Learn from the Best: 6 Skills All Great Writers Have (and How to Learn Them)

writer

If you want to be a successful online marketer, there’s one thing you must be able to do:

you must be able to write.

Writing is involved in almost every type of content creation there is.

Emails, blog posts, and books are all primarily written content.

But even for videos, podcasts, and courses, you need to write content as well as scripts.

I’ll be honest with you:

If you’re a terrible writer, it’s unlikely you’ll be successful.

It’s harsh, but it’s true.

The good news is that you probably aren’t a terrible writer. It’s pretty hard to be one.

But at the same time, it’s hard to become a great writer.

Even after years of writing, I still wouldn’t say I’m a great writer—maybe a good one.

The key thing that you need to know is that you can improve your writing skills.

By studying the works of great writers, you can learn what makes their writing great.

And with practice, you can improve the effectiveness of your own writing, which means more traffic, subscribers, and customers.

Although you could spend dozens of hours doing that research yourself, you could just let me show you which skills are the most important when it comes to writing.

I have studied a wide variety of top notch writers (who are also great marketers) over the years and noticed that they all have certain skills in common.

Are you a writer? Learn about these 6 skills all great writers should have.

In this article, I’ll break down these skills, showing you examples of them in action and ways to develop them.

By the end of this post, you should have a concrete game plan of how to become a better writer for the benefit of your business. 

1. Having a big vocabulary doesn’t make you a great writer

When most people picture great writers, they think of them crafting sentences full of obscure words such as aphesis and esculent.

But the people who use words like that are usually terrible writers.

The measure of a writer is not how big his or her vocabulary is. As long as you have a decent vocabulary and understand the fundamentals of grammar of the language you’re using, you can be a good writer.

Even if you’re just learning a language, don’t think that you can’t be a good writer just because you don’t know every word of it.

There are plenty of successful bloggers who write in their second language (e.g., Bamidele Onibalusi).

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Is their writing perfect from a grammar and vocabulary perspective? No, of course not.

But even without an extensive vocabulary, they’re able to create content that people love to read.

There’s actually a way for us to quantify the complexity of writing. It’s called the Flesch-Kincaid grade level scale.

It looks at the length of words, and a few other factors, in order to determine at what grade level people could understand your content.

By copying a few sample blog posts into this readability score calculator, I was able to create this chart:

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The three other writers on this list are all great writers in my opinion, or at least very good.

Notice that Brian and Ramit both write at about 4th grade level, as do I. That means the average 10-year-old could read most of our content because it’s not very complex.

Even though Michael Hyatt writes at a more sophisticated level, it’s still only at a grade 7 level.

The big question then becomes: Why?

The reason why great writers use simple words and phrases is because they write for the reader, not themselves.

They may appreciate the intricacies of the English language, but most readers don’t care about that. They want their information in the simplest and easiest to comprehend way.

Obviously, it’s much easier to read and understand short simple words than to figure out what the heck clandestine means (if you are curious, it means “done in secret”).

Oh yeah, there’s one other benefit to writing simply: you can write much faster.

Instead of searching for the “perfect” word, you use plain language—typically the first words that come to mind. These words are usually the words that your audience understands easily as well, so they’re really the perfect choice.

How can you apply this? This is a very simple skill to develop: just write. When you’re writing something, write down the first things that come to mind instead of searching for more complicated words instead.

Don’t worry if you make mistakes; you can always fix them when you edit.

2. Do you care how your readers feel?

Poor writers do a variety of things.

Some write what they themselves would want to read.

Others write to sound as intelligent as possible.

Either way, it’s not about the reader. Instead, it’s more about “look at how smart and awesome I am.”

Very few people are interesting enough to make this strategy work for them.

When writers focus on themselves, their writing is not compelling to the reader. These kinds of writers either improve over time as they recognize their mistakes, or they blame the readers for not recognizing good content.

I have to ask you a tough question now:

When you write content, do you think of the reader first or do you think about how to make yourself look the best (as the author)?

It’s not necessarily one or the other. Your answer could be somewhere in the middle (i.e., sometimes you focus on yourself).

The simple solution: If you’ve recognized an opportunity for improvement here, it’s easy to take advantage of it, at least in theory.

The answer is to develop empathy.

Empathy basically means that you can understand your readers’ perspective: their problems, interests, personality, and other relevant aspects of their lives.

It takes time to develop empathy, and I’m not sure if you can ever master it completely.

But empathy really shows in great writing.

The best writers use empathy both to understand what readers need to hear (solve their problems) and to determine the best way to teach them.

Some audiences need to be shown direct solutions; others need step-by-step directions; while others need a gentle prod in the right direction.

Examples of empathy in action: When writers truly understand their audience and then focus all their attention on writing that will help the audience as much as possible, it shows.

Take a look at this post from Seth Godin. He mentions the word “you” or its variations 10 times in about 100 words. This post is all about the reader.

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The post is about being passionate about your work.

Many bloggers write on this topic. Most would have focused on how their own corporate experience led them to the epiphany that they needed to care more.

But that would have fallen on deaf ears.

Instead, Seth focuses on the reader’s life. He explains the problem using the language that the reader would use to describe the problem in detail.

And then, he offers a simple, one-line solution.

Or how about James Clear? He’s another great writer.

His posts aren’t based on the numbers in Google’s Keyword Planner. They are based on questions that he gets from his readers.

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He knows that for every person who expresses frustration or identifies a problem, there are a hundred other people in his audience with the same issue.

So James uses his readers’ language so that other readers can relate to it and feel that the content was created specifically for them.

There’s no other way to do that other than by writing solely for the reader.

The hard part – How to develop empathy: Telling you to develop empathy is easy, but actually doing it isn’t so easy: it takes a lot of conscious practice.

