3 Ways to Tighten and Improve Your Content Writing



One thing about writing – a lot of people think they’re good at it. I hate to break it to you, but there many mediocre and poor writers out there!

How do I know? I read online and offline content and I receive guest blog post submissions. What amazes me is that so many self-proclaimed writers need to tighten and improve their content.

Why is it important?

How you write your organization’s or company’s content directly impacts customers’ brand impressions. The better the writing style, the more professional it appears.

What makes me such a maven?

I’ve been a professional writer for 25+ years. That doesn’t make me perfect, but it does give me some credibility.

Was I always a good writer? Hell, no! I started with a natural talent and honed my skills over the years. I also had a good writing mentor/boss early in my marketing and communications career.

If you’re responsible for your organization’s content, or if you’re trying to gain footing as a freelance writer, here are some tips that can help tighten and improve your work:

1. Avoid Too Many Prepositional Phrases

Prepositional phrases are those that begin with prepositions such as with, to, under, of, in, beside, at, etc. There’s a good list here.

Using prepositions isn’t a writing sin, but using too many is cumbersome. Here’s an example:

“Your implementation of a new look should be complete and encompassing of everything in your business.” (original)

“Your new look should be complete and all-encompassing.” (revised)

See the difference? The second sentence is tighter, uses fewer words, and says the same thing without using three prepositional phrases. I removed, “in your business” because it has already been implied.

When proofing your pieces, tighten sentences to avoid prepositional phrases wherever possible.

2. Avoid Passive Sentences

There are two kinds of sentences, passive and active. A good writer uses active sentences. Here are some examples from Your Dictionary :

> The Grand Canyon is viewed by thousands of tourists every year. (passive)
> Thousands of tourists view the Grand Canyon every year. (active)

> The video was posted on Facebook by Alex. (passive)
> Alex posted the video on Facebook. (active)

Why are active sentences better?

According to Grammar Girl, “Passive sentences aren’t incorrect; it’s just that they often aren’t the best way to phrase your thoughts. Sometimes passive voice is awkward and other times it’s vague. Also, passive voice is usually wordy, so you can tighten your writing if you replace passive sentences with active sentences.”

There are some exceptions to this rule. My alma mater, University of Toronto, offers good advice in this article, “Passive Voice: When to Use It and When to Avoid It.”

3. Avoid Incongruous Singular-Plural Nouns and Pronouns

I see this a lot! It’s a common mistake. Here’s an example:

“When your customer makes an online purchase, make sure you communicate with them after the transaction.”

Did you notice the error? “Your customer” is singular and “them” is plural.

Here are correct options:

“When your customer makes an online purchase, make sure you communicate with him or her after the transaction.”

“When your customers make online purchases, make sure you communicate with them after their transactions.”

These are only three examples for improving your content writing. I recommend that you bookmark a good grammar website or keep a reference guide on your desk. Two tried-and-true reference books are, The Elements of Style, Fourth Edition by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White, and The Handbook of Good English by Edward D. Johnson.*

And, if you want to adhere to a journalistic style, then grab a copy of Associated Press Stylebook 2015 and Briefing on Media Law. In the publishing industry, writers use The Chicago Manual of Style.*

And, if you find any grammatical errors in this post, tell me!

*Affiliate links


  1. Hi Elaine,
    This is an awesome contribution. No one is perfect with grammar and writing hence the need to improve become inevitable.

    Content writing and expressions can affect the perception about a brand. Therefore, it becomes necessary to tighten and improve content always.

    The three ways you have shared on how to improve sentences and content should be revealing.

    As a matter of fact, I am always guilty of using passive voice in sentences. Now that I know better, I will change and write more with the active voice!

  2. I am always open to any post that will teach me how to improve my writing. This post is not an exception and I appreciate you taking your time and effort to share this.

    After going through this piece, its now left for me to do the needful at ensuring that tips discussed here are strongly put into practice.

