The Alchemist's Lair
Thoughts on writing, language, life as a freelancer,
and what comes to mind.
and what comes to mind.
Regardless of your role and position, writing effectively makes it easier to have your message heard by peers, prospects, and partners. Want to write better web content, blog posts, business emails? Try these five tricks, and polish your writing in an instant.
After my webinar on effective business writing last Thursday, a participant (let's call him Joe) asked about any "tricks" I use to write crisp copy for my customers.
Now, I don't know if you could call them tricks - but these 5 tips & methods will definitely help improve your writing.
Plus, they work for all kinds of copy.
1. Dust off a thesaurus
Sounds a little old-fashioned, I know ... but thesauri saved me dozens of hours on copywriting and translation work so far.
Using a thesaurus can help you:
Quite a few advatanges for a forgotten relic of your school days, uh?
Bonus: you can easily find free online thesauri for most languages. For Enghlish, Thesaurus.com and Collins English Thesaurus are great options. For visual people, Thinkmap is the way to go (but free search is limited).
2. Cut 10% off
This is a great trick for squeezing all the important information of your message in a concise text, and (literally) make every word count. Plus, it works for all kinds of texts.
3. Format for effectiveness
So you read somewhere that the optimal length of a paragraph in a blog post is 3 lines.
You think it makes sense, and start formatting all of your blog posts accordingly.
As a result, your post looks like the test print of an old inkjet. Mission failed.
Truth is, you don't need to write like a robot.
Variations in the length and pace of your paragraphs are important. In fact, they provide your text with a more natural flow ... and when your writing reads naturally, it immediately becomes more credible.
Also, remember that you should always help your reader through the content.
Use bold to highlight key concepts, and bulleted lists to synthesise information.
Bonