There’s no magic formula for good writing. I have worked as a professional writer for almost five years, and I can tell you from speaking with colleagues and my own experiences that even when something is charming, witty, or downright hilarious, it may never get read.
So what’s the point then?
There may not be a magic formula, but there are ways to make your writing suck less. Writing that sucks less has a higher chance of being read and delivering your desired outcome. You’ll have the chance to learn how to strengthen your writing at the @Midwest conference, but why not begin today?
Here are my top five tips for better writing:
1. Admit you can improve. Ernest Hemingway once said, “The first draft of anything is shit.” Sometimes the second, third, and fourth drafts are also shit. Begin to improve your writing by acknowledging you have room to improve. One of the best pieces of advice I received when I entered my field was that I would need to work on my writing throughout my entire career. Writing is not a skill that plateaus, so be sure to examine yours with a scrutinizing eye.
2. Be perfect. Anything you write and publish, whether it is a tweet or a blog post, represents you and your brand. Your audience members will not forgive spelling and grammar errors. Can you blame them? If you can’t write a simple sentence, why should they buy your product, sign up for your service, attend your school, etc.? Spellcheck is a great place to start, though a trusted colleague should read over your major works. Once you’ve worked on a project you may become too close to catch the gremlins. A fresh set of eyes can do wonders.
3. Inverted trapezoid. Best practice for writing has always been the inverted pyramid model (lead with the most important information, followed by significant details, and then general background info). This often included placing a call to action at the end. On the Internet I advocate using the inverted trapezoid. Write for the inverted pyramid, but assume that your audience will never get to the end of the article. Place your call to action higher in the story and offer it in different ways, numerous times. You’ll notice I placed my call to action, to check out the @Midwest conference, up high. And here is it again!
4. Simplify. This is a big one for social media, where limited character count is an issue. Find ways to shorten your sentences. Cut unnecessary words and restructure where possible.
Come join us for a special networking event. All Illinois State University alumni are welcome. (83 characters)
Join us for a networking event. All ISU alumni are welcome. (59 characters)
Attend a networking event for ISU alumni. (41 characters)
The end product is brief and to the point. Add a hyperlink for more information, and it is ready to go!
5. Ask questions. I often fail to ask questions over social media, and that is a big mistake. Questions engage your audience and keep the “social” in social media. Start a conversation about your brand by asking for your audience’s opinion. If you ask for it, you just might get it.
These best practices are only the tip of the iceberg in the world of writing. What does every writer need to know? Share it below. For more successful social media practices attend @Midwest on June 6 and 7.