To help prevent the onset of such creative constipation, here are 10 tips to help you write well:
- Know your purpose. Regardless of what you’re writing—whether it’s an email seeking approval for your budget request, or a project report—be clear about your purpose. Ask yourself: Why am I writing? Who am I writing to? Is there a better way – should I just call them? Is this the right person? Do I understand their needs?
To stay on task, write one sentence that captures your purpose. Keep it in front of you. For example: After reading my email, Amanda will approve my budget.
- Know your reader. Connecting with the reader is the key to good writing. Consider what you know about your reader. Use words and phrases they understand. Give them a reason to read what you’ve written.
- Go to your quiet place. Just like juggling or learning to surf, being creative takes practice and concentration. Find the place where you think and work best. Make sure it’s comfortable, well-lit and ventilated.
- Plan, write, edit, proofread. Too often we skip the first step and jump right in! Next time, put the keyboard aside, pick up a pencil and do some planning. Whether it’s a list of ideas that you can prioritise and reorder, or a Mind Map based on your central thought, a little bit of planning will make the writing process much easier. Once you’ve mapped out your plan, start writing based on your ideas. Don’t worry about the words and grammar at this stage.
- What’s in it for me? Stick to this principle and you’ll have your readers hooked. People make decisions based on benefits (real, or perceived) so focus your writing on what the reader gets rather than how something works. Remember, you don’t buy a drill because you want a drill. You buy a drill because you want a hole!
- Easy on the sauce. Facts and data are great. Too much of a good thing risks confusing your reader. Focus on telling a story. You can use data to support your claims and provide context.
- Use transparent writing. Readers want to hear compelling stories and experiences. Focus on creating an emotional connection with the reader.
- Read it aloud. Now we can start to focus on the words! Read what you’ve written out loud. If you run out of breath before the end of a sentence, you’ll know it’s time to chop some words or review your grammar. If you stumble over certain words or phrases, that’s your target zone for rewriting. Circle these as you read through, then go back and simplify your syntax.
- What’s it all about? Once you’ve read and edited your work, go back and review your purpose statement (see Step 1). Ask yourself “so what?”. You’ll soon see if you have hit the mark.
- Be clear. Look for ambiguous statements or claims and set them straight. Pay attention to words that can be simplified. Try these plain english alternatives (see brackets): utilise (use), advise (tell), enable (allow or assist), notify (tell us, let us / you know), request (ask).
Need a refresher on writing, editing and proofreading?
Email us for a FREE Good Writing Checklist or to arrange in-house training for your team.