But it’s not all or nothing either. Just because you don’t perfectly understand your audience doesn’t mean you can’t partially understand them.

And as you get better at empathizing with your audience, your writing will improve.

To practice this skill and develop empathy, I suggest the following five-step process. Perform it every time you create content:

1. What problems (and related problems) do your readers have around [topic of choice]?

2. How significant are these problems (very serious? or just minor pains?)

3. How do you think your readers would describe these problems?

Use steps #1-3 to outline your post. Create an intro and headlines that a reader would not only understand but would see and think, “I was just wondering about that!”

4. After writing the content, look at every single sentence/paragraph and ask yourself: “Does my reader actually care about this?” If not, either rephrase it, or take it out completely.

5. Study all comments you get on your content (whether it’s a blog comment, review, email, etc.). Try to understand why a reader says they do or don’t like it.

Create a simple checklist using these five steps, and follow it every time you write.

If you do, you’ll notice that your content will start to resonate with readers more and more.

Your audience will be more excited to read your posts, and they’ll be more engaged. You’ll get readers’ comments telling you their thoughts and opinions, which will be full of great ideas for more content (I get great suggestions all the time from my readers).

Ultimately, when it comes to your business, this type of resonance is very important because it tells the reader that you understand them.

If you create a product, they know that you’ve created it just for them and that it will meet all their needs and wants. Developing empathy is a skill that will have a long-term impact on your revenue.

3. Great writers aren’t born overnight

Think of the great writers in history: Shakespeare, Hemingway,…Neil Patel (maybe one day).

Whomever you think of when you think of great writers, it’s important to realize that they were not born that way.

Although writing is more abstract than mathematics or programming, it is a skill like any other and can be developed.

At one point or another, all writing greats could barely string a sentence together.

However, they all shared one thing: a drive to be a great writer.

Right now, you need to check if your motivation to become a better writer is enough to get you to the level you want.

If you really want to be the best writer you can be, you’ll have to write many hours, every single day. That’s what it takes to be the very best.

If you want to be one of the best writers who is also a marketer, that’s still hard, but not quite as difficult. You’ll still want to practice at least 10-20 hours a week.

But the most important thing you need to determine is this: do you really want to be a better writer?

Determine your goals, and then figure out what you’ll need to do to get there.

For example, if you want to be a blogger, start by taking a look at your favorite bloggers.

If you scroll down to the bottom of Quick Sprout’s blog page, you can click on the “last” button to see my oldest posts.

And if you do, you’ll see that my first post on this blog was written in 2007:

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If you wanted to reach my current level of success, are you prepared to write about 2-3 posts a week for 8 years?

And then write over 300 guest posts as well?

If you are willing to put in that work, I guarantee that you will be very successful.

How to put in your dues in a systematic way: If you simply say out loud, “I’m going to write a blog post every day for the next three years,” chances are that you won’t.

You need to develop your own system that keeps you accountable.

Step 1 is to determine what you need to do to become the writer you want to be.

Create a new document that clearly states what you think you need to do.

For example:

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Step 2 is to determine a schedule that you can stick to. This is formed by your personal schedule. If you have more time to spend on writing, you have more flexibility.

Here’s what it might look like:

I will write and publish a post every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, no matter what.

You have the plan, but you need to make sure you follow through with it.

Step 3 is to find a way that will hold you accountable.

It’s really easy to just not write a post because you’ll barely notice the difference in the short term. But in the long term, it can make a huge difference.

So, how will you hold yourself accountable? There’s no wrong answer, but make sure that there’s a serious consequence if you don’t follow through with your plan.

For example, you could say that if you miss a post:

  • you will donate $50 to a charity
  • you will do something that you don’t like
  • you will email a friend or family member revealing an embarrassing secret

When you’re feeling motivated, you’ll have no problem writing. But when you’re not feeling motivated, this accountability plan will keep you on track.

Now you should have a simple but solid writing plan:

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You should print this out and put it somewhere where you will see it at least once a day (at least until you develop good habits).

Finally, step 4 is to forget about the result, and focus on the process.

The reason for this is that in order to get the most out of your writing, you need to focus on writing itself as much as possible.

The whole point of this writing plan is for you to not focus on the results.

You don’t need to worry, thinking: “Am I doing enough to become a successful writer?” because you’ve already determined exactly what you need to do.

If you just focus on adhering to your plan, you’ll know with nearly 100% certainty that you will become a very good and successful writer when you are done.

So, don’t worry about traffic stats and other metrics while you write; just focus on writing well—the result will come.

4. “I would have written a shorter letter, but I did not have the time”

That quote has been attributed to many great writers, but it appears to have been first said by Blaise Pascal.

Regardless of who said it, the meaning is incredibly powerful.

When we talked about using simple words in writing, I advocated writing down the first words that came to mind.

When you do this, you’ll often end up using more words than you need to.

And the reason why this is a bad thing is because it dilutes the value in your content.

Think of it this way: your content has a message that has a certain value to your readers.

I would define the intensity—or quality—of writing using a simple formula:

Intensity = Value / Length

The longer your content is (if the value is held constant), the lower the intensity.

If you really want to inspire your readers to take action, your writing needs to blow them away.

It needs to provide value at a fast enough rate so that it feels to them as if a light bulb went off in their heads. In other words, your writing needs to be of a high intensity.

The more unnecessary words you have, the lower the intensity of your writing will be, and the smaller the impact your content will make.

Again, we can look at Seth Godin for a perfect example of high intensity writing. He makes every single word count.

Despite writing very short posts, he delivers a ton of value to his readers, which results in significant emotional reactions from them:

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As you’ve noticed, I take a very different approach with my posts.

They are very long, usually at least 4,000 words. Since they are so long, I need to pack them with value.

Where Seth’s content is more strategic (broad thinking), my posts are more on specific tactics and ways to implement them, which takes more time to explain.

