If you’re writing stuff for Got Users, follow these guidelines, but don’t waste hours trying to be perfect.
(P.S. We made a tool that fixes some of this automatically.)
#1: Be specific
This means giving examples and details (without oversharing).
Bad: “What is love? It’s a feeling that bonds people together.”
Good: “What is love? It’s what you feel when you look into your partner’s eyes or when you look at your newborn baby.”
Bad: “I want to make the most of this opportunity.”
Good: “I’ve set aside 10 hours a week on my calendar to make edits based on your feedback.”
Bad: “We cut through complexity.”
Good: “We hire smart people to audit your complicated accounting statements.”
If you can’t be specific, it’s a sign you don’t actually have something to say.
#2: Avoid jargon. Write informally.
Unless there’s a really good reason — like you’re writing technical documentation or speechwriting for the Federal Reserve — avoid professional-sounding language.
Write like you’re speaking to a coworker or a friend. Use words they would understand.
Use contractions (can’t, won’t) instead of the full words (cannot, will not).
Bad: “I am reaching out because we share mutual interests and are part of each other’s professional network.”
Good: “I’m reaching out because I love your dog photos and we both know Jaylen Johnson.”
Our rule of thumb: if it sounds like a government official or Comcast support rep, you need to rewrite it.
#3: Remove filler words
Common culprits: the phrase “I think”, the word “that”, adverbs, passive voice.
Bad: “I think that the best thing to do here is to probably turn off the Facebook ads because we’re overspending our budget.”
Good: “We should turn off Facebook ads because we overspent our budget.”
Bad: “The work will be done by us.”
Good: “We’ll do the work.”
#4: Mix up long and short sentences
This is hard to do perfectly, but keep it in the back of your mind.
#5: Re-writing is 80% of the work
Get your idea down as fast you can, then spend most of your time improving what you wrote.
Here’s an example. (The words in yellow ultimately got deleted.)
- Be specific
- Write simply
- The Boron Letters: Some people have copied every single one of them onto pen and paper to learn copywriting by feel.
- Hemingway Editor: A tool to make your writing clear, simple, and direct.
- WriteSimpler: A tool we’ve prototyped that makes your writing simpler without any work.