Successful Writing: Five Common Traits

No matter what you are writing–whether it’s a blog post or a letter home, a multimillion dollar response to a proposal or a testimonial for a friend–all successful writing obeys these five basic rules:

  1. It is written for an audience and as specific an audience as possible. Only diaries and confessions are written solely for the benefit of the writer.
  2. It conforms to standard English so that no one has to decipher it to understand it. An exception is made here for fiction writers and lawyers.
  3. It has a purpose (for example, to entertain, educate, inform or intrigue), and it keeps to that purpose. It doesn’t ramble.
  4. It follows a structure, whether alphabetical, chronological, front to back, top to bottom or some other logical progression.
  5. It relies mainly on verbs and nouns, not adjectives and adverbs. That is, instead of phrases like “we are the world’s greatest company,” successful writing provides details (“we’ve won 20 industry awards”) that demonstrate greatness.

Successful writing is defined by its ability to communicate to others what the writer intended to communicate and perhaps more.

If your proposals, website and other marketing collateral are falling short of success, contact TWP Marketing & Technical Communications. We’re based in New Hampshire but our writing has brought us clients from throughout the US and around the globe.

“What Is the Right Way to Say….”

One of the joys–and exasperations–of English is that it gives you so many ways to say what you mean, and all of them are correct. Or in other words: No matter what you want to say, there are dozens of ways to say it right.

However, there are limitations. An engineer once asked me for a single word that meant cost-effective, high quality and efficient. No such word exists. If he tried to create one, he would be asking customers to read his mind.

So how do you decide on the right way to say what you want to say?

First, follow the rules of grammar. Grammar gives writing its spine.

Second, listen to your ear, and write like you talk. If you read something out loud and it sounds stilted, pompous, long-winded and confusing, then it probably is stilted, pompous long-winded and confusing. When we talk to our customers, we use clear, familiar language that lets our excitement about our product or service shine through. Good writing is good talking.

Third, don’t take everyone’s advice. Because English is so flexible, heated debates can arise over a single comma or a single synonym. Writing by committee is impossible. Limit yourself to one or two trusted reviewers.

Fourth, know when to stop. Endless revising keeps your marketing message out of the marketplace. Your brochure, website, newsletter, blog or success story can’t start working for you until you send it out.

If English is driving you (and your reviewers) crazy, contact TWP Marketing & Technical Communications. We’ll help you discover the best way to say what you most want to say.