But although my posts are between 4,000 and 6,000 words, they are usually much longer when I first write them. I edit them down and remove as much “fluff” as I can.

With blog posts, you have a lot of flexibility with length. In other forms of writing, you don’t.

In emails or landing pages, you typically only have a limited amount of space (often fewer than 100 words) to get as much value across to your readers as possible.

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Notice in the above example that every sentence either describes a feature or a benefit of the product.

How do you cut out the “fluff”? Like with these other skills, it takes practice to become a good editor (you could hire one if you wanted).

To practice, go through your content, sentence by sentence, and ask yourself if there is a simpler way to get your message across.

For example, the sentence:

There are some marketing channels that are better than others, like email marketing.

could be reduced to:

Email marketing produces the best ROI of any marketing channel.

That simple change took the sentence from 13 words to 10 words, and made the meaning of the sentence clearer.

That’s a 23% decrease in length. If you originally wrote a 3,000-word article and decreased every sentence by that percentage, you’d end up with a 2,300 word article.

Although it’s shorter, it will make a bigger impact on your readers because of its increased intensity.

Here’s a brilliant article on specific edits that you can make to make your writing more powerful to get you started.

5. I’ve never seen a great writer that doesn’t have this

What do typical writers do to prepare for an article?

They do a bit of research on Google and then compile what they learn into an article.

This isn’t a bad thing, but it’s a recipe for producing content that is very similar to what’s already out there.

The best writers I’ve seen can write about any topic in their niche and put some kind of unique spin—angle—on it.

Besides being unique, that additional something is also insightful and adds to the value the reader gets.

In Breakthrough Advertising, a legendary copywriting book by Eugene Schwartz, he notes that great copywriters have a wide array of experience.

You might consider them jacks of all trades.

Great writers read and practice things in all sorts of fields. If I had to boil it down to specific traits, they all possess high levels of curiosity and an open mind.

They can write an article about social media marketing and use an example of hiking up a mountain in a way that makes the point they are making clearer to the reader.

One marketer that does this really well is Bryan Harris at Video Fruit. He often shares personal stories in the introduction of his posts. But he always finds a clever, insightful way to tie it back to the point he’s making:

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Another well-known marketer, Ramit Sethi, often mentions real life stories in his blog posts and emails.

For example, in an email about “unconventional ways to win,” he mentions both baseball and government officials as examples:

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The great power of connections: The reason why these unexpected connections are valuable is because they can relate your thoughts using a different language.

Some points will be difficult to explain no matter what niche you are writing for.

For example, maybe you’re trying to explain to your readers how to write in a conversational tone and why it’s more interesting to their readers.

If your readers don’t understand your explanation, reading it over and over again won’t help them.

But often, when you make a point in a different context, it becomes much clearer.

With regards to writing conversationally, for example, you could tell a story of being bored at a lecture when a lecturer simply read his slides to his students instead of talking to them. That’ll illustrate your point in a way that’s recognizable to most people.

So, how do you do it? The very nature of this skill is abstract. You’re making connections that other people don’t think of naturally, and that’s what adds a unique angle to your writing.

In order to do this, you need two things:

  1. Experience – The more experiences you have in life, the more connections you can make.
  2. Practice – At first, you won’t make these connections naturally. When you write about a complex topic, force yourself to come up with five connections you could use to explain your point. Over time, you will naturally notice good opportunities.

And when I’m talking about experience, I mean different experiences.

Always be ready to try something new:

  • travel
  • take a cooking class
  • reconnect with old acquaintances
  • take an online course in a subject you’ve never studied

Basically, now you have a very good reason to learn or try anything you’ve ever wanted.

6. Want to become (and stay) a great writer? You need to have this…

The final skill that the best writers (in a marketing context) have is adaptability.

Each content medium has its own quirks. Although your writing style will be more or less the same, the best writers know how to tailor their writing for each medium.

When I say medium, I’m talking about forms of content such as:

  • blog posts
  • emails
  • Kindle books
  • social media

I could give you many examples, but let’s look at Danny Iny, founder of Firepole Marketing.

He’s written multiple courses in the past:

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But he’s also written hundreds of blog posts and guest posts.

On top of that, he actively engages with his followers and customers on social media:

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And if that wasn’t enough, he just released a new book, in addition to several others:

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On top of knowing how to write for different formats and audiences, great writers keep up with change.

Take me as an example. If you look at older Quick Sprout posts, you will see that many are only 500-1,000 words.

But as blogging has developed, good writing practices for the topics I cover have changed.

I noticed that longer posts performed better, and now almost all my posts are 4,000+ words long. I try to make every post the definitive post on that specific topic.

How do you develop adaptability? By definition, you need to learn how to respond positively to changing circumstances. And in the marketing world, things change fast, which makes it even more important.

The first key takeaway for you is this: adaptability comes second. First, you need to hone your initial skills.

In practical terms, this means that you should pick one main format of writing and focus as much of your attention on it as possible. That’s how you’ll learn all the ins and outs of it.

For most, blogging is a great place to start.

Once you’ve put in the time and effort to fully understand how to write great blog posts, you can move on to the next format, be it email, social media, or something else.

In the initial period, you can still write emails or other content, but most of your focus will be on the first format you’ve chosen. Then, you’ll shift that focus to the second medium.

The second key takeaway is that you always need to be looking for what’s next, whether it’s a new medium or changes happening within an old format.

When you see a new type of content becoming popular (e.g., lately video content and podcasts), give it a try because you can always learn something from it to become a better writer.

You should always be testing different ways of reaching your audience.

Conclusion

Being a great writer will be very valuable for the foreseeable future, no matter which industry you work in.

And even if you’re not an experienced writer today, you can become one with practice: all great writers had to start from some point.

