My number #1 writing tip

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Happy New Year! This is the first post of 2021 and it’s something a little bit special.

To start off the year in style, I’d like to share the best piece of writing advice I have ever been given. It’s a tip I was given as a teenager and it has stuck with me ever since.

So, without further ado, here’s my number one writing tip:

Work out what you want to say first, and then just say that.

It sounds obvious, I know, but stay with me.

As writers, we often launch straight into the ‘words on the page’ part of writing, before we’ve got our message clear in our heads.

This is the cause of so many common writing problems. When you come across writing that’s confusing or far too wordy, it’s likely that the writer wasn’t sure what they were trying to say.

Writing is all about communication, so you need to know the message you’re trying to communicate. If the writer isn’t exactly sure what they’re saying, the reader isn’t going to be sure either.

Using this tip

So, next time you’re stuck with your writing, ask yourself, ‘What do I want to say?’

This will force you to stop and work out exactly what you’re trying to communicate to your reader. This is the hard part. Be specific. Reduce it down to the simplest words.

Once you’ve worked out what you want to say, just say that.  You don’t need to add in any extra words to make it sound fancier. You don’t need to cloak it in a complicated sentence structure. Just write down what’s in your head.

It could be, ‘We aren’t sure when we’ll be able to open the shop again’, or ‘You need to go to the post office to collect a new form.’ Whatever it is, just write it down.

It might need a few little tweaks, but it’s likely to be much clearer than what you had before. Try it yourself and you’ll see what I mean.

The beauty of this tip is that it’s so easy. Once you get in the habit of using this tip, you’ll start doing it automatically and it’ll make such a difference.

So there you have it. My number one piece of writing advice. Work out what you want to say, and then just say that.

Following this advice has improved my writing no end. I hope it helps you too.


Thank you for reading and for kicking off 2021 with me here on the blog. Come back for new writing tips every Thursday morning- I can’t wait.






Top tips from 2020

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At the end of the year, it’s always nice to look back and reflect on what’s happened.

Here’s a round-up of my top tips from 2020:

  • Finding the right words

Some of our first tips were about choosing words carefully to make your writing easy for your readers to follow:

Cut the jargon

Workshop: Cut the jargon

Repetition, repetition, repetition

Workshop: Repetition, repetition, repetition

  • A direct line

We shared ways to address the reader directly and take a more authoritative approach:

Like a boss

Workshop: Cut the jargon

Hey, you!

Workshop: Hey, you!

  • Point by point

We celebrated the merits of bullet points and discovered the most effective ways to use them:

Why you should be using bullet points

Workshop: Why you should be using bullet points

How to use bullet points

Workshop: How to use bullet points

  • Nice and concise

We practised using a range of tools to make our writing short and efficient:

Cut the waffle

Workshop: Cut the waffle

Cut it short

Workshop: Cut it short

  • Active voice vs passive voice

We took a trip into the world of grammar and learned that the active voice is usually (but not always) the most effective choice:

Using the active voice

Workshop: Using the active voice

Using the passive voice

Workshop: Using the passive voice


Ready for more?

Come back next Thursday for the first post of 2021. It’s my all-time, number one favourite top tip. You won’t want to miss it…

Happy New Year!


What has been your highlight of 2020? Let me know in the comments below.

Happy Christmas

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Can you believe it’s Christmas Eve?!

If, like me, you’re still in the office, I hope you’ve got a mince pie on your desk and Michael Bublé on the radio.

There’s no writing tip today. I’d just like to wish you a very happy Christmas. I hope you have a wonderful day celebrating with the people you love.

To get you in an extra festive mood, here’s one of my favourite Christmas clips:

Happy Christmas!

Five fantastic writing resources

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I’d like to give you an early Christmas gift.

It’s a list of really useful writing resources. As writers, we’re always learning and these are some great places to start.

1. British Council Learn English website

If you’d like to learn more about English grammar, try the interactive exercises on this fantastic website.

2. Plain English Campaign website

Visit the ‘Plain English tools’ section for handy writing guidance and the ‘gobbledygook generator’…

3. BBC News website

This may not sound like a writing tool, but it’s a great place to check the standard British spelling and formatting of words and phrases. If you’re not sure whether it’s ‘prime minister’, ‘prime-minister’ or ‘primeminister’, take a look at BBC News to see how they’re formatting it (the answer is ‘prime minister’).


This site is a great example of how to explain complicated, formal processes in simple language.

5. The book you get for Christmas

Reading is one of the best ways to improve as a writer. It also goes really well with a glass of mulled wine. Read writers you admire and you’ll pick up their tips along the way.


What are you up to in the days before Christmas? Let me know down in the comments…


Spoiler alert…

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Sometimes, it’s best to lead with your main point .

Be upfront with your reader. Open with the punchline. Put your cards on the table in the very first sentence…

Wait a sec. In the first sentence? Isn’t it better to introduce the topic, explain the context and then gradually move onto the main point?

It depends. If you’re writing an academic essay where there’s a long argument to develop then yes, perhaps that would be the best approach. Are you writing an academic essay?


As I was saying, sometimes you need to give the reader the main facts right from the start.

It might feel a bit strange to do this. Maybe you’re used to putting in a few introductory sentences before you spill the beans.

This can soften the tone of what you’re writing, but that’s not always a good thing. If you’ve got an important announcement to make, you don’t want to bury it under paragraphs of unnecessary waffle. Work out what your key message is and tell your reader right at the beginning.

Right at the beginning? I mean, spoiler alert! Don’t we want to keep the reader guessing so that they read on?

It depends. If you’re writing something where there’s a mystery to solve, then yes. Are you writing a detective novel?


Most of us aren’t writing tense thrillers or ground-breaking scientific theses on a daily basis. We’re writing emails, customer letters, information leaflets, community news articles and so on.

What are you writing?

A council notice about parking restrictions.

Brilliant. Let’s use that as our example.

You could start your notice with some general information about the area and save the key point for later. Here’s what that would look like:

A notice for residents

The Wafflington area was pedestrianised in 1994 and has been a bustling hub of business and activity ever since. We have also seen a sharp increase in vehicles on the high street and surrounding roads. 

As a result of this, Wafflington Town Council have consulted town planning experts who have advised that certain parking restrictions are put in place. They have recommended a two hour limit for parking along the high street and we have agreed to enforce this from 1 June 2019. Thank you for your cooperation.

Now let’s try leading with the main point:

New parking restrictions on Wafflington High Street

From 1 June 2019 onwards, there will be a two hour parking limit along Wafflington High Street. 

This new restriction is due to the recent increase in pedestrian and vehicle traffic in and around the area. Wafflington Town Council would like to thank you for your cooperation.

Starting with your key message gets the reader’s attention. It shows them that you’re not hiding anything from them. It gets the information straight to them without any fuss. It makes clear from the start exactly what you expect from them.

It may not be a great strategy for your next detective novel, but try it in your next email and see how it works.