Taking the Pain out of Writing

The easiest way to take the pain out of writing is to have a professional writer–like me!–take over for you. But in the meantime, these hints are sure to help:

  1. Write first, leave the editing for later. Editing at the same time that you write is like taking a giant step back for every two steps forward–progress is real slow. First put all your ideas into words, then edit.
  2. Don’t get stalled on your opening sentence. More often than not, you’ll find your best opening sentence at the end of whatever you write, when your thoughts have coalesced–another reason to leave off editing until you finish writing.
  3. If nothing you write ever sounds organized, think in terms of structure: first to last, top to bottom, large to small, most important to least important or vice versa. Choose one structure and then (here’s the hard part) delete whatever doesn’t fit. You may discover 3 more blog posts, 2 more press releases and 4 tweets. That’s a good thing.
  4. If you can’t find the words to say what you mean, pull out a chair. Pretend the person you are writing to (whether your best customer or the customer you don’t have yet) is sitting in that chair and talk to the chair. Describe to the chair what you are trying to write. Make sure you record or immediately write down what you say–those are the words you want.
  5. If you believe every word you write is golden, put the finished piece away for at least 24 hours and then review it with a fresh eye. Look particularly for sentences longer than 18 words (no period, no colon), words longer than 3 syllables, strings of adjectives or adverbs and vague words (on time) when you could be specific (within 4 days). Shorter sentences, smaller words, prepositions to break up long strings of adjectives/adverbs and exact words strengthen your writing.
  6. Ask one or two people to review, not dozens. Multiple reviewers tend to edit each other, and you’ll be so demoralized that you’ll abandon the project. If you are part of a writing team and someone else is responsible for the final version, remember that you’ve done your part. Correct errors of fact; don’t start debates over synonyms or serial commas. Or in other words: know when to stop.

What approaches have you found helpful in easing the pain of writing? Please share them here or on Twitter. And if you would still like help, please contact TWP.

Technical Proposals: Three Problems/Three Solutions

Are your technical proposals written and/or reviewed by three or more departments: sales/marketing, technical, and project management? Are they completely standardized? Are they written by one person who grabs content from the RFP, former proposals, and the latest marketing copy? Any of these methods can successfully lead to new clients and profitable jobs if you watch out for these problems:

(a) With multiple reviewers come multiple viewpoints. Reviewer A writes a sentence; Reviewer B inserts “not”; Reviewer C adds two more adjectives; Reviewer D deletes everything; and Reviewer E writes an entirely new sentence that has nothing to do with the original statement. Solution: Never ever have more than three reviewers for a technical proposal (say, one each from marketing/sales, technical, and management). Any secondary reviewers must report to one of the main three and resolve any issues within the department.

(b) Each client must plow through the entire, identical, standardized technical proposal to find answers to the RFP’s most pressing questions. Solution: Use the Executive Summary to respond to issues raised in the RFP, directing the client to the correct sections of the proposal for details. Be sure to address every issue, at least in passing, to make it clear that you understand the RFP and appreciate the client’s concerns.

(c) With multiple sources come multiple contradictions, even with data as basic as the name of your product. It’s MISTERROBOT in Section 1, Mr./Ms.Robot in Section 3, and M2R0B0T in the latest brochure in the appendix. Solution: Periodically read through the entire proposal to eliminate contradictory information.

If your company is struggling to create proposals that are accurate and consistent, clearly and concisely written, and responsive to your clients, contact TWP Marketing & Technical Communications. You have problems; we have solutions.