Make your everyday writing matter
Do you want the things you write everyday to be taken more seriously?
Here are five tips to make your everyday writing – your emails, letters, proposals, even your blog posts – capture the attention of the people they were intended for.
1. Think it through
Plan plan plan. It’s easy to see if someone planned a piece of writing, or if they just went about it haphazardly. People will respect what you have to say, if they can see it was important enough for to you to plan it properly.
- List each point you want to make.
- Arrange them from most to least important.
- Write a short summary of what you want to say – your introduction.
- Write a bit about each point you listed.
- Tie it up with a conclusion. If there’s anything you want your reader to do (e.g. take an action, or make a decision) say it here.
2. Use headings, lists, highlights and whitespace
A page full of writing is boring. Split it up with headings, sections and paragraphs. Use highlights to mark important words and phrases. Use plenty of whitespace. And use lists – they’re easy and quick to read.
The trick is to make it possible for your readers to get the overall message, by reading just the words that stand out. They can then choose to “zoom in” and get the details about the parts they’re most interested in.
People like things they can scan. Make your keywords and sections stand out.
3. Say it like it is
“When dealing with monkeys, talk banana.”
Think about who your intended audience is, and write for them, in a way that they will understand.
Keep things simple. It is almost always a bad idea to use big or complicated words, and ways of saying things, if there are simpler ways to do it. Big words make you sound pompous. And boring!
Keep your words, sentences and paragraphs short. Say things directly, and use the active voice.
Here is an example of a sentence written in the passive voice:
An investigation was conducted to determine the cause of the component failure.
Here is the same sentence, but re-written in the active voice:
We conducted an investigation to determine why the component failed.
The passive voice is an unnatural way to express something. We do not think in the passive voice. The active voice is much more “real” and fresh. It sounds energetic and straight-forward, and it makes your sentences stronger.
Keep it short; keep it simple; keep it active.
4. Write in pictures and feelings
People may read letters and words and sentences, but they think in pictures and feelings. When you write, choose your words to create images and feelings in the minds of your readers.
Use examples; they are great for explaining things in a way that someone can imagine or “see”.
Tell your readers about benefits, not just features. A feature on its own is an empty description (e.g. this car has a permanent all-wheel-drive system), while a benefit is the reason your reader should be interested (e.g. with this car you are much less likely to loose control on slippery or wet road surfaces).
A benefit creates a picture in your reader’s mind that appeals to him. For our all-wheel-drive example, the picture is one of feeling safe and in control.
Finally, put people in your statements. Instead of saying:
Tape drives are used to backup information.
Our company uses tape drives to backup our clients’ information.
It takes three mistakes to ruin your credibility.
That is about the amount of grace a typical reader will give you. One spelling mistake, one grammar mistake, and one heading in a different font. There you go. All of that writing for nothing!
Proofread. Before you hit that send button, give it a once-over. If it is important enough, wait until the next day and read it again, or ask someone else to proofread for you.
Making silly mistakes is the easiest way to ruin an otherwise exceptional piece of writing. Read it over; make sure it’s right.
What you say and what you write is a reflection of you, and what you write is permanent.
If you follow a few simple guidelines, you can make your words have a much greater impact. Choose them carefully, and happy writing.
If you would like more information about Words Design, Liberta Design’s effective writing service, you can get in touch with us on the contact page.