Professional writers love to write. But if writing is not your first career choice, you may find it slow at best and painful at worst. So here are 10 tips to make writing easier.
- Write first, edit last. Editing at the same time that you write is like taking a giant step back for every two steps forward. That voice in your head that keeps saying a word isn’t perfect or an idea could be expressed better–ignore it for now.
- Let the ideal first sentence wait. Holding out for that golden first sentence is frustrating, especially since the best opening sentence often emerges at the end, when your thoughts have coalesced. Start writing and the perfect first sentence will appear eventually.
- Start with the simplest structure–first to last, top 10, 3 ways to do something, or 3 reasons for taking action. Delete whatever doesn’t fit that structure. What you don’t use may become another day’s blog post or tweet. That’s a good thing.
- Write like you talk, because even your most sophisticated customer knows less about your product and service than you do. Share your knowledge; don’t struggle to sound like a marketing guru or subject-matter-expert. Your expertise will shine through and more important, everyone will understand your message quickly.
- Keep your audience in mind. Your goal is not to make yourself sound and look good; your goal is to solve a problem for your customers. Keep your eye on their problem and your solution.
- Know your limits. You may be able to write a 300-word blog but trying to write a 1000-word insight paper gives you an overwhelming urge to run away from home. The solution is to keep doing blogs, but wait until you can hire a professional to write insight papers. Alternatively, you may eventually be able to combine 3 or 4 of your related blogs into one long paper.
- Review with a fresh eye. Put away the finished piece for at least 24 hours. But remember to take it out again! The review is important.
- Edit, don’t destroy. Your goal is to improve what your wrote, not throw it away. Keep your attention on important fixes: Look for sentences longer than 18 words (no period, no colon), words longer than 3 syllables, strings of adjectives or adverbs, inconsistencies ($5M, $5 million), misspellings, and vague words (“on time”) when you could be specific (“within 4 days”).
- Listen to outside reviewers–mostly. Ask only one or two people to review and ask them to concentrate on errors or confusion in the content; don’t start debates over synonyms or serial commas. But pay attention to what they say. If you refuse to listen to your reviewers, find new reviewers you will listen to.
- Know when to stop. Your marketing copy starts working for you when you send it out into the real world. Words can always be edited after they’ve had a chance to make an impact. Give them a chance to start.
What approaches have you found helpful in easing the pain of writing? Please share them. And if you want totally painless writing, please contact TWP Marketing & Technical Communications, where our words mean business.
The owner of a custom construction firm asked me recently to take over writing his blog posts and I was delighted to do that. I realized that his earlier blogs had violated some standard rules I have for writing great blog posts. Here they are for your benefit:
- Be specific when writing your post. Drive down to the basics of your business and write about the details. How do you fix a gutter? What does a specific insurance term mean? What information should never appear on a resume?
- Think like your customer. If you were shopping for your company’s product or service, what would be your first concern? As the owner of the business, your concern may be to relate everything you do and how well you do it. The customer, however, is generally interested in the solution to a specific problem. Write each blog post around a specific problem and how you solve it.
- Tell a story. Case studies/success stories, examples from your work day or a single sentence about a customer problem and solution liven up a blog post and attract interest. You may not be able to write a story every time, but keep the possibility in mind.
- Choose one or two keywords or key phrases for each post and repeat them naturally. Rather than advocating mindless repetition, this step is a request to not use synonyms and to fit the subject of your post naturally into the content. For example, look through this post for natural repetitions of the words “write, post, blog, writing.”
- Write a headline that contains search words. While cute and clever headlines are fine occasionally, the best headline reflects the search words your customers are likely to use, such as “how to write a great blog” or “writing blog posts.”
My own experience as a blog post writer in the nonprofit, health care, construction and service industries has proved the value of the five steps above. Let me help you reach out to your customers with great blog posts.
I like writing blogs. I write them for businesses and nonprofits as well as for my own business, TWP Marketing & Technical Communications. Some of my blogs have been picked up by industry organizations, tweeted about and discussed on LinkedIn; some of them have led to requests to become a guest blogger or to contribute articles to print and online magazines. Here is my take on what makes a great blog post:
- It contains information that the reader is interested in, and it gives details. The reader comes away feeling that he or she has learned something.
- It is short.
- It doesn’t take itself too seriously. Every so often, the blog writer pokes fun at himself or herself or turns an industry cliché on its head.
- It has a recognizable and consistent voice. When I write blogs for other businesses, I make sure that I’ve heard the business owner’s voice and that I can translate it into writing.
- It appears regularly. If your last post went up two years ago, either take down the blog or find a way to post at least twice a month. Writing a blog more than once a week is very difficult; if you tried that and failed, try again with a lighter schedule.
Blogging has many advantages and works well with your other marketing efforts. You can mention your blog in your newsletter; tweet about it; list it on your business card; and so on. Contact me if you need help; that’s what I’m here for.
Before you start writing any marketing copy, whether a blog, newsletter, website, success story, proposal or article, you should know the answers to these four questions:
1. What does your customer want? Your marketing copy must provide a solution for the customer’s problem. You have to know the problem, be able to solve it, want to solve it and know how to communicate all that to the customer.
2. Where do your customers hang out? Do they search the web or newspapers? Are they more likely to read an article in a magazine or a story on your blog?
3. How much time are you prepared to spend? A regular newsletter or blog takes time; so does tweeting and maintaining a Facebook presence. Do you have the resources?
4. What is your deadline? A website or proposal that is four years in the finishing is four years overdue. Your marketing copy can’t start working for you until it reaches your customers.
If you are having trouble defining and reaching your audience or finding the resources and time to complete writing projects, contact me. At TWP Marketing & Technical Communications, our words mean business.