Today we’ve got some ideas for you about how to make your writing better…
But, first, we need to discuss expectation gaps. Horrible, aren’t they?
One of the weirdest ones to navigate is the expectation gap that sometimes opens up when you’ve only ever read someone’s content and then you finally get to meet them in person.
This happens when you’ve discovered someone on line, or via their book. You’ve read everything they’ve written. You may have decided that you want them to help you work on your own business. Then you meet them in real life and there’s this bum note. There’s no correlation between the ‘written version’ of the person and the real life counterpart.
An expectation gap between a real person and their personality in writing usually comes about for one of two reasons. Firstly, they could have used a (bad) copywriter to create their content. The copywriter has failed to capture the tone of voice of the person and inject it into their writing.
Or, perhaps they have produced the content themselves, but there is a mismatch between how they speak and how they write. A perfectly bubbly, lively person can go and write something down, only to find it comes out as if she were a lawyer. When we’ve worked with clients like this, the first thing we do is look for ways to ‘relax’ their text, using contractions for example (‘I’ll’, instead of ‘I will’).
Over the years we’ve have had lots of nice comments on our ability to write good, engaging copy.
Now, this is very flattering, but we have to remind ourselves not to get too puffed up with our own brilliantness.
Speaking for myself, I’m a bit of a fraud. I used to be a truly crap writer. I hated writing at school and in most of my jobs. It wasn’t until I had the constant task of translating ‘American’ into English in a technology firm that I started to see how tiny changes make a big difference.
I decided to learn all I could about the techniques that breathe life into written language, and I trained myself to be a better writer.
If you want to make your writing better, you can do this too! Here’s how I do it…
My process is to bash something out, leave it for a day and then run through this checklist to make my piece more enjoyable to read.
The Marketing Architect Make-Your-Writing-Interesting Checklist
- Vary sentence lengths. If you write your text very evenly, in more or less equal length sentences, there will be no drama to your content. Cut sentences in half whenever you can and bookend a very long sentence with shorter ones. Your writing will develop a more entertaining pace.
- Throw out the rule book. I know starting a sentence with ‘and’, ‘but’, or ‘because’ is not the best example of English grammar but I often add these in when I’m editing my own writing (see above). Sorry Mrs Abayomi, Walthamstow Hall School for Young Ladies’ English teacher, but it gives good emphasis to the more important points. Sue me.
- Make sure that you sound like you. Read your work aloud. Does it sound awkward and stilted? If it’s hard to read, verbalise what you are trying to say and use that instead.
- Talk to one person. Eliminate all parts of your text which sound as though you are writing to a group. You are not writing a speech. Delete phrases where you have referred to your reader in the plural, such as, ‘Hello everyone’ or, ‘Dear customers’. Each reader is only one person. We don’t tend to get together with our pals to read in a group. Foster a connection with your audience by talking one to one.
- Write in threes. Use the rule of three – repetition of the same idea in three different ways, or using three examples, will give your writing balance and poise. I know I sound very clever here, but I didn’t invent it; storytellers as diverse as Dickens (three ghosts), Martin Luther King (particularly in his ‘I have a dream’ speech) and the Mars copywriters (‘Work, rest and play’) have all used it to great effect. And, so did I, just then. You can find out more here.
- Cut industry jargon, clichés and fancy phrases. Hack back anything that your granny wouldn’t understand and words that you think make you sound clever where there is a simpler alternative. Stop using phrases, such as ‘effective solutions’ that have become meaningless over time. Delete anything that makes you sound like a stuffy old banker (unless you are a stuffy old banker).
- Edit out all uses of the passive tense. Some people have a writing style that makes heavy use of the passive tense: ‘Tickets can be purchased at…’ instead of ‘Buy your tickets at….’. The passive tense in writing sounds clunky and slows down the pace of your narrative. Get rid of it.
- Edit out the dull stuff. Take out as many examples of ‘really’, ‘just’, and ‘very’ as you can. Use a more specific and descriptive adjective instead. Substitute ‘really fat’ for: ‘gargantuan’, for example.
- Don’t write at all – use podcast or video. If writing isn’t your thing, don’t do it! You could record yourself in a podcast or video instead, there’s no law saying that all businesses MUST have a blog. But, if you are determined to have written word too, get your recordings transcribed.
You could also check out The Plain English Campaign. They offer lots of free help around de-jargoning yourself, how to write clearly and (better) explanations of passive tense and other grammatical points (rule of three, right there, see?).
And if you aren’t confident in your writing, borrow our checklist. By the end of the week your writing could be as flamboyant, scintillating and witty as ours (I told you I don’t let the compliments go to my head.)
Or, for help with your writing, get in touch. We offer proofreading and editing and copywriting services.