    On characteristic that portrays a very good content writer is the ability to make room for improvements periodically!

  3. Hi Elaine,

    Improving content writing requires constant practice. If a writer is constantly acquainted with Grammar books, websites and resources then it would become easier achieving good success with it.

    The three tips you have shared here are helpful because they are common mistakes which can be avoided. More so, correcting these means taking charge of the writing with ease!

  4. Hi Elaine,

    To improve content writing of any sort, grammar and mechanical accuracy must improve. The writer who is open to learning will always improve his/her content writing.

    While the three areas you have highlighted for avoidance are revealing to many, I will add that content writers must always use simple and short sentences to easily drive the points they make in writing!

  5. Hi Elaine,

    This post is timely for me, in the sense that, I am presently reviewing articles and resources that would help improve my writings.

    It is one thing to have the will power for content improvement but its quite another thing to know what and where to improve.

    These three places of improvement you have discussed are truly helpful for me.

    Thanks for sharing this awesome piece!

  6. Hey Elaine,

    I like reading posts like this.

    It can be quite a challenge to follow these rules, but using them can help make it more enjoyable for your readers.

    You can see how making your sentences tighter will lead your readers to the point instead of just dragging on about the subject.

    This takes a lot of practice and it may not be as noticeable at first, but with consistency you’ll see a big difference.

    Thans for sharing Elaine! Have a good one!
    Sherman Smith recently posted…Conquering The Fear Of Publishing Your New Blog PostMy Profile

    • You raise an interesting point, Barbara. I wrote this piece coming from a business vantage point. I believe that content writing, as part of a content marketing strategy (and overall marketing strategy) represents an organization’s brand reputation. Grammatical errors, among many other factors, can erode that brand reputation.

      On the other hand, when people blog for fun and they are unconcerned about building a company or personal brand, then there’s no concern and they can write in an unrestricted fashion.

      As for rules causing rigidity in one’s writing, I don’t see them stifling creativity. Being a good writer, especially when developing content for business purposes, requires a respect for the language and a talent for using words effectively to achieve a marketing objective. In almost every profession, there are standards, ethics, and rules. And when people don’t abide by them, their audiences/clients can perceive them as inferior.

      Thanks for your comment. It made me think today! 🙂
      Elaine Fogel recently posted…Tips for Re-branding Your Company Image More EffectivelyMy Profile

  7. Hi Elaine,

    I like this post.

    You’re right with what you said in one of your replies here about the education system not drilling grammar into students’ heads, but don’t you think maybe laziness of students is part of the problem?

    Also, the ease of technology today doesn’t help, does it? I can’t imagine how many millions of people’s spelling and grammar is worse today bcos of mobile phones and social media.

    Notice my use of “bcos” instead of “because” 🙂

    • I know what you mean, Jonna. When I was a classroom teacher (eons ago), “whole language” was the norm. Teachers weren’t supposed to mark every error in students’ writing because it could be discouraging and deflating. Instead, we worked on one at a time.

      Now, the world is totally different. Besides mobile phones and social media (as you mention), which encourages abbreviations and text language, many school districts are doing away with cursive writing lessons. I believe that this will have a negative effect on kids’ writing abilities.

      As it is, there are many college students who don’t know how to write a term paper or persuasive sentences. Spellcheck cannot fix everything and being able to write well is still a valued skill in the workplace.

      I’m not sure this situation is attributable to students’ laziness. When they understood why they need certain skills, they are more amenable to learning them.
      Elaine Fogel recently posted…Tips for Re-branding Your Company Image More EffectivelyMy Profile

  8. It’s a tough call, Elaine. English is changing. Just 20-30 years ago, nobody would have used “them” to refer to a single person. People would just say “him”.

    But then somebody noticed that English also had the word “her” (only took a few hundred years), and thus was born the cumbersome “him or her”.

    There is little that cannot be overcome with a little human ingenuity and a little more human laziness, and thus was born “them”. Never mind that “them” is “him and her”, not “him or her”.