If you follow the steps I laid out in this post, I guarantee that in a few years, you will be an excellent writer.

You can use those skills however you please, whether it’s to get more followers, subscribers, a better job, or take your sales to a new level.

If you have any questions about these skills or want to share a story about writing, leave me a comment below.

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Comments

  1. Practice practice practice. We are talking about practice. That is the tip that has helped me the most with my writing. As a web designer/coder I never thought I would become even a decent writer.

    But….

    I must be doing something right! Have been blogging more and more and get quite a few engaging comments on my posts, that has to be social proof!

    Your tip about empathy, that is something I need to get better at (I am sure my wife would agree too).

    Thanks for the post,
    Chris

    • Chris, I definitely think you are on the right track — I am sure your blog does very well.

      Practice is what got to me where I am. Empathy allowed me to keep people engaged. Those two things are, in my opinion, the most important.

      Keep me posted on you writing. Best of luck!

  2. Pankaj Mondal :

    This is an invaluable post and yes, I do agree that readers are not interested in great vocabulary but want to get the information in the simplest possible language. An important aspect to become a great writer which I want to corroborate is to read a blog post of your favorite writer at least once a day. It takes less than 10 minutes but will surely hone your skills.

    • Pankaj, glad you found it helpful.

      I have a handful of people that I keep on my daily reading list — you are completely right in that regard

      Looking forward to hearing much more from you!

  3. The best way to become a better write is to read a lot and write even more. When I look at my old blog posts I almost always end up rewriting them because frankly, compared to my newer posts, the older one weren’t very good.

    I recently had the honor of hearing Elizabeth Gilbert (author of the block-buster Eat, Pray, Love) read from her new book Big Magic. It’s all about the creative process. I’d highly recommend it for anyone looking to make a living as a write or artist of any kind.

    Thought you like to add Authority Nutrition to the list of successful bloggers writing in a second language. Kris Gunners is from Iceland — not an easy language!

    • Deane, writing more is the number one way go to get better at writing.

      Sounds like an enlightening book reading that you attended. I am sure you got a ton of value from it! I’ll have to see what Big Magic is all about. Thanks for sharing and looking forward to hearing much more from you.

  4. Hai Neil,

    Its a wonderful article as usual and its a great coincidence that i have spent some 2-3 hrs today writing my first article for my website and your article landed in my inbox.

    Great article with some valuable insights. I believe that your article will help me overcome my writers block and get going.

    Regards
    Satya

    • Satya, I am sure it will. Sometimes I’ll come across an article or headline that does the same for me. Let me know if you need any help along the way!

  5. Great nugget of information Neil! I hope this will spark a lot of magic happening 🙂

    • Raul, glad you liked it. I think the number one thing to extract from this article is: keep writing — you’ll become a pro in no time.

  6. Accountability is prime. Thank you for this Neil.

    • I agree – people want to know that you are a legitimate source of information in their niche. Thanks for sharing.

  7. Great detailed post, Neil.

    I believe writing as a blogger and as a writer is rather distinctive. Then again, fiction writing has come to honor simplicity as well.

    As a blog reader what I am looking for in posts is the quality of the content, how well it’s laid out. And I do prefer an author who shows more attention to their readers (more “you”), it’s more of a characteristic than writing skills though.

    I mean if you are not being genuine, it kind of shows.

    • Anh, glad you found it helpful.

      It definitely is distinctive — and much different than fiction.

      Blogging is more anecdotal and educational. Thanks for sharing.

  8. Great stuff,

    I especially liked the goal setting. I started off writing a post a day but they were about 500 words long.

    Now I write one a week maybe two (trying to increase this) and try my hardest to write guest posts as well.

    If you set realistic goals with realistic results, you can achieve them. One day I’ll reach your level 😉

    Esteban

    • Esteban, writing less often but adding more value is always the way to go. I find that shorter posts, while valuable sometimes cannot provide as many actionable insights.

      Thanks for sharing!

  9. Eduardo Cornejo :

    Hey Neil,

    Awesome article. When I started thinking about my fitness blog, I didn’t know if I should do English, which is easier for me, or Spanish, to help more people out (not many blogs about the type of training I do in Spanish yet). At first I even tried to do a bilingual blog, but that was a mess. Finally, I chose Spanish, and have had 5 great months with it.

    One big boost that helped me do it was you saying multiple times that “a good blogger should write for a 5 year old”. With that in mind I knew I could do a good job writing-wise, and from there it was all about creativity and effort.

    I definitely can and will improve with the whole flow of it and the speed, but for now everything is going quite well. 🙂

    • Eduardo, it’s always hard to figure out what your niche wants. It’s great that you focused on a Spanish speaking audience.

      In regard to “dumbing” down your writing — it really helps. People aren’t dumb, but they do want to get straight to the point

      Thanks for sharing.

  10. “If you’re a terrible writer, it’s unlikely you’ll be successful.”

    Music to my ears, of course.

    (And I’ve found it to be true, although it is also true that being a great writer in no way guarantees your success.)

  11. Great article Neil.

    One of the metric search engines use in ranking is readability. If it’s easy to read people will spend time on your website. Which in return will reduce your bounce rate resulting in higher rankings.

    So yes readability as you said it very important.

  12. Jean-Baptiste Alarcon :

    Hey Neil,

    Great post as always! Very good timing too as I just started to work on my writing (in english, my second language).

    I´d like to mention James Altucher, love his writing style.

    Cheers,
    JB

  13. What a content , superb. It’s not just a post, it’s like a full book written on a single title, which contains lot’s of quality pages

  14. Hello Neil and thank you very much for this post – tailor made for me.

    I do try to communicate with people.as opposed to simply reciting stuff I feel they need to know or have.

    In a way, I’d prefer to talk to people one to one to read their body language and ensure they are engaged and that I’m not boring them (easy for me to do!)

