One of my greatest strengths is writing. I was once told that I wrote like how I talked–and that in my case that was considered a good thing. I like to think my writing is one of the reasons you enjoy reading my blog.
I believe that writing comes easily to me especially in formats like blogging or news releases that I write frequently. I can write well in a variety of formats but some take more work than others.
I’m constantly striving to improve. Here on this blog I am still working on finding my voice that helps me to stand out from the crowd and keeps folks involved in the social profit sector and small businesses coming back. I try to stretch to write different styles than what I usually do. Learning to write a blog that provokes change is an example of how I continue to strive to improve.
Everyone can write. Not everyone can write well. You can improve. But also be open to when you need a skilled writer.
Here are 3 tips on becoming a better writer:
Read. Read a lot. Read a variety of material.
I’ve taken this advice myself and it works. Reading good writing rubs off. Read the type of material that you would like to write but also read a variety of writing from journalism, fictions, blogs, etc. It will all inform your own style.
Write. Write a lot. Write different styles.
Doing anything well requires practice. There is no exception for writing. Improving your writing takes time and effort doing it. You must write regularly if you are going to progress. Go beyond your own comfort zone.
Write like you talk.
A conversational style of writing is extremely useful these days. It is useful in social media where the “official voice” of an organization should be avoided in favour of talking (usually) writing as a person. But it helps in nearly every form of marketing communication whether you work in for the public sector, have a small business selling a service or a charity trying to advocate for change or get financial support.
Here are a few tips on how to make your writing easier to read.
- Avoid a stiff, formal style that you likely used in university or college.
- Avoid jargon, use “swimming lessons” instead of “aquatic programs.”
- Use words or phrases that your target audience would use and in the proper context. Try to use plain language accessible to a diverse range of people.
- Don’t get hung up on grammar. Using proper grammar is important but being a stickler for it can impede your ability to write clearly.
- Err on the side of a more educated, grammatically correct style which I’d describe as “how my target audience should be talking.”
- Avoid talking down.
Identify the essence of what you want to say.
We get caught up by trying to say too much. We get complicated in our ideas and our language very easily. That’s why reports tend to be long and tedious and we look for executive summaries. There’s a place for detailed report writing but the audience for it is very select.
Our challenge normally is to write for a general audience. Getting people engaged in local government, for example, means taking complicated concepts and sharing them in a way that people from a variety of educational backgrounds and work experiences can understand. It’s the same deal if you’re trying to promote screening for breast cancer or selling a water softener.
I learned when working for a Member of Parliament how important it was to be able to take the essence of an issue and capture it in a short, easily understood sentence or paragraph without distorting it. Doing so is a skill but a skill that can be learned.
Consider using professionals
Because we all write, we think of it as something that we can all do. We can. Whether we can do it well enough for the material and purpose is another question. Just like we need to recognize that there are times when a professional graphic designer, videographer or photograher are needed to give our materials a professional polish, there are times when a skilled wordsmith is required. Recognize when that may be necessary.
But don’t ever think that you can’t write. Follow the tips included here to improve and do your own writing whenever possible so that you continue to improve.
What are your tips for improving writing?
Do you have any tips that folks can use to improve their writing? Maybe even things you tried but didn’t work for you?