Whether you write website copy, e-books, magazine articles or blog posts, there’s plenty of competition out there. Upwork, the world’s largest online marketplace, has 12 million registered freelancers and (at the time of writing) 15,861 writing jobs available. Not all 12 million of those freelancers are writers, but enough of them are to ensure that competition for each writing job is fierce. And that’s just on one single site.
So what makes one writer’s talent stand out over and above that of their fellow scribes? Why can one writer land jobs while their peers struggle to win one pitch out of every ten?
There are actually a number of reasons for this, with innate talent being one. Rates also come into play – sadly for the writing profession as a whole, some clients are happy to pay lower rates for sub-standard work, with price outstripping quality. However, leaving that aside, there are some writers who can command impressive hourly rates and still win almost every piece of work they pitch for. Interestingly, one of the things that makes these writers stand out from the crowd is their conviction that they’re never at the top of their game – the best writers never know it all!
Writing as a craft
Whatever your field, it’s always possible to improve your skills. This is one of the best writers’ secrets. Those who enjoy the most success don’t tread water in terms of their skills development – they actively seeking to enhance their abilities with each article, website or post they write.
The internet is alive with hints and tips on how to enhance your writing. For example, did you know that the “perfect” headline is deemed to have five words or fewer, use pleasure, pain or curiosity to catch readers’ attention and ask a provocative question? Stepping back and thinking about the content that they create is the trademake of writers who see their job as a craft – something that they can always improve upon.
If you’re looking to improve your writing, the first thing to do is sit back and analyse your content critically. Is your work littered with examples of passive voice? If so, ditch them for active alternatives, particularly if you’re writing for the web. Next, go through and delete any unnecessary fluff’– good writing is clear and concise. It doesn’t need flowery phrases just to show off how many big words you know. Think too about how soon you get to the point of your article. This will depend on what it’s for. A news item will need to summarise the content in the very first paragraph, with more detail below. A short story won’t want to reveal all until later in the piece.
Of course, there are exceptions to all of these rules. If you’re writing a literary novel, flowery phrases and plenty of long words might be the order of the day! But that doesn’t mean you can’t improve upon your writing – just ensure that you focus your improvement on the type of content that you’re creating.
Writing in translation
For those writers who publish their work in more than one language, there are additional points to consider. What cultural assumptions are you making when writing your article? Will the content require the use of a localization service before it is comprehensible to audiences overseas?
Copy that assumes knowledge of popular culture within one country may not transfer well to a foreign audience.
Writers looking to engage with foreign audiences also need to consider how language changes over time. The Oxford English Dictionary, for example, is updated every quarter. The September 2017 update alone saw more than 1,000 new words, senses and subentries added. You might be up to speed with the changes in one language, but will using ‘worstest’ or referring to ‘corporation pop’ really position your writing well when it comes to different audiences?
A word about writing for the web
Technological changes, as well as linguistic ones, also impact the way that we write and have a bearing on what is considered to be the ‘best’ writing. Writing for the web means using shorter sentence and paragraphs than one might employ when writing for other mediums. It also means using simple language – not dumbing down but ensuring that your work is accessible to as many readers as possible. After all, it’s still possible to present complex concepts using plain language – and doing so means that you can take more readers along on the journey with you.
Take time out to consider your latest work before you write your next article. Look at it with a critical eye and you might be surprised at what you see!
This post was written by Louise Taylor from the Tomedes Translation Blog.