By Ron Lieback, founder/CEO of ContentMender and author of 365 to Vision: Modern Writer’s Guide (How to Produce More Quality Writing in Less Time).
From 10-word social media posts to 100-word emails to 1,000-word blogs, sloppy writing reflects a disorganized mind. Any warning signs of disorganization will send prospective clients running — and quickly.
Most of us have read poorly written social media posts that caused us to continue scrolling or incoherent emails that prompted a quick detour to the trash. Never mind reading a blog that bounces from idea to idea with nothing solid holding the content together.
If you encounter any of these, would you really want to do business with that person or their company?
The following six tips provide some guidance for writers in search of being heard. They will also help you write better and produce more quality work in less time.
Take note: The initial three tips are borrowed from the world of fiction, providing a creative way to influence your audience because the writing will appear so different from the usual world of business writing.
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1. Influence all the senses.
Most basic writing appeals to only sight and emotion. However, since we all learn differently, create writing that also appeals to smells, sounds, touch and tastes.
Try to appeal to all five senses in every piece of content you create. For example, if you’re writing an editorial about a destructive riot, discuss not only the sights but the smell such as plastic burning within the air; the sound such as a child’s voice amid adults; the touch such as broken glass underneath your sneakers; and the taste such as sulfur on the tongue.
2. Provide color with cinema-like descriptions.
The top cinematographers create viewer anxiety or relief through various visual inputs: up close, far away, aerial, from the ground up or even by shaking the camera lens. When writing, think like a cinematographer and prompt your readers to experience the situation as they would a movie. Take them close to the subject, and then drag them away. Various inputs will influence a wider audience since we all think so differently.
Take this approach even when writing an email. Imagine you were sending a thank you email to your employees about a recent seminar everyone attended. Add some color by describing how a speaker held the microphone or used his or her hands, then describe the united laughter of the audience. Pull the readers in, then take them out. You’re writing will be more memorable, and you’ll influence your audience to take action quicker.
3. Keep the end in focus.
In the world of fiction writers, everyone has a different style. Some know where their characters will end, while others are clueless.
For nonfiction, though, I argue you should always have the end in focus. This tactic not only keeps your writing uncluttered and concise, but it’ll also save time because you’ll know what you want to say and get to that point quicker.
Remember that the goal of your nonfiction writing is to create a coherent and simple conversation with the target audience and, ultimately, influence them to take action. This is extremely vital in content marketing strategies like blogs and guest posts, where the goal of writing is ultimately increasing revenue.
4. Edit numerous times.
All good writers understand the first draft of any piece is mostly crap, usually stuffed with useless adverbs and adjectives. So, first, cut anything unnecessary and reorganize so each idea naturally flows into the next. Then, walk away for a few hours and edit again.
If you’re working on a longer piece, sleep on it. Let your subconscious go to work. You’d be surprised how much rewriting you’ll perform the next day.
5. Use an editing software
Speaking of editing, try using editing software like Grammarly as it will help you discover grammar mistakes quickly. This is especially valuable for emails, which are written quickly and sometimes sent with obvious errors.
Also, always have a grammar book handy. Two of my favorites are The Best Punctuation Book, Period by June Casagrande and The Only Grammar Book You’ll Ever Need by Susan Thurman and Larry Shea.
6. Adhere to the TAR mission.
In my book on writing and in numerous articles, I constantly emphasize that all writing should achieve one ultimate mission. Each piece of writing should adhere to TAR: trust, authority and respect.
To do so, all writing should:
• Lack fluff: Get to the point quickly and in the most simple form, without heavy doses of jargon. And, as stated previously, cut those useless adjectives and adverbs. Take some downtime and read the master of simplicity and the lack of adverbs and adjectives: Ernest Hemingway.
• Not feature “me, me, me” copy: Write for your audience, not yourself. Once you see any copy that puffs up a company or personality, flee — they care about filling their pockets more than yours.
• Spell names correctly: Misspell a person’s or company’s name and all your work quickly loses credibility.
• Properly credit sources and be fact-checked thoroughly: Attribute anything that is not common or proprietary knowledge. Make sure you have a reference to back up everything. Sometimes those sources feed the improper facts, so double-check it all and save your or your company’s credibility. Don’t have time for fact-checking or researching credible stats for an article? Hire a virtual assistant.
Implement these nonfiction writing tips into your everyday life and not only will your writing improve, but so will your bottom line. Uncluttered writing equates to an orderly mind, which can improve the appearance of your business and you as a business owner.