Ask a 7-year-old what they want to be when they grow up and they will tell you. “YouTuber.” Being paid to create online sounds like great fun, but most people don’t make it big. For every 100 people that start showing up on YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, or LinkedIn, 90 will drop out before the first year is up. They’ll say it wasn’t for them and they’ll join another bandwagon, never committing and never seeing real success online.
The difference between the roaring successes and the majority dropouts? High impact writing. The ability to clearly communicate a message, in a way that builds an audience and gets them excited about becoming your customer. Learning how to write, and applying your skills to scripts, tweets, articles and newsletters is the single biggest investment you can make in your career as a creator and your personal brand.
Kieran Drew quit dentistry to become a writer, and now shares what he learns as he builds his creator business. With 160,000 Twitter followers (having only opened his account in August 2020) and over 20,000 subscribers to his Digital Freedom newsletter, he’s explaining the frameworks and strategies that have kept him in the game. Prominent content creators learn how to write from Drew’s suggestions, and they see their metrics move soon after applying his methods.
I asked Drew the common writing mistakes creators need to avoid making on Twitter, and here are the top 10.
1. Keeping sentences the same length
“You don’t see what you read, you hear it,” he explained. This means that, “if every sentence is the same length, it gets boring. Fast.” To avoid this mistake, aim for 20% long sentences and 80% short ones. Make your sentences sing to never bore your audience again. Get them to look forward to your posts by taking them on a tuneful journey with every line.
2. Not following the “rule of one”
“If you try to please everyone, you please no one,” said Drew. “If you try to say everything, you say nothing.” Instead of watering down your message to avoid trolls and haters, make it even more specific. “One big idea, one captivating story, one core emotion, one core benefit, one call to action.” Drew believes that “specificity is the secret.” What is your main message and how can it fit this rule?
3. Using adverbs
“The road to hell is paved with adverbs,” said Stephen King. And he’s not wrong. “Most people think adverbs strengthen your message,” said Drew, “but they ruin it. Avoid words such as really, quickly, rarely, and so on. If a word ends in -ly, it’s not your friend. “Use them as an opportunity to swap out for bigger and bolder language.” Your message will be stronger, less fluffy, and more memorable to readers.
4. Using passive voice
“Passive voice is wordy and confusing. It can make your reader feel uncertain,” warned Drew. “And uncertainty is a killer.” To save serious headaches, see if your sentence passes “the zombie test,” which goes like this: “If you can add ‘and by zombies’ to the sentence, it’s passive. If you can’t, it’s active.” This is the difference between “The world was rocked by Kieran (and by zombies)” and “Kieran rocked the world (and by zombies).” You want the latter, and so does your audience.
5. Not having a process
“Most people don’t suck at writing; they suck at systems.” There’s a difference. Linguistic genius without a system is talent unleveraged. Don’t let yours go to waste with the “triple tap writing system” that Drew recommends. “First draft fast, second draft slow, one week buffer.” Simple. “Leave time between your drafts, and schedule content one week ahead.” Let your subconscious mind work through your words when you’re doing other things, and come back with fresh eyes ready to improve.
6. Too clever, not clear
What you learned in class doesn’t translate to high impact writing. “Schools teach you that the smarter you sound, the better you are. The internet shows you the opposite.” Instead of trying to sound well-educated, “distil core ideas down to their simplest form.” Be clear instead of clever. It makes you easier to consume, instantly memorable, and more than pays off long term
7. Poor formatting
“Optimize for skimmability,” advised Drew, which is especially important when writing on Twitter. “Before people read, they assess if reading will be worth their time.” Make the answer a resounding yes. “Even the best ideas are ruined by poor presentation,” he warned. Add line breaks to break up your paragraphs, use snappy sentences, bullet points and white space. “The secret is to be easy on the eyes.” Win more eyeballs by making them happy.
8. Not enough editing
“Like it or not, the internet is a battle for attention,” said Drew. “You’re not just competing with creators, but companies like TikTok. You can’t afford to waffle.” Editing is worthwhile. “Use the 33% rule,” he added. “Cut a third from your draft before publishing. People are busy. Write like it.” Even if you think what you’ve written cannot possibly be cut down, give it a go. Keep chopping until it’s a third shorter and much punchier. You won’t even remember what you cut out.
9. Hedging bets
“Weak writing, weak results,” said Drew. Your audience doesn’t want feeble, it wants strong. Its members want a message they can get behind. “They want to trust you have the solution. So if you want them to care about your ideas, make sure they hit home.” Remove fluffy phrases like “I think that,” “it’s possible that,” “you could,” and “probably.” Don’t be afraid to take your stance.
10. Being the guru
“Don’t be the guru, be the guide,” explained Drew. Instead of being one of those internet experts without experience, show them how you did it. “Less how to, more how I,” he explained. This means openers such as, “When I first started…”, “How I went from…” and sharing a message based on results you’ve achieved. And don’t assume your method is the only one that will work. Share it as something useful that may help someone else, not the absolute blueprint.
Avoid these 10 common mistakes to write better and make more impact online, especially on Twitter. Strengthen your message by not hedging your bets, but writing from experience, and being clear instead of clever. Improve your structure by editing better, adding variety to your sentences, and formatting for skimmability. Transform into a powerful communicator for an impressive personal brand and a profitable business.