Rewriting Your Writing: How to Be a Better Writer

“How do you write website content?” That’s a tricky question I’m often asked. There are standards and suggested guidelines to follow, sure, but teaching someone the difference between how to write content and how to write content that shines is tough.

I have a trick, though: Put your skills to the test and start rewriting.

Before I go on, I’d like to say that I don’t intend for people to edit their work mercilessly until it’s either too pristine to be any good or so far off the original that it doesn’t even resemble itself anymore. I also don’t mean you should grab someone else’s work, change a few words and pass it off as your own.

I definitively don’t want anyone to use this trick to rehash what someone else has written. You have a brain; use it. Be creative. Write your own damned blog posts.

What I do want is to give you a way to use existing content as a means to improve your own writing skills through observation and practical application. Writing website content from scratch is tough, especially for someone just starting out.

Rewriting lets your brain focus on improving versus creating. You can get better at writing without thinking too hard about what to write in the first place.

So let’s begin. Visit any page on any website. There’s very little out there that is perfect, and almost all text can use improvement. Take any of our content pages on our site here and use those, for example. Some the content is quite good; some is pure crap.

Examine the text. Try to determine if there is a mood or emotion conveyed. Pinpoint what that mood might be. Which words enhance the feeling? Which don’t? Are there words you could switch with better ones to convey more emotion or play up the mood?

Narrow down techniques and style. Did the writer use a specific strategy or pen prose in a particular way? Are sentences short or long? Are there many adjectives or is the content very concise? Can you narrow down the style of writing used to convey the message? Is there a better style you could try?

Verify the structure of the content. Is there a headline? How long is it? Is it effective? Why? Read the introduction and see if it accomplished its purpose. Examine the body and paragraph breaks. Do they occur in the right places for maximum impact? Does the conclusion wrap things up nicely or give a good call to action?

Now it’s time to practice. Try to change the mood of the content. Switch out words and adjectives. If the text you selected is authoritative and strong, make it gentle and soft. If it’s emotion-evoking and poignant, make it direct and short. If it’s academic, apply some storytelling.

Try making the content stronger. There’s a lot of fluff out there, and it isn’t all related to bunnies, either. Be merciless. Chop out unnecessary words, cut the fat, and remove repetitive sentences or redundant phrasing. See how concise you can be with the content while retaining the core message. Oh, and kill all passive language on sight, too.

Now reword everything, top to bottom. Imagine that you’ve been hired to make this content better. What would you write? How would you do it? Where can you improve the text and what should you leave as is? That’s important to know – making content better doesn’t always mean you need to rewrite everything. If a section works, leave it, or just change the necessary. Sometimes switching three words out of 50 makes all the difference.

The more you practice rewriting content, the better you’ll become at writing. You can do this with any type of content, too – textbooks, fiction, blog posts… you name it. Soon enough, you’ll be able to glance at a page and know exactly what the author did, why, and what could have been done differently. Weak areas will leap out at you. You’ll notice power words or psychological strategies more easily.

Best of all, you’ll become a stronger writer who can convey a message in various ways and different styles.

Post by James Chartrand

James Chartrand is an expert copywriter and the owner of Men with Pens and Damn Fine Words, the game-changing writing course for business owners. She loves the color blue, her kids, Nike sneakers and ice skating.