For a long time, I had a bad habit. I was an unconfident writer. In this series of articles, I’ll show you how you can avoid my mistakes and write with confidence.
Writing with confidence isn’t just about trusting your skill as a writer – it’s more than that. It’s about writing in a way that’s clear and honest, rather than distant and ambiguous. It’s about projecting confidence in the way you write, and sharing that confidence with your readers.
We can inject confidence into our writing by focusing on three qualities:
- Active voice
Let’s start by looking at how we can make our writing more assertive.
What’s the difference between saying ‘this is a bad idea’ and saying ‘I think this is a bad idea’?
On the surface, they’re very similar. They’re both stating the same view. In both cases, it’s clear that it’s the writer who has this opinion.
The difference is that saying ‘I think’, ‘I believe’, or ‘I feel’ draws attention the idea that this is an opinion. It makes the statement less persuasive, and encourages the reader to disagree with it if they want to.
On top of that, phrases like ‘I think’ moves the focus away from the subject (‘this’ in the example above) and to the writer who’s thinking it. It’s like taking a step back.
This can feel more comfortable, particularly if you think some readers might actually disagree with you. But it’s also counterproductive – readers who disagree with you are exactly the people you’re trying to persuade.
Compare the following examples:
- I think the project is getting off track.
- The project is getting off track.
- I believe our results show that the strategy is working.
- Our results show that the strategy is working.
- I feel like you’re not taking this seriously
- You’re not taking this seriously.
Can you feel the difference?
These phrases aren’t always bad – there are times when you might genuinely want to frame something as your own opinion. However, they have a habit of showing up where they aren’t helpful. Be wary.
The same is true of words like ‘maybe’, ‘possibly’, or ‘potentially’. Use them when you mean them, but don’t say ‘maybe we need to change our approach’ if you actually mean ‘we need to change our approach’.
Keep an eye out for these phrases in your own writing. If you find them (and you will), ask yourself whether they’re helping you or whether your writing might be more persuasive and more effective without them.