Herbie’s top 10 tips for writing

Herbie wants to be a writer. He has been with Valuable Content on work experience this week, and we think he has a very bright future. In this article he shares some useful writing tips – a few lessons you may have forgotten from your school days.

Before my work experience with Sonja, I had no idea of the amount of time and effort people must put into their companies. From reading her book, I began to understand the depth which people go into in order to ensure their company is able to thrive in such competitive markets. From distributing content using social media to the importance of SEO, it seems that people leave no stone uncovered in terms of optimising their business.

So I am shocked that despite this enormous investment of time and effort, many people are still making the most basic of grammatical errors. The sorts of errors that despite being small, could potentially do huge damage to a company’s credibility.

How I can help

To tackle this problem, I’m going to take you back to school, and share with you my top ten tips for writing.

1. Know your ‘their’, ‘they’re’ and ‘there

  • Use there when referring to a place. E.g “Over there by the tree”
  • Use their to indicate possession. E.g “My friends ate their lunch”
  • Use they’re when shortening from they are. E.g “They’re innocent”

2. Know ‘your’ from ‘you’re’

  • Use your to indicate possession. E.g “Your trainers are blue”
  • Use you’re as a contraction of you are. E.g “You’re reading this at the moment”

3. It’s vs. its

  • Use it’s as a contraction of it is. E.g “It’s difficult to write an essay”
  • Use its to indicate possession. E.g “The cat licked its paws”

4. Paragraph effectively

Unless you want your reader to feel like they’re wading through a swamp of words, paragraph your writing. Each paragraph should raise another point.

5. Cut out the jargon

People will almost always be visiting your website looking to solve a problem they have. So skip the technicalities and get to the point.

6. Be vivid

Don’t allow your writing to fall into the trap of becoming a monotone lecture. Use emotive verbs to add speed and poignancy. Swoop, boost, and soar.

7. Make them think

People don’t like being lectured to. Involve the reader by asking a question. It’s a great way to engage them further.

8. Vary your sentences

Cramming lots of information into a huge sentence littered with commas is a sure way to lose your reader’s interest. Imitate natural speech with different sentence structures to keep your writing varied.

9. Headlines are handy

If people are looking for a specific piece of information, it’s likely that they’ll skim read your writing. Including headlines makes it far easier for the reader to do this.

10. Edit, edit, edit

After writing, leave it for a few minutes and then come back to it to edit. This allows you to approach your writing from the reader’s point of view. It will also help you to pick out simple errors as well as edit sentences to make the piece an easier read.

Is there anything that you learned at school that you think others have forgotten now they are in business?

Other articles on writing

Thanks to Piers and David at Atomic Smash for helping Herbie to create the image (and challenging him to table tennis too!).

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  1. Sonja Jefferson

    Thanks Herbie! Fantastic post – well written, well said. Good luck with all that you do and thanks for a great work experience week with Valuable Content.

  2. Ruth Cox

    I’m so glad you pulled out the ‘big three’ grammar guns first on your list…a great article. Thanks for your help on my project this week. You put tip 10 to good use!

  3. Lizzie

    Great stuff Herbie! Sorry to have missed you this week but I’ve heard glowing reports. You write with real confidence, straight to the point – thanks for this! All the best with your future projects and plans, and get in touch when you want some design or illustration advice.

  4. Bryony Thomas

    Love it. I have a ‘red pen’ strategy with any CV I review. Whether I’m recruiting for my own company, or assisting a client, if the red pen comes out more then three times the CV is disregarded.

    My current pet hate is the misuse of ‘yourself’… “our services could be of great benefit to yourself.” I’m also a bit of a stickler for the correct usage of ‘less’ and ‘fewer.’ That’s less mass, fewer items.

    Thanks Herbie. Great tips.

  5. Kristina Hughes

    Brilliantly written post! Nothing stops me reading something faster than an incorrect there/their/they’re or your/you’re. I personally struggle with Number 8 – can’t keep my sentences short but this post is a good reminder for me. Thanks, Herbie! Keep up the great writing.

  6. Heather Townsend

    Well done Herbie – I wish I didn’t make so many of those mistakes myself. It is a good job that I have a 1st class editor to sort out these silly things with the books I write.

    Good luck becoming a writer!

  7. David Tovey

    Brilliant tips Herbie, would have been good to have you around to check my work. I get all the spelling right but the letters are sometimes not in the right order!

    Good luck with writing and keep up the attention to detail.

  8. Sonja Jefferson

    Embarrassed to admit that we get it wrong too Herbie! Just noticed a ‘who’s’ and ‘whose’ error! Thanks for keeping us on our toes.

  9. Lally Temple Cox

    Well written Herbie! You described perfectly the errors that are commonly made by all of us at some time – and I am very old!


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