Your written message should be your shop window

Your written message should be your shop window

At a business conference this week I was asked a question I’ve been asked many a time. Just what is good writing?

The most important rule is keep it interesting for the other person.

In PR and Marketing the purpose of writing is to provide clear persuasive communication, which puts the reader first.

It never ceases to amaze me the number of business people who when writing advertising, or blogs etc for their social media, waffle on about how great they are at this and that. Who cares aside of their mothers? I’m sure you’re not interested either and in cases like this you’re soon off to elsewhere in the vastness of cyberspace.

As I was once told well-crafted writing is like a shop window. It should be clean and clear, providing an unobstructed view of the contents within.

Before you start you should take time to organize what you want to say. It’s best to jot down the most important points, and also arrange them in the order you want to make them, and be sure to dispose of any ideas that are not directly related to these points.

Most news stories in tabloid papers generally are no longer than 300-500 words. I’d advise you to keep within these restraints too. Too much detail is a no-no. Keep paragraphs short as they make reading easier. Our brains take in information better when ideas are broken into small chunks.

In ordinary writing, each paragraph develops one idea and includes many sentences. But in blogging, the style is less formal and paragraphs may be as short as a single sentence or even a single word.

Also, don’t be clever by using big words. It doesn’t make you look clever. It’s just annoying. People want to be communicated to as equals and if they want to hear words like ‘excogitate’ they will be doing Open University Courses. By the way, it’s a posh word for invent.

And lastly be clear. It’s probably the most important rule of all. Without clarity, your writing is dead. You achieve this when what’s going on in your brain is exactly what the reader is seeing. It’s not easy, but do analyze your writing with an objective eye. Think what might be misunderstood and do it again, delete the irrelevances, notice what is missing and insert it.

When your writing fails, it’s generally because you’ve nothing to say, or are too concerned with style over substance.

If you want to find out more I’d recommend The Elements of Style by William Strunk, Jr. and E.B.White. It’s a good no nonsense read and a decent price too.

However, if you follow my hints and take time out to write like everything in life the more you practice the better you will get.