How to Improve Your Writing Skills for More Reader Engagement


Being able to write better can improve your productivity. While working in a corporate environment, Barbara McNichol, CEO of Barbara McNichol Editorial, gave everyone on her team a copy of Strunk & White’s The Element of Style. This book provided essential tips for business writing.  A few tips that the book mentions is making sure to not use extraneous phrases that make sentences longer and less direct. With small mistakes like these, it may mislead readers and stray them off topic. McNichol’s presentation also discusses Strunk & White’s “word clutter,” which is described as “the leeches that infest the pond of prose, sucking the blood out of words.”

Tips on How to Keep Readers Interested:

  • Whack Wordiness, Whack Extraneous Phrases, and Whack Wobbly Word
  • Avoid Writing Pompous Phrases
  • Set Objective
  • Pursue Parallel of Path
  • Punctuate and Proofread with Fresh Eyes
  • Match the word to meaning- Word Tripper

These small tips can lead readers to the direct message and will keep them more engaged. Another great tip is to look for and change “-ion” and “-ment” nouns into verbs. This is a great option when minimizing length. Many editors love this tip the most!

As stated by Dianna Booher, “Think of extra words as layers of onion skins before you get to the usable part. Peel them from your writing.” Getting rid of repeated words or long-winded sentences by reading out loud each sentence and using synonyms creates a smooth structure. This method makes it easy for readers to understand the context. However, the rule of thumb for business writing is no more than 21 words maximum because it makes a reader remember more in a sentence instead of getting to the point.

Another method McNichol suggests is “reverse engineering” a written piece. This means letting someone of the targeted audience read the content and see if they can identify the elements or main points. Using their constructive criticism helps find, “Which ones are weak?” and “Beef them up!” according to Barbara McNichol.

The following steps will help writers to practice reduce word count by using whack wordiness. This allows written material to shorten by one-third and not lose meaning.

1. Dig out something you wrote and select the longest paragraph
2. Count the words in that paragraph, reducing the number by one-third

Additional Resources:
Email Barbara McNichol: [email protected]
Book: Word Trippers -