    I imagine that is why so much marketing suggests creating an ideal customer.

    Thank you for all your excellent tips – you are making it harder for us to fail!

    Kindest.

    • Zarayna, glad you found it helpful.

      By keeping your writing simple you are doing the same things — but online. I think it’s important that people focus on making things simple so they can convey information easier. You’re right about creating ideal customers — your writing will mold them.

  15. Neil,

    I don’t feel I can express how grateful I am that I came across this post. One of the challenges that I have for myself is to grow personally and as a writer. With the depth of content provided, I feel I have a valuable resource to feast off of for years to come.

    One thing that I have found extremely valuable is reading and vieiwing others work for inspiration and playing around with style. Through exploration, you will be able to find a uniquie authenic voice no matter what channel you are using.

    Thanks again for this encyclopedia of writing knowledge.

    • Frank, even at this point in my writing career I constantly look at other people’s posts to see what works. It’s important to focus on strategies that have worked so you can replicate the same level of success. Thanks for sharing.

  16. Hey Neil,

    It’s always worth reading your post. After it, I remembered something written by me two years ago on medium.com(https://medium.com/@arpit2188/writing-is-difficult-a5e12afc2f62#.5tblvd9l0), How I overcame the fear and started writing. I rewrote that post an hour back (http://www.arpitswall.com/how-to-overcome-your-fear-and-start-writing). I think it will help a lot of guys who are trying to improve their confidence to write good content.

    • Arpit, thanks for sharing. I think there definitely is a lot of fear — especially that of failure. People don’t like going into terrain where they aren’t experts — but that’s how you become one: risk.

  17. “1. Having a big vocabulary doesn’t make you a great writer”

    Totally agree. The mark of great writing is SIMPLICITY. It’s true for any kind of non-fiction writing, and ESPECIALLY true for marketing writing (which has to be understood clearly by everyone, even those who aren’t crazy educated).

    Further, writing that uses too many big words stinks of “try hard.” When I was in college I used to be a pretty flowery writer… whenever I re-read stuff I wrote in those days, I cringe!

    • Andrew, I feel the same way. Simplicity is key. Unless you are writing for an academic journal, no one wants to hear certain words being used. Thanks for sharing!

  18. Bamidele Onibalusi :

    Hi Neil,

    Thanks for the highly insightful article!

    As a non-native English writer who has constantly improved over the years, I kept agreeing with all your points, especially that on consistency; indeed, many people want to be Neil Patel but very few are willing to publish 3 articles weekly, and hundreds of guest posts, consistently for 8 years.

    Your point on consistency reminds me of my experience with exercising and being fit; a few years back, I started exercising by doing as many push ups and pull ups as I could daily. Some days, I’ll do as much as 100 push ups and 40 pull ups at once, but I could barely see the effect on me. This was because I wasn’t consistent; I’d exercise once or twice a week, so the results weren’t there. I switched to doing 3 sets of 30 pull ups and pull ups, every single day without fail, and the result was a very good shape and form that led to compliments from people around about my fitness. I’ve seen this same principle in effect with my blogging, and I think it applies to life in general… further validating your point 3 (oh, and see how I implemented your advice in point 5 here).

    I’m also incredibly flattered by your mention and link in this article; if I start getting a penny every time you link to me now, I’ll be rich. I’m very honored, indeed 🙂 Thanks so much, Neil!!!

    Best Regards,
    Bamidele

    • Bamidele, your story is very inspiring and I was glad to share it.

      You’re right with the metaphor of working out. Like anything — practice makes perfect. Mastering any craft depends on how hard you hustle and the time you put into it.

      With that being said you exemplify that ideal and I wish you continued success. Looking forward to hearing much more from you!

  19. Randy Kauffman :

    I have the hardest time sticking with the writing. I like what I write but I just cannot seem to stick to a schedule. Any suggestions?

    • Randy, at the end of the day it’s all about willpower. Tie in certain rewards to the ends of writing sessions 😉

  20. Nice article Neil, thank you very much for sharing this!

    Cheers!

  21. Another great piece.

    After a few years of struggling I finally understood that simplicity is the best thing in your writing. Write for your readers and this how they understand it. Never ever try to show your vocabulary bag or how smart you are. Be one of them.

    Same thing goes when a person writes a cover letter for freelancing or resume for jobs.

    • Delwar, glad you found it helpful. I have always found that when I simplify things people tend to extract more value from my words. Keep trying it out and let me know how it goes!

  22. Great article Neil! I’ll definitely be coming back to use this as a reference

  23. Matt Duczeminski :

    Hey Neil,

    Thanks for this! I’ve been writing for a variety of sites since earlier this year, and have been scouring the web for different resources to help me improve my craft and get my name out there. I’ll definitely be diving into your blog a bit more in the next few days!

    • Matt, looking forward to hearing your feedback. Thanks for all the support and let me know if you need anything along the way.

  24. Hi Neil

    There are some blogs where the writers only write every 4-6 weeks and they are extremely successful. Brian Dean of Backlinko is one of them. Is this because of the actual content in the post and the promotion he does on his posts.

    You turn out a massive amount of posts in which every post also includes incredible value. So much so that I download them all in a folder which includes a contents table and dates
    and enables me to refer back to them any time I want.

    I would very much appreciate your comments on the differences.

    • Brian spends a lot of time on promotion… I don’t spend as much time. His strategy is better if you are limited on time. If you have more time focus on the content end as in the long run it drives more traffic (less per post though).

  25. Dave Cottrell :

    Good stuff, Neil. I always enjoy reading your articles, no matter how long they may be. Thanks for sharing. Your article is spot on. It is so very refreshing after all the “experts” saying blog posts need to be SHORT to read something with some meat in it!

