Need to write new copy for your web site? Need to produce articles for your newsletter? Try these seven tips to improve your writing.
1 – Don’t bury the lead
Take a tip from an former newspaper reporter: grab the audience’s attention with the first sentence. Don’t waste your readers’ time. Your message should march in through the front door, not creep in from the back. Don’t prime the pump with some gentle preamble. Tell ‘em what’s new, and why they should care.
2 – Think NEWS…
New, Exciting, Worthwhile (relevant to the audience), Short. Make sure your writing stands out from all that stuff that is neither new nor exciting. The ‘worthwhile’ bit is really important. Paint a picture of how your product or service will help your readers.
3 – Think small
Small words, short sentences (24 words or less). Short sentences with one- and two-syllable words are easy to process. A message delivered in simple sentences is easy to remember. Winston Churchill knew his listeners would respond to ‘We shall fight on the beaches’. ‘We shall draw together and engage in armed conflict in the zone above the water line at a shore of a body of water marked by an accumulation of sand deposited by the tide’ would never have found it’s way into the history books.
4 – Write to a friend
Write as though you are talking to someone you care about. Be conversational. Use every-day words. Your words carry meaning, but they also carry a picture of the author. ‘We have scheduled training modules to improve our Associates ability to heighten our overall Guest experience’ carries a picture of a Very Pompous Person.
5 – Get active
Subject – verb – object. ‘The captain raised the trophy’ has more energy than ‘the trophy was raised by the captain.’ Writing in the active voice gives power to your words. ‘I have a dream’ is way stronger than ‘A dream is had by me.’ Leave the passive voice for those people who are happy for their words to confuse rather than clarify. That’s why it’s beloved by people who don’t want to take responsibility for their actions. ‘A decision was taken’ keeps the decision-taker out of the spotlight.
6 – Edit ruthlessly
Strip out words that don’t earn their place. Start with adjectives. Considered opinions are just opinions. Eliminate wordy phrases. ‘At this point in time’ is ‘now’. The word ‘that’ is a slacker. You probably won’t miss it. Count your words. If you had to pay a dollar for every word, could you eliminate enough to pay for a coffee? Or lunch?
7 – Know why you are writing
Focus your thoughts. What are you trying to say? What do you want people to do as a result of your words? Don’t try to say too much. Keep it simple. One big thought. And don’t forget to include your call to action.
Neil Everton has distilled a lifetime’s experience with some of the world’s top news organizations into his Media Mastery training aids for anyone worried about talking to reporters. The video, books, e-books and workbooks are available in the Podium Coaching online store.