Forget Dry January or committing to more Joe Wicks at-home workouts. When it comes to New Years’ resolutions, we believe in keeping them simple – and more importantly, easy to stick to. And while we can’t quite make recommendations for improving other areas of your life, we can provide some solid tips to help you advance your writing skills.
Whether you write regular client-facing content in the form of blog articles and newsletters, or you simply need a bit of a boost when it comes to tackling presentations and emails, these habits could help you produce better, more effective comms.
1. Find your time
F. Scott Fitzgerald and George Orwell were notorious literary night owls, often writing until the sun came up. Bestselling thriller novelist, John Grisham, is said to kick off his prose at 5.30am sharp every day. While you might not be responsible for churning out cult classics, there’s something to be said about finding your own perfect writing time.
I personally find myself most able to write first thing in the morning – it’s simply when my brain feels the most active. If I’ve got something I know I need to spend some real creative juice on, I do better tackling it first thing, often before the majority of folks are in the office/logged in at home (which makes for fewer distractions).
Try out a few different times of day and see how you feel. Even if it’s just an email you’ve been putting off, finding the right spot can not only make it easier to get through, but also easier to make a regular habit.
2. Nail the opening
We can probably all think of something we’ve read from a brand or business that just takes forever to get to the point (if you’ve ever tried to look up a recipe online, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about). Long, rambling, or unfocused introductions are a sure-fire way to make your readers switch off before they get to the good stuff.
Try to open things in a way that persuades people to keep reading. We’ve written recently about how best to begin and end your blogs – see if you can make use of any of these methods yourself.
3. Stop talking about yourself
Let’s face it: humans are inherently self-absorbed. We care about ourselves and our own needs, and we only really want to hear about others in relation to what they can do for us (harsh, but true). So when you’re writing anything – be it client-facing or internal – you should always be putting the focus on your reader.
Think about their triggers and the problems they’re likely wanting to solve. Have you identified with those? Have you put yourself in their shoes? Because at the end of the day, no one really cares about what something means to you – they care about how it benefits them.
Not sure how to do that in practice? Count how many times you’ve used ‘I’ or ‘we’ in your piece of writing, and try to actively reduce it!
4. Lower the literacy level
People often think that in order to write well and sound knowledgeable about their area of expertise, they must use complex or formal terminology and lengthy sentence structures. Think again!
Research from user experience specialists The Nielsen Norman Group shows that writing for a lower literacy level is actually more effective at increasing comprehension and persuading people to take action. The idea is that by reducing the ‘grade level’ of your writing, you can make your content more accessible to a larger number of people.
So, if you want your readers to do something as a result of engaging with your content (like signing up to something or spending more time on your website), try simplifying your language or making things more concise. It’s not about dumbing things down, but about making it more user-friendly.
5. Proofread, proofread, proofread
They say you should never mark your own work, and when it comes to the written word this is absolutely crucial. As the author, it can be very easy to think you’ve gotten your point across well – after all, the idea is right there in your head! But your reader might not see things so clearly.
Where possible, have a colleague or trusted friend do a sense check of your writing to ensure it works from an outsider’s perspective (and to catch any typos!)
Not a big fan of writing?
If the thought of putting words down on paper fills you with dread (or if your schedule simply doesn’t allow for it), we’re always here to help ease the burden. Get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0115 8965 300 to see what we can do for you.