  26. I think that in time, it will be easier to write for your targeted audience. Thanks for sharing what you know.

  27. Siimon Sander :

    It’s interesting, that I see more and more blog posts, which are broken up to super short paragraphs. Is it true that our attention is sold, Neil?

  28. Singaravelu.A.P :

    Hi Neil, from your guiding blog, I understood that, we need to read first (research in google, library, book) and gather information and interpret and give it to the readers in our style of writing.

    That should have a good vocabulary in kiss format. (Keep it simple and smart)

    Thank you Neil.

    • Basically — that’s the essence of it. You have to do your research and provide context before people can extract any value from it.

  29. I’m not proficient to write a long content perfectly but trying so hard these days. Currently i’m able to write content upto 500 words and i think one day i’ll produce 2k words content perfectly.

    So much inspired by you neil.
    Thanks !! 🙂 🙂

    • Ravi, take your time — you will definitely get there. Don’t sacrifice quality for quantity is my suggestion.

  30. John Lombaerde :

    I greatly admire the facility of writers who are adept with their craft of words. The really good ones develop an economy of expression that treats words as though they are scarce commodities. This is a remarkable feat that I admire, and I’m afraid the art of words is becoming less and important in this age of mass content generation, instant news, and SEO optimized posts created only as search engine fodder.

    • John, thanks for all the support. Writing and entrepreneurship go hand in hand — you have to be creative and share your ideas. I guess that’s why they are both so fascinating. Thanks for the share.

  31. I am not a decent writer. I think twice before writing a single sentence, whether its blog comment or simple blog post. Your post made me realize I need learn the writing to advance into my career as Digital Marketer.

    Thanks for awesome post Neil!

  32. All the work on my websites are inspired by you Neil. Thanks!

    I was wondering what are your views on a personal blog? Should one write about personal life, business, work or a mixture of all? I know this depends on niche, but what do you a beginner who is just about to explore the world of blogging write about?

    • Reuben, there is no magic formula. Just write on topics that interest you and go from there. You’ll find that when you write from your heart and experience people will tend to be more interested.

  33. Thanks a lot Neil, you’ve just open my mind about becoming a great writer doesn’t have to have super vocabularies.
    I love this part: “The measure of a writer is not how big his or her vocabulary is. As long as you have a decent vocabulary and understand the fundamentals of grammar of the language you’re using, you can be a good writer.”

    As English is my foreign language (my third language), and I often feel inferior with my vocabularies in writing.
    I will keep learning for more vocabs, but I will write more and more along the way. Hopefully.

    • Indah, it’s not only about vocabulary. There are other factors that come into play like context and value. At the end of the day if you are providing actionable value you can get away with some grammar and vocab errors. Good luck and looking forward to hearing much more from you.

  34. Great article Neil, Thanks a lot, your blogs are just awesome. I have been following you since I built my first blog.

  35. Sarah Gotheridge :

    I’m lucky that I have to write in my native language but I can image what it can be like for non-native writers and writing is a skill, the more you write the better you get at it.

  36. Well Neil!! … Thank you for this post, this post is one of the most inspiring idea. I have read about writing and I know it has been an important influence in how my writing improved over the past couple of years.

    • Tarun, glad I could help and I’ve inspired you to continue writing. If you need help with anything else please don’t hesitate to ask!

  37. Neil, thanks. I have learn so much from your posts and all produced results in my blog. Though my writing is not up to 4000 words, but I make sure of 2000 words and use “you” as you teach: now am getting more subscribers. Thank you.

  38. Great post Neil.

    I think the vocabulary point is bang on – I’m a copywriter and blogger and I always used to try and use the biggest and best words I knew. But I soon realised that the most important thing is getting the message across in a way that the reader understands – which is usually by using simple language and shorter sentences.

    • Carl, glad you found it helpful. You’re absolutely right — being short, concise and to the point will get you far with your writing. Keep it simple.

  39. Nicholas Godwin :

    I particularly have an emotional connection with this post, Neil. ALL your posts are EPIC in every good meaning of of the word.

    This one post is emotionally connecting to me because I’d interviewed Bamidele Onibalusi for an Australian publication I write for earlier this year. So I personally got to know how he struggled to make, what seemed impossible at the time, into a handsomely paying writing business in spite of not being a native English speaker. Again, Bamidele lives just a town a way from my town… 🙂

    Thanks for the formula, Intensity = Value/Length of post. I CAN’T forget that one. Again, I’m taking this quote home for keeps… “If you really want to inspire your readers to take action, your writing needs to blow them away.” Drawing from the lessons learned here, and putting them to action, I can be rest assured to live up to that take-home-quote.

    Thanks Neil. I LOVE U!

    • Nicholas, thanks for the support. I have heard of similar stories. There is a misconception floating around that bloggers are only english speaking writers. That’s far from the truth — people have either learned to speak and write the language or provide value in their own.

      Glad to help and looking forward to hearing much more from you!

  40. While I agree with you, your article flies in the face of others I’ve recently read extolling the virtues and value of an “About Us” page. We are rebuilding/redesigning our website and have decided to completely omit that page. We figure the homeowner looking to hire us probably couldn’t care less about the trials and tribulations we experienced during startup. Do you agree? I’d really like your opinion on this.

    • Stephen, while I agree they wouldn’t want to hear about your trials and tribulations they will want to see your track record — so case studies do matter. As for your about us page — it will provide context into who you are and provide some legitimacy. It’s your call at the end of the day — you know your business best.

      • Thank you for taking the time to reply, Neil. I am going to let our Testimonials page provide our legitimacy and completely omit the About Us page. Our technicians are in and out of the customer’s home in a couple of hours, so case studies aren’t appropriate. If we were in a different industry, one where a personal connection was necessary or even an asset, it might be different. Thus I don’t recommend our course of action for everybody.

