Writing with Less Stress: Three Tips

In business, you are expected to write. The act of writing can be very stressful. Simply organizing your thoughts takes time. Then you worry if readers will ignore or misunderstand what you send them. If the first message goes wrong, you may find yourself in an endless loop of explanations. Here are four tips to reduce the stress of writing:

Don’t write, talk.

I happen to be a writing person; I stumble when I’m forced to talk spontaneously. You may very well be just the opposite–a person who shines when you talk. In any case, these days we spend way too much time texting and emailing each other and not enough talking directly. When you are face-to-face or at least voice-to-voice with another person, miscommunications are less likely and can be easily cleared up. Surprise someone: talk to them.

Consider your readers.

Talking isn’t always possible, especially if you are reaching out to several people simultaneously. But remember that everyone’s first question is, “What’s in it for me?” Always begin with benefits or results, then explanations. In a long email, proposal, or report, give a list of contents–and then stick to that list–so that your readers know what to expect and have some idea what sections apply most to their particular interest. If you want the answer to a question, make sure you include a question mark somewhere early on; if you are responding to a question, give the answer first and then explain how you got there.

Be brief and specific.

For example, in the executive summary of a proposal, readers are interested first in the solutions to their problem, and then in learning the details. Vague words like “great,” “wonderful,” “state-of-the-art,” and “proactive” merely take up space and your reader’s time. Readers know what they want to know--do you?

If you are frustrated by the results you get from your marketing collateral, proposals, letters, and emails, review them to decide whether you might be better off with a face-to-face meeting; whether you have given primacy to your customer’s interests; and whether you have written as briefly and specifically as you can.

From our base in Peterborough, NH, TWP Marketing & Technical Communications writes marketing copy that engages your customers and delivers your message with accuracy, clarity, and passion.

What Does “Concise” Mean?

Oh, those readers who give you a few seconds to deliver your message and capture their interest! You need concise marketing copy but how do you get concise and avoid boring?

The wrong way is to pack every bit of information about your company into a 35-word sentence or a huge list explaining everything you can do. No one enjoys a monologue; readers today are especially impatient to get to the point. And the point, for your customers, is not “what can your company do?” but “how can it solve my problem?”

So here are the rules for being concise:

  1. Know what your readers are looking for and direct them there. Even giant retailers like Amazon quickly send readers to that one object they want most. Surely you can do the same.
  2. Be precise. If your product is “more efficient,” then explain how efficient and by what measure. If your service is “customer-centric,” then provide testimonials, case studies, photos, or awards that emphasize your customer-first approach.
  3. Be direct. Turn “we are engaged in the manufacture of” into “we manufacture.” Turn “we are able to deliver” into “we deliver.” If you “are known for engaging teams,” then you “engage teams.”
  4. Avoid repetition. You must keep product and service names consistent, but English is lush with synonyms. An unexpected word like “lush” keeps the reader’s interest.
  5. Write like you talk. Use short words (under 4 syllables), short sentences (averaging 25 words), and short paragraphs (averaging 3 sentences). You are not dumbing down. You are making your marketing copy accessible fast and you are establishing a friendly relationship–just as you would talking one-on-one.

If you keep your readers clearly in mind, are precise and direct, avoid repetition, and write like you talk, you will find that your marketing copy automatically becomes more concise. But if you are still having problems saying exactly what you want to say, please contact TWP Marketing & Technical Communications. Our words mean business.

Need to Emphasize Your Words? Here’s How

One way to show that your written words are IMPORTANT!!! is to emphasize them with bold, italic, full capitals and end with a bunch of exclamation points. Unfortunately, that technique loses its impact quickly.

A full course of bolding, italics, capitals, underlining, and exclamation points has the same impact as shouting. It might get attention the first time but it will definitely annoy the longer it goes on. Better techniques involve framing the sentence or paragraph for emphasis, using repetition correctly, and engaging a professional graphic designer.

Frame a Sentence for Emphasis

When you have something important to tell your readers, take a chance and say it without the tantrum. For example, in the preceding sentence, you probably placed a stress on “without” although nothing in the sentence directed you to do that. The rhythm and sense of the sentence alone produced the stress on “without.”

Make sentences and paragraphs short–average 25 words per sentence and three sentences per paragraph. Information at the end of a sentence or at the start or very end of a paragraph is more likely to be remembered than information in the middle.

Use Repetition

Repetition creates emphasis if it is done correctly. Tell your reader what you plan to write about and then write about. At the end, summarize the information. But make sure each repetition is exact. If you promise to write about trips to Spain, Italy, and England, then write about them in th/at order and do not throw Portugal in the mix.

On the other hand, simply repeating one word (“this is very very very important”) has the same annoying effect overall as piling on exclamation points.

Engage a Professional Graphic Designer

A well laid-out page draws the reader’s eye exactly where you want it through font selection, color, graphics, and illustrations. Professional graphic designers work wonders that way but amateurs risk creating design overload.

Keep in mind this general rule of thumb: The more devices used to emphasize text, the less power any of them have.

In the best case, writers and graphic designers work together to give you marketing collateral that delivers your message with just the right jolt of emphasis. TWP Marketing & Technical Communications can help you find that perfect team. Contact us today.