We're already more than a week into January, but I'm still slowly working my way through all the "best of" year-end lists out there (there are so many of them!). Combing through these recommendations may be time-consuming, but it's worth the commitment, I've found, as sometimes you turn up an absolute gem you missed earlier in the year.

Take the post titled "The Two Minutes It Takes to Read This Will Improve Your Writing Forever," by marketer Josh Spector, for example. As short as it is useful, the piece is one of the most recommended posts of 2016, Medium informs me. It's not hard to see why.

Spector offers five dead-simple changes you can make to basically any piece of writing in a matter of seconds that will make it more forceful and compelling. We'd all enjoy reading a bit more if more writers followed his tips:

1. Delete the word that. At least 90 percent of the time, the word that can be removed from your writing and it will instantly make your sentence stronger.

2. Delete the words I think. It adds nothing. Remove it to strengthen your point.

3. Avoid words that end in -ing. Example: "The experiences we're seeking end up being underwhelming and even disappointing." Change this to: "The experiences we seek often underwhelm and disappoint."

4. Short sentences. Short paragraphs. Most sentences can be cut in half. Don't be afraid to have a two- or three-word sentence. Keep paragraphs to less than three sentences.

5. Shrink your opening sentence. Example: "This is a post that's going to help you become a better writer." Change to: "I can help you."

Why you should bother

There's really no excuse for not putting this advice into action immediately given how incredibly easy it is, but in case you're in need of more motivation, a host of experts insist that bad writing is truly terrible for companies and careers.

Sloppy writing can signal that a company is drifting away from its original mission and help it wander further off course. Poor written communication often halts personal advancement, even if you have excellent technical skills, both successful operators and top executives note.

Published on: Jan 10, 2017