  41. Neil when it comes to tech you have to write an article on a particular topic whic all other compitetors of yours have written because that topic is recent news.

  42. Rajkaran Singh :

    Hi Neil
    Great post. Any one can be a great writer by following these highly useful tips.
    I really need to follow my editorial calendar strictly and develop a writing plan. Thanks.

  43. Hi Neil,

    Your tips are awesome and when thinking of it, I could identify these trait on Great Writers.

    I think currently am doing Good but I will need to integrate some of your tips especially they story tips.

    I have found out that most readers like Content with case studies and relation between real object and the message of the post.

    It really Good reading your Content.

    Take care,
    Aderemi Dare.

    • Aderemi, great stories are really what drive traffic to your site. Prior to our modern technological age a person’s knowledge was based on their ability to storytell — it’s hardwired into our brain 😉

  44. Jen Phillips April :

    Another great post Neil!

    I especially love the part about drawing interesting comparisons because I’m focusing on that in my writing right now. Off to finish a post. Thanks for the motivation!

    Best,
    Jen

    • Jen, glad to help. If you need anything else please don’t hesitate to reach out. Looking forward to hearing more from you.

  45. Definitely practise, and finding your own “voice” to differentiate from all the others – blogging, whether personally or professionally is a constant challenge to be unique, I think.

  46. Neil, you really are an amazing writer producing good content at an incredible rate. That’s very inspiring for a blogger in his debut, it advocates for hard work and dedication in the writing process, very motivating.

  47. Hello Neil.

    I think this is your darkest piece!

    This article took my motivation down a lot.

    It’s like a child of partnership of Darth Vader and Loki who got supported by Sauron.

    No misunderstanding please.

    Piece is great! It’s just too sincere. About being a writer. And having the necessary dedication and time and commitment… But that’s what is needed.

    I feel like I can never do this.

    Thanks for being sincere. And honest.

    Best wishes.

    • Sertac, that wasn’t my intention. However, if I can give a kick in the pants to anyone I am always willing to do so 😉

      Now you know what you need to do. Just have a positive attitude.

      • Hey Neil!

        It should be.

        Lots of people want to create a blog (or write a book) and generate some income from it.

        An income that’s enough for their life expenses.

        But this is what is actually needed.

        This is not a 10 days game.

        One needs to have commitment.

        That’s actually why I never started a blog. It’s not like writing a paper and showing it to people.

        Your “$100.000” article series shows exactly what is needed to generate income from blogging or writing.

        Commitment, discipline, consistency, finding creative ways to promote, focus, research and hundreds of more ingredients!

        Thanks for sharing all this useful stuff with world. 🙂

        Best wishes!

        • Sertac, glad to help. The idea came to me due to me ability to write tons of articles. I wanted to show everyone that someone new to the writing game: Mike , could get the same results.

          I say you start writing and the rest will follow 😉

  48. Patrick McCabe :

    Neil,

    Great piece! I was a successful professional musician for many years and the comparisons are amazing: practice, goals, playing to the audience, etc.

    And having taught many students piano over the years, I noticed another similarity: VERY few people actually have a “tin ear.” Of course there’s a spectrum of “talent,” but many of the best musicians I worked with weren’t prodigies, but simply very hard workers who honed their skills.

    • Patrick, there is a theory that has been very popular lately. Essentially anyone who has mastered any skill spends about 10,000 hours of intense practice to become the best they can be. I think this applies across all spectrums. Thanks for sharing!

  49. A great post, Neil. If you don’t mind, I’ll share a few things that helped me improve my writing over the past 24 years (not including the years I was doing technical writing and, non-professionally, songwriting).

    1. Read William Zinsser’s book “On Writing Well.” Then read it again. I used to read it over again every few years.

    2. Write reviews – books, music, film, tv, products, kitchen gadgets, whatever. Write dozens of them and don’t worry about length. Then go back and apply some of what Zinsser said, such as (if I recall correctly) “striking” out every other word to see if the meaning is still there. If not, put back some words. (I read the original book, at a time when personal computers did not exist.)

    As a storyteller since being knee-high to a grasshopper, I have a natural inclination towards verbosity. Had I not written many hundreds of music/ book/ film/ restaurant reviews for my print publication and others, I would not have learned how to be succinct when it’s necessary. Though I still do get verbose, as you can see.

    3. Use outlines. I find mind mapping particularly useful for planning larger pieces of written content — and also for podcasts/ screencasts, short stories and novels. Whatever your flavor of writing, a little bit of planning helps to organize your thoughts, and to make the end result more cohesive. I started 100 short stories and finished 60 (including novellas) from 2002-2004 by outlining the events I wanted to use. I wrote hundreds of blog posts between 2005-2009 the same way, but with more mind mapping involved.

    It works for fiction and non-fiction.

    4. Utilize outline ideas to produce visual structure.
    Since 2013, I’ve been producing much longer, highly-researched articles for clients that can be up to 8,000 words, maybe more. Studies show that reading on a vertical screen is more fatiguing than reading printed matter. The fonts also matter. Make the experience better for your reader by breaking down longer posts/ articles in a similar structure to your outline by using various sizes of headings and sub-headings, bullet point lists, etc.

    While this does not necessarily make you a better writer, it will make you a better publisher.

    • Raj, these are great tips. You should write a blog post on all of this stuff if you haven’t already.

      1. I’ll have to check this book out.

      2. Reviews have always been important. I always analyze and share tools that are helpful for marketers. That’s how I review.

      3. I can’t begin writing unless I have an outline in place. I think this is something people often overlook.

      4. Outlines should definitely supplement your visual content. I like to wireframe.

      Thanks for sharing!

      • Thanks, Neil. If there’s just two books a(n aspiring) writer should read, it’s Strunk and White’s “The Elements of Style” and William Zinsser’s “On Writing Well.”

