How to Stop Sounding Stupid and Write Like a Pro

Writing is a skill. That means you've got to practice. Practice alone, however, isn't enough. That's like locking a kid in with a piano for a couple of years, without any instruction and expecting them to come out playing Mozart.

You know how sometimes you're looking for an article on a topic and can't find anything about it anywhere. Then, finally you do find an article that covers the topic nicely, but your cry of 'Eureka' quickly mutates to angry mutters because you can't make heads or tails of the writer's words?
It drives me crazy when that happens. I just want to yell at them. Here was such a good opportunity for an author to inform me and (more importantly for them) attract an audience. But instead, they've left me frustrated and unsatisfied like a woman whose one-night stand needed more time to take off his socks than to finish the deed.
Such a wasted opportunity. So, in an attempt to turn my anger into compassion (which I hear is very healthy) here are some ways you can avoid that.

Avoid Jargon

It is such a simple idea and yet it is a trap that I so often see people fall into. Avoid jargon and specialized words, as far fewer people understand them than you think you do.
If you do feel you need to use them because they capture a concept so much better than more widely known words do, then define your terms! It's not hard and it widens your audience far beyond your niche.

Shorten your sentences

The vast majority of your sentences shouldn't stretch past one line of text. Any time a sentence runs over two lines warning lights should start to flash. Why? Because our short-term memory is limited. That means that when your sentences stretch people might well have forgotten how you started by the end of it.
Personally, I rely on the Hemingway App to point out long sentences. Now, don't get me wrong. I don't always listen to what it has to say, but it is useful in that it points them out and makes me think about them.
In fact, since I've started using the app I've noticed I've naturally started using shorter sentences.

Grammar and spelling

You want to sound like an idiot? Then spell things wrong and use horrible grammar. There is no better way to make people decide not to take your word for what you're saying it to mangle your language.
And that while there are so many tools out there that will help you pick up the more common mistakes. For example, Grammarly will pick up a huge number of your mistakes and its basic version is free! In my opinion, that really means it's unforgivable to make the more common mistakes.

Edit your work

If you think you've finished your text after the first draft, you're selling yourself short. Writing is editing. That's when you take the unpolished rough cut stone that you've put down and turn it into something shiny.
Editing is where you remove superfluous words. Editing is where you clarify unclear sentences.
If you're not editing, then you're missing out on all of those opportunities.

Let it cook

With that, I mean that you simply put it aside for at least a few hours (though preferably a few days) before you start making modifications.
The great thing about this strategy is that you'll be able to take some distance from what you're doing. And that, in turn, will let you see what you wrote rather than what you think you did. For example, where you read over a sentence where there's a word missing, but you don't notice it because in your mind it's there.

Get other people involved

Even better, get other editors. Right now there are just so many people looking to help you with your writing online. Admittedly, they're not all equally good. In fact, quite a few aren't worth the time of day.
Fortunately, there are also sites that do writing service reviews, so that you can figure out which one works for you. And the best part? They're not even that expensive, so you don't have to pay an arm and a leg to take your article from breathing hard after the first lap to being able to run the distance.

Don't try to sound smarter than you are

You will be found out. What's more, there is actually research out there that suggests that when you use overly big words, people will think less of you. So talk about who you are. You'll sound less stilted, less forced and you're going to impress far more people that way.
As an added bonus, you'll avoid using words that you don't actually know the meaning of, which is another great way to avoid sounding stupid.

Do your research

Another fantastic way to have people instantly dismiss whatever you're trying to say is to say things that they know are wrong. It doesn't matter what your mistake is. It might even be entirely unrelated to the point you're trying to make. The fact that you got something glaringly wrong is going to make people think less of the rest of your argument.
This is because human psychology isn't really built to evaluate something on a whole load of different dimensions. Instead, we tend to lump everything together into one overall dimension and then judge based on that.
So do your research. Make sure you know your facts. If you quote a statistic, make sure you pulled it from a reputable website.

Last words

Writing is a skill. That means you've got to practice. Practice alone, however, isn't enough. That's like locking a kid in with a piano for a couple of years, without any instruction and expecting them to come out playing Mozart.
You can't just practice. You also have to uncover your mistakes and take steps to correct them. Otherwise, you'll just end up plateauing and getting stuck. Now, that can't be the point, can it?
Take the time to analyze what you're doing and the suggestions that people are making. Then apply those that you think will make your writing better and try to internalize them. That's how you'll get better. And that's how you'll avoid looking stupid.

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