Are you thinking about writing some new copy for your web site? Or some articles for your newsletter? Think N.E.W.S: New, Exciting, Worthwhile (relevant to the audience), Short. Make sure your writing stands out from all that stuff out there 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.
Here are six more tips to improve your writing.
1 – 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.
2 – 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 the author. ‘We have scheduled training modules to improve our Associates ability to heighten our overall Guest experience’ carries a pictures of a Very Pompous Person.
3 – Think small
Small words, short sentences (25 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.
4 – Get to the point
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.
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
Robert Graves famously said “There’s no such thing as good writing, only good re-writing.” Graves knew a thing or three about writing: he was a poet, novelist, critic, and classical scholar. His more than 120 books include the historical novel, I, Claudius (1934) and an autobiographical classic of World War I, Good-Bye to All That (1929; revised. 1957).
Don’t settle for your first draft. Heed the advice of Graves and re-write everything. Clarify. Simplify. Strip out words that don’t earn their place. Eliminate wordy phrases.
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.