    My preference is to use him sometimes and her some other times (so that we all feel equally used), or “him or her” all the time. But when I need to make such references frequently in a document, I find that “him or her” really drags down the text . And it is often not appropriate to use just “him” sometimes and “her” other times. So I do capitulate from time to time, and use “them”.

    I wonder how long it will take for human ingenuity and human laziness to discover that “it” is even easier to write than “them”. Just sayin’.
    David recently posted…Three ways to write for the WebMy Profile

    • Your point is interesting, David, especially with transgender issues educating us all. I understand the cumbersome use of “him/her” and try to avoid it myself. That’s why, whenever possible, I change the subject to plural so “them” works.

      In my book, I purposefully mixed “him” and “her” and included an explanation in the introduction. This conundrum also applies to many other languages that differentiate between male and female. Back to the Tower of Babel! 🙂
      Elaine Fogel recently posted…Combining IN and OUT Marketing Proven the Best ChoiceMy Profile

  9. Hi,

    Improving your writing is a challenge, but with practice you can be better than before.

    I like the advice you have given here. It tells people to keep their sentences shorter and more simple. That may seem counter-intuitive, but that is actually the best kind of writing.

    When people read, they don’t want these huge sentences to where they can’t understand what is going on until they read it 5 times. They want to be able to get done with an article and obtain the most information they can from it in the shortest amount of time.

    Great post!
    Lawrence Berry recently posted…How To Identify Your Weaknesses And Cope With ThemMy Profile

  10. Hello Elaine,

    I enjoyed your post. Let me just add this: Writers should be sensitive to the subtle meanings of words–not just their dictionary meanings but the images they provoke.

    For example, the words “laugh,” “giggle,” and “guffaw” essentially mean the same thing, but they provoke different images. Most of us laugh; little boys and girls giggle; old men don’t usually giggle but guffaw.

    Also, some writers don’t use transitions. This is a much bigger deal than the mistake mentioned above. The writer must always move forward in the narrative or theme, repeatedly telling the reader to “come this way now” from one fact, thought, or idea to the next.

    So, transitions ensure this forward motion, acting like the couplings between the cars of a rolling train.

    Thabo Nkomo recently posted…Wholetunes Review–Music for your healthMy Profile

  11. Hello Elaine
    Great post: This post was very informative and very helpful. I really enjoy seeing these kind of articles because they can only improve my writing. Those three areas for improvement have been helpful for me. Nothing worse than trying to read a blog and you can’t understand their point. Great content writing =great communication. Elaine thanks for sharing such a value-packed post it will definitely help to enhance my blog .Take care and have a great day.
    darrellantonio recently posted…Wow ! 5 of the Most Expensive AppsMy Profile

  12. Hi Elaine,

    Thank you for sharing this article. You offer some very good advice at making your writing succinct and easy to read.

    I hate to admit it, but I didn’t know the difference between active and passive voice until just recently when I took a course on Udemy.

    I remember using an seo plugin and it told me that I write in the passive voice. Now I finally know what it means and why it is important to use the active voice.

    Plus, you gave many more helpful hints to improve my writing too!

    Take care my friend,


  13. Hi Elaine

    I get what you are saying. I know from observations of my self that ambiguous or burgeoning sentences are frustrating to read and often lead to me passing over the article completely.

    I am still learning the art of written communication as I see it as such a marvelous tool for many purposes. I once heard someone say writing is ‘thinking on paper’ which I fully agree with.

    Many thanks for your three main tips.

  14. Hello Elaine,

    It’s easy for the best writers out there to make grammar mistakes. It’s often the one of the most embarrassing things to happen. But everyone can make mistakes, and after reading your article. It’s a good idea for all of us to go back and read old content and clean up any grammar errors and mistakes.

    I too often I think use a passive voice myself. You just mentioning that makes me realize I’m guilty as charge.

    This article should be helpful to all bloggers. Thanks for sharing these three tips.