Having looked at proofreading and interviewing, we thought we would continue our series on all things communications by looking at the most crucial part of the process – writing.
The way we communicate – or, more specifically, the channels available to us – has changed dramatically in a short space of time. You don’t have to go back too far to find an era where newspapers and books were the only major outlets for people’s prose. Today, the internet means that anyone with web access can publish anything from a 140-character tweet to a full-on novel.
Leaving the debate over whether this is necessarily a good thing to one side, what is important for anyone who wants their words to make an impact is making sure that a few fundamental principles are adhered to.
Here is our whistle-stop guide…
1. KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE
Before you put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard), take a few moments to think about who you are writing for. How old is your audience? How well educated are they likely to be? Is English their first language?
Getting the answers to these questions into your head before you begin allows you to tailor everything from your choice of vocabulary to the length of the article to the requirements of those you want to read it.
2. KEEP THINGS SHORT AND SNAPPY
You can do your readers another favour by remembering to be concise. No matter how complex your point, it can almost certainly be made stronger by cutting out unnecessary length. Most people don’t want to work too hard to get the gist of a piece of text, so do them a favour and get to the point as quickly and clearly as possible.
This is especially important when writing for the web as attention spans drop dramatically when screens are involved.
As well as length, this also applies to your choice of words. As much as you might want to show off your thesaurus-like grasp of language, choosing the simplest word is often the best course of action.
3. STICK TO A STRUCTURE
Although there isn’t much to be gained from writing copy in the style of a warts-and-all school holiday report, articles should have a defined beginning, middle and end.
Open your piece with a taster of what’s to come, flesh out the middle with some detail and then finish by drawing a conclusion. Sticking to an order means that readers who are pushed for time will be able to jump instinctively through an article, selectively picking up on the key points without missing anything.
The danger of ignoring this approach is that you’re left with a stream-of-consciousness which at best slows readers down and at worst confuses them and, ultimately, your message.
4. CHECK, CHECK AND CHECK AGAIN
As you might have gathered from our proofreading article, we can’t speak highly enough about the merits of checking your copy. Reading and re-reading your work helps you to eliminate factual and grammatical errors, cut down on length and waffle and emphasise your key points.
If you’re working on a computer, print out your article and read through it (preferably aloud). If you’ve got a colleague or friend to hand, get them to do the same. In our decades of experience, the TylerBale team has never come across a piece of copy that hasn’t benefited from a bit of editing so you should build this step into any writing project.
5. PUBLISH AND PROMOTE
You may be the world’s best writer, but if you don’t put your words in front of people who are likely to want to read them then your talents will go to waste. When thinking about your audience (point one above), you should also think about their reading habits. Do they tend to visit a particular website? Are they avid users of Twitter or Facebook? Would they prefer a physical leaflet, brochure or book to an on-screen version?
Put yourself in their shoes and make sure that your copy reaches them via a medium they are comfortable with. Once you have done that, make use of social media, word-of-mouth and personal and business contacts to spread your work far and wide and help it get the attention it deserves.
To find out more about TylerBale’s copywriting services, email us or call 01252 714870.