Write better.

That sounds so simple, doesn’t it? It’s anything but.

It is one of the most significant improvements you can make to your marketing and sales efforts. We use words to connect, communicate and persuade audiences every day. Those audiences include everyone from our own team or staff, to prospects who aren’t familiar with our company and what we do, all the way to our very best and most loyal customers.

Whether it is the formality of a contract or the informality of a tweet, our words matter, and regardless of how good a writer you are, there’s plenty you can do to be even more effective.

Be less lazy: We’ve been writing since grade school, and we almost take it for granted. It’s like breathing – we just do it. You get a text, you answer it. You receive an email from a prospect, you answer it. The web copy needs updating, and you bang something out.

All of that familiarity and frequency lends itself to us writing without thinking very much about the quality of our work. Like anything we repeatedly do, it’s natural to begin to do it the same way.

In our writing, that means we use the same words – and typically they’re lazy words. Lazy words might be common words you use too often, like “great” (as opposed to “considerable,” “inordinate” or “prominent”) or words that add no meaning like “very,” “just” or “really.”

Clichés are another lazy trap. We all use clichés now and then, and they can be a convenient shorthand. But they are also so generic that readers don’t really react to them. They’re just an old pair of jeans – incredibly comfortable, but faded and uninteresting.

When you spot a cliché in your writing, substitute it with a more descriptive phrase or sentence. In most cases, being more specific will help your reader see in their mind’s eye what you are trying to say.

I’m not necessarily suggesting you make your prose longer, just more precise.

Don’t crowd your message: Most business writing is bloated. It contains more words than are necessary to communicate your point.

Extra words not only create clutter but they also sap your message’s energy. Don’t make your readers dig through unnecessary words to get to your meaning. Modifiers like “a little,” “quite,” “somewhat” and “fairly” are common culprits. Extra verbiage takes the edge off your writing.

There are times when we add that additional layer to keep our copy from being bold. But you want bold. If you can’t talk about your company, product or service in a bold way, that’s a much bigger problem.

There is a fine line between bold and hyperbole. I am not recommending you cross that line. But you should be able to march right up to it confidently.

Do detail: Instead of using clichés and filler words, dive into those details.

At their best, words cut through the reader’s mind and connect with their heart. We know that everyone’s buying decisions are emotionally driven, whether you are trying to persuade a team member to support an initiative or adapt to a fledgling change or you are asking someone to take out their wallet.

Focus on the feelings (fear, ambition, altruism, etc.) you need to evoke to get your reader to commit to taking action, and use your words to stimulate those feelings.

Your words should create vivid images in the reader’s mind, and your goal is for those images to be as crisp and clear as possible. Filler words, lazy writing, worn-out clichés and other writing flotsam should be ruthlessly eliminated to allow the reader to focus on just the words that matter.