If you think you're not a good writer, you've probably gotten hung up on the "craft" of writing. Worry too much about how you write and it's hard to write well. 

But that's okay: Style doesn't matter (unless you're Nicholas Sparks and guys hate you because by comparison we all seem like insensitive jerks.) 

Results are all that matter. Whether you're writing emails, proposals, reports... good writing gets things done.

Want to improve your writing? Stop using qualifiers and filler words.


1. "Think."

Example: "I think it's really important that we consider raising prices."

(For now, ignore "really" and "that." We'll get to them later.) Including "think" softens your message. It's obvious you think we should consider raising prices; you wouldn't say so if you didn't.

"I think," "I feel," "I wonder"... they're qualifiers. Instead of boldly saying, "We need to raise prices," using "think" (and "consider") gives you a way out.

Take a stand. If you've decided we need to raise prices, just say so. If you've decided we need to change something, just say so.

2. "Really."

Example: "Mary is a really great supervisor."

Emphasis is important, but not when it's meaningless. Is "really great" better than great? Is "really important" more critical than "important"? 

Not, um, really.

If Mary is really great, say she's excellent. Or that she's your best. If something is really important, say it's important -- and show how important by setting a task, a timeline... something actionable that proves importance.

After all, if a situation is important enough to write about... it's important enough to do something about. 

3. "Somewhat."

Example: "I am somewhat concerned about Joe's behavior during the meeting."

Am I a little concerned? Am I moderately concerned? Either I am concerned or I am not.

Or maybe I'm just tossing in "somewhat" so I can hedge in case the reader disagrees? 

A better approach is to say, "I am concerned about Joe's behavior during the meeting," and then explain the reason for my concern. Maybe Joe tried to take over. Or he was rude. Or he was disengaged. Or...

Don't try to define your level of emotion. Focus on addressing whatever caused it.

4. "Simply."

Example: "I simply don't know where to turn."

Another modifier. In this case, "simply" theoretically adds emphasis. But not really. "Simply" de-emphasizes your plight. (The same is true for "just.")

Which makes more impact?

  • "I simply don't know what to do," or
  • "I don't know what to do."


5. "And."

Example: "I went to the grocery store. And I bought fruit. And I bought vegetables. And..."

I often catch myself starting starting sentences with "And." I like it: "And" shows progression. "And" implies a connection between the previous sentence.

No connection is needed. I just said I'm at the grocery store. The action unfolds on its own. Progression is obvious.

And if progression is not obvious (oops), rewrite the previous sentence.

6. "Of."

Example: "Take the delivery date off of the proposal."

Sometimes the small things make a big difference. "Off of" sounds awkward. (So does "outside of.")

Don't believe me? Think Clint Eastwood would ever say, "Wipe that smile off of your face"?


7. "You."

Example: "Sometimes you just feel like leading people is too hard."

If you hope to establish rapport between yourself and the reader, tossing in "you" doesn't help. (Nor does "just" emphasize how you feel.) 

Better options? "Sometimes, leading people is hard." "Leading people can be difficult." "Leadership is hard." You won't need "you" to convince anyone who has been a leader to agree with those statements.

Eliminate "you" and state your premise. Then talk about your solutions to that premise. Provide great tips, great advice, great strategies... provide value to the reader and you will establish all the rapport you need.

Published on: May 23, 2018
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