I know I’m not very good at writing. Especially when I look around and read what others in the marketing and communication world such as Copyblogger, Men With Pens write. They wield their pens like Arnold Palmer ripping up the back nine holes at the Masters on the final day.
I know that in the harsh cold light of day I’m really like that amateur weekend golfer in their loud pants trying my utmost to bring my A-game like a pro does.
Here are seven tips that will improve your writing swing from a frustrated weekend hacker to someone who has the potential to play with the pros.
Tip #1: Write Like You Talk With Your Friends
My mind was like a lifeless and empty desert when I first started writing. Parched, dry and void of the great spark of life that… oh boy.
Or it was like a sand trap.
Then I stumbled on this idea: Write like you talk. I began to speak out loud what I wanted to write as though I was talking with a friend. It was a revelation that completely improved my writing overnight. You lose the wordiness and over-wrought gunk. If you don’t want to type while you talk there are plenty of audio apps that you can dictate into your smart phone or your computer.
Now that doesn’t mean you literally write like you talk. You don’t insert ‘like’ and ‘um’ and every ridiculous idiom. But it means writing like a human being, using normal words and sentence length and not droning on like a high school English paper. People tend to slip into English paper mode when they write, and the result is dull, dry, lifeless prose. If people wrote more like they talked, their writing would be much more engaging. It really is a great way of letting your personality, with all its quirkiness, come out in print or on the web.
If you find other people in Starbucks giving you weird stares as you talk to yourself embrace the weird stares and just say “The meds are due to kick in at any moment” or “If craziness was good enough for Hemingway it’s good enough for me!”
Or you can just lock yourself in a room and type while you talk.
Tip #2: Be Concise and Clear
There is nothing like copy that is too long and you can never quite understand. Believe me. I’ve read many theology books wondering if I’m from a different planet from the writer.
Get to the point. Don’t waffle. Be concise and clear so that your reader will understand your point the first time around. Get to the green!
Tweets can force you to be clear and concise which actually help all of your writing from dragging on.
Tip #3: Cultivate the Right Tone
Getting the tone right is so important. Ask yourself before your write, what kind of tone you are looking for? Are you looking for a tone that packs attitude? Or is casual, formal, funny or sensitive?
Tip #4: Stay on the Same Topic
You’ve got to stay out of the rough. This is my biggest challenge. Because I write like I talk I can go off on tangents that never come back. My free-thinking helps my creativity, but it doesn’t necessarily help the reader. Find a good editor who can help you focus without losing what makes your writing work.
Tip #5: Don’t Over Promise
This next tip is a gamer changer. You’re writing will never be the same again. It will take you to the next level in your writing.
Wait. Stop. This post will help you, but it isn’t a game changer.
Whatever you do don’t over promise. Keep your writing real. Grounded. It doesn’t mean that you can’t tell people what they can expect to get out of something. It means just be sensible.
Tip #6: Choose an Angle
Who would have thought that writing and golf had something in common? I chose that as my angle on this topic. Well it kind of choose me because seeing some of my favourite writers in plus fours ripping up the back nine of a golf course just resonated with me and made me giggle like a girl.
Choosing an original angle on a topic can make your writing more engaging and cut though the noise of the thousands of competing messages your reader has to engage with on a daily basis. Don’t over do it, but sometimes a simple angle can help pull things together.
Tip #7: Practice Makes Perfect: Start a Blog
I used to visit the driving range often and my golf game was so much better. Hitting 500 balls with twenty others at my local range vastly improved my golf when it came to game time.
Practice makes perfect with writing too. There are many ways to practice and hone your literary skills. One that has helped me is writing a blog. While I may blog about communications and marketing it has helped me step up when it comes to my weekday work as a church communications dude.
What’s Helped You?
I don’t claim to have all of the answers to take you from woe to pro. What has helped you improve your writing?