Writing Well – Fake It Till You Make It
Writing. Most of us can do it (sadly we still have parts of the population who cannot read or write – something that needs changing badly; but I digress). Some of us do it well, some not so much.
What then are the differences between good and bad writing – and can we learn how to write better, clearer, more interestingly? As Hemingway so eloquently said: “It’s none of their business that you have to learn to write. Let them think you were born that way”.
The Writer’s Litmus Test
Whole libraries worth of books have been written about how to write in a way that will captivate your reader. But as a busy entrepreneur or business owner it’s hard to find the time to make your way through gazillions of books. So here’s my short and sharp starter guide for better writing.
Take your writing through the litmus tests of these basic rules – and you should come away with a piece of writing that will please not just you, but also your readers.
1. Know Your Audience
It starts with this simple question – do you actually know who you are writing for? You do? Great! Think about what makes them happy, sad, interested, worried, successful, miserable. And offer solutions, ideas and stories that will help, engage and inspire your reader.
2. Core Message
Have a one-sentence idea as the seed for your writing piece – no matter whether it’s a blog post, article in a magazine or a whole book. What is the main idea, the main takeaway of your writing? Always ensure your words and structure are related to that thought.
3. Be Yourself
“It ain’t whatcha write, it’s the way atcha write it,” Jack Kerouac reckoned. When you write don’t try to be someone you’re not. You’ll only get found out and it will hurt your credibility. Be yourself when you write; don’t be afraid to write as you talk. Be unique, be different. Be proud of it. It certainly worked for Jack.
4. Make ‘em Care
Emotions connect. So don’t be afraid to encourage your reader to feel, no matter your subject. The most powerful way of doing this is to describe as situation and let the reader arrive at that emotion all by themselves – rather than telling them what to feel. “She was standing in the rain, alone; hair plastered to her forehead, small goosebumps forming on her skin” is so much more powerful than saying ”she was cold, wet and lonely”.
5. Clarity and Substance
Don’t overcomplicate your message, language and sentences. Cut superfluous descriptors, use simple words instead of trying to impress with long complicated ones (or jargon, yikes!). Keep sentences short and clear. Mix up the length of sentences a little to make it more interesting to read your piece, though.
6. Deliver What You Promise
Be consistent in what you promise and deliver. When you set up your main idea and your structure, make sure you’re not drifting off topic too much or too often (no matter how interesting those topical tangents may be). Instead give your reader what you promised them.
7. Get Active, Baby
One big stumbling block is the use of passive over the active voice. When you say “The most impactful writing in Australia is created by our expert wordsmiths” a lot of power and flow is lost. Instead stay with “Our wordsmiths create the most impactful writing in Australia.”
8. Sleep on it
It’s done, it’s written … Now sleep on it. Writing is only half the ticket to an excellent piece of reading. Edit and proofread your writing with fresh eyes a few hours or days later. And if it sounds like writing, rewrite it. Sorry.
9. Practice Makes Perfect
Even Shakespeare had to practice to arrive at his brilliance. To become a better writer be curious about the world, read widely, question and discuss, be interested in people’s stories – and write, write, write.
Enjoy the journey!
“The opinions expressed by Smallville Contributors are their own, not those of www.smallville.com.au"
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