Four Rules of Good Writing

We all know the rules of good conversation: keep your audience in mind, avoid one-up-manship (and nonstop bragging), try not to bore people to tears, and listen.

Another rule: good writing is good talking. Here are a few stories that explain why:

1. Know Your Audience. John Smith (none of the names here are real) ran a plumbing business and filled his website with bathroom humor. Not everyone appreciates bathroom humor; and someone in the midst of a plumbing catastrophe probably appreciates it even less. One website cannot appeal to everyone. But make sure your website appeals to the audience you want to reach most.

2. Avoid One-Up-Manship. Mary Jones wrote a website that detailed her life history as an artist, bragging about her many triumphs as an artist. However, the website never mentioned what her art cost, where it could be found, how buyers could contact her–she was too busy bragging. Long lists of what you can do, long explanations of how you achieved your greatness, and disparaging remarks about competition fail to address what every customer wants to know: What can you do for me?

3. Know When You Are Boring. Sue Johnson led a technical company which addressed a complex message to others who were knowledgeable in her technical field. She needed a website filled with details and arcane language–it suited her product and her audience. But to keep her audience interested, her marketing materials, from website to brochure, needed to move away from long blocks of text. When she improved the formatting (using tables, headlines, bullets) and introduced videos, case studies, photographs, testimonials, blogs, and Q&A pullouts, her audience stayed on the website longer and appreciated her expertise more. No matter how wrapped up someone is in technology, they still appreciate a good story and an interesting layout.

4. Listen. Bob Adams had a successful full-time career as an IT strategist. However, when he went freelance, his clients kept pushing him to solve basic hardware and network problems. He listened to his clients, began marketing to what his clients requested, and now has a successful business with a staff. His long-term clients have also learned to trust him enough to request his advice on IT strategy. By listening to your clients, you end up truly knowing them, you avoid one-up-manship, and you keep them interested.

Good writing is good talking. When you need help transferring your great ideas to writing, please talk to me.