Boost your writing with 8 quick tipsJan 11, 2022
Thinking of writing some copy for a website or flyer? Here are eight quick tips to ensure your words work hard for you.
Simple words in short sentences work best. If you smell smoke, shout ‘fire’. Shout ‘conflagration’ and people may die trying to figure out what you said.
Use the active rather than passive voice… someone doing something in each sentence. “I heard it through the grapevine,” is active, clear and catchy. “It was heard through the grapevine by me” would never have been a hit for Marvin Gaye.
No jargon, no clichés, no hype. Jargon may serve as a shorthand between colleagues, but to outsiders it can be confusing and alienating. Clichés signal that you lack originality. Hype smells like BS.
Speak the words out loud as you write them. How do they sound in your ear? Would you use those words to someone you care about? Keep your writing as conversational as possible. Don’t be afraid of contractions.
Remove all words that don’t work hard. Imagine you had to pay for every word. The word ‘that’ can often be removed without sacrificing meaning. Challenge word clumps: ‘at this point in time’ means now; ‘we had a discussion about.’ means 'we discussed'. Readers get bogged down in flabby writing.
Bring your copy to life with specifics and stories. Avoid generalizations and a data dump of information. Specifics help us to see, and stories help us to remember.
Make sure your copy resonates with your audience. You want your readers to see you are clearly identifying their pain and their aspirations. Your writing should be about your audience, not about you. Make sure your call-to-action is clear.
Check everything. Errors undermine your credibility. Don’t rely on spell-check. Proof-reading a hard copy is better than proofing on the computer. Triple-check names: is it Philip or Phillip, Stephen or Steven, Leslie or Lesley.