at 7:16 pm

I had to laugh at “that”. . .guilty as charged. Funny thing is, I’ve been fighting “that” one since my undergrad days.

Thanks for the tips, Joanna.

--Deb 01.28.08 at 7:51 pm

Being brief-always one of my bugbears!

CatherineL 01.28.08 at 8:40 pm

Joanne - what brilliant tips. And thank you for including mine. I’ll definitely be checking out the blogs of each tipster you’ve mentioned. Thank you.

Joanna Young 01.28.08 at 9:26 pm

@ Brad, I’m not sure it was that innovative, when I read some of the comments here I just think “I have to share that!” (And your “lean, mean writing machine” line has been running through my mind all month… sadly someone else is already using the brand…)

@ Robyn, once you get started you might find there are “thats” we use for nouns, and “thats” that we use when we could just say “thats” we use… and those are the ones I find really pesky!

@ Erik, don’t worry, I’m sure we all have our own writing vices… I know I do… And there’s one reader I know they’ll never get past - but at least he e-mails me privately rather than telling me here (it’s my dad!)

@- Deb Oh no! I thought you were teaching us!

Actually I wanted to include your comment about the eyebrows on the house, it makes me smile each time I read it, but I couldn’t find a way to make it a ‘tip’. Maybe I’ll do a compilation of ‘anti-tips’ some time :-)

@ Catherine, well I really wanted to include some of your contributions and suggestions, you have been a most generous commenter this month. I really appreciate it and am glad the problogger competition helped us to make the connection


Amy 01.28.08 at 9:35 pm

Thanks for these tips! :)

Joanna Young 01.28.08 at 9:49 pm

My pleasure Amy :-)

I love picking up the tips and suggestions from the readers round here, and I wanted to pass them on to a wider audience too

Thanks for stopping by


Michele L. Tune - Writing the Cyber Highway 01.29.08 at 7:19 pm


What a wonderful idea, sharing these tips from your readers! You’re always so smart. :-)

I hadn’t noticed Brad’s comment before so I’m glad you included it in this post. Just last night I was deleting the word “that” from sentences! It does make a sentence look better.


Joanna Young 01.29.08 at 11:29 pm

Hi Michele, you know that’s one of the main reasons I like doing these ‘tips’ round-ups, it’s a great way to share the material that would otherwise get lost in the comment box. One of the downsides of our dependence on RSS feeds… that and our busy lives of course!


Jeanne Dininni 01.31.08 at 9:15 am


You’ve done a masterful job compiling all these insights from around the blogosphere into a solid, meaty post that all of us can learn from!

Great post!

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