        Thanks for the suggestion re writing a blog post. I used to write a lot of posts like this for clients and “free” sites like the old Performancing. Right now I’m soft-launching a new site that focuses on the tools that writers need (linked in my name in the comment header). Not sure if I’ll include technique, but maybe a free ebook on the subject might do.

        cheers

      • FYI, Zinsser was quoting another writer (possibly William S Burroughs, but I do not recall) re going back and striking out every other word, then putting words back in, if the meaning of your text is lost. This exercise helps writers learn to think in a more succinct fashion.

  50. arts maroc caftan :

    Thank you so much for your advices, i will not say that i am a newbie in seo, but as you all guys know that seo is the ultimate moving sands ground, every time i ruing my stuffs, i get back to quicksproud.com and i get a clue on what to do

    • Glad to help. If you need any specific help with anything I am always here!

      • arts maroc caftan :

        Hi Neil,

        I wanted to ask but i’m afraid i would take some of your time to reply, even thought i really really really need an expert answer :

        My ecommerce site caftanpourelle.fr used (until july) to rank first for almost all my business keywords, but slowly i started loosing positions for a competitor site caftan-richardamina.com that does not have a strong relevant backlinks profile, and barely have few links, i kept on building new links but always same thing, i’ve made prestashop upgrade to latest, my website load faster then our competitor, we have more social signals…. after a long search i discovered some very low quality links pointing to my site, i did a disavow, but unfortunately still no improvement, we lost now almost 80% of our traffic and conversions.

        I also found that my competitor has a trust flow of 17 (for domain) in majestic, while we have 14.

        What do you think is the reason behind our lost of positions ? and what should i do to get back in track ?

        thank you for your time

        • It could be a number of things… focus on…

          1. Building relevant links to internal pages.
          2. Focus on user experience and try to improve that.
          3. Look at your Google Search Console and try and improve title tags to increase click throughs.

          Doing those 3 things should help you.

          • Hi Neil,

            I read your post and it is very helpful to be a good writer as well as it will help you to make content rich pages for the website which can attract more customer and help to increase the traffic.

            I have business of cleaning service named Toronto Steam N’ Clean and having site named torontosteamnclean.ca which has backlinks but not getting that much traffic which is necessary to get the business. My site is optimized as per SEO guidelines but not getting the desired result.

            In which area we are lacking behind and what should i do to get the desired result?

            Regards,
            Naeem Asaad

  51. Roberto Zanon :

    Very nice post as usually. What I agree with you 100% is that practice and consistency make perfect.

    Since I have started blogging a few months ago, my writing skills have been tremendously improved.

    Overall experience and knowledge on various different topics/niches helps quite a bit as well.

    Thanks 🙂

    • Roberto, glad you found it helpful.

      You’ll find that as you write more your skills will naturally improve.

      Keep me posted on your cprogress 🙂

  52. Great news for us bloggers where English is our 3rd or even 4th language. Grammar is the most important thing to learn first if one wants to blog in English, I believe.

    • Gilbert, glad to help. Grammar is vital — you want to make sure your content to flow so it’s easier to read.

  53. Siva Thirulojan :

    Very deep analysis Neil, a helpful guide to start up bloggers and professional writers. Hats off to you! 🙂

  54. Chirag Kulkarni :

    Great post, Neil! I’m 100% with you on the holding yourself accountable portion. I’ve done this on multiple occasions regarding things like Weight loss, and personally, donating money is the best outcome because I never want it to go to waste!

    • Chirag,

      Accountability is key. At the end of the day you have to make sure your life aligns with what you say you’ll do.

  55. Khalid Ibrahim :

    Hello Neil,

    Who would’ve thought the one thing you really need to be a great writer is to just keep it simple. I realize that in my writing i may use some complex words but they come to me naturally. I suppose I need more empathy in my writing.

    Thanks for sharing

    • Khalid, by keeping things simple and being empathetic to other’s concerns you can provide a ton of value. Thanks for sharing!

  56. Thank you for your advice. A helpful guide to start up bloggers and professional writers. Thanks for the motivation!

  57. Shafees Marikkar :

    Hi Neil.

    I took 3 days to finish reading this post. Because every points are very useful and i read carefully. I love the word you have mentioned “Forget about the result, and focus on the process”

    Yes definitely.

    Thank you very much Neil

  58. Hi! very good points!, like everything in this world is to put it on practice, a large post but very useful, need to keep it on mind and get the best results, thanks!”

  59. Hello Neil, I must confess that you’ve done a great job. I really wanted to be a writer, because I like to write. Though have spent years learning electrical trades; but I think it’s never too late to mend. Could you please help me out with guides.

    Best regards,
    Qosim Junaid

  60. Hei Neil, thanks for sharing this information

    to be honest, I am a terrible writer too. And practicing hard enough to learn the things from you.

    That is why I just started my online business and you are my go-to source guide when it comes to marketing.

    And your second point is quite valuable- We should not write how we want to read. We first have to take care how our users read. this is how one can get more leads, more sell and get customers.

    • I think it’s always best to write how you speak as it helps the readers just flow right through the information. Often times hear your readers will even begin to hear your voice as they read it.

  61. How can I tell if my writing is improving?

  62. Ejiofor Francis :

    Waoh! Neil….

    I’m so delighted that i came across this helpful and resourceful tips you shared about becoming a near-perfect writer…

    I think you rock at this point…I’ll practice them dearly

    Thanks a bunch Neil.

  63. this is exactly what i was looking for! extensive article! i hope this kind of advice will make me a better writer. thank you

  64. Great Post Neil! My take away is write scan-able article for your reader as no one has a lot time.

    Thanks Mate!

  65. I am big fan of your blog. You articles on SEO help me a lot for ranking my website. Keep sharing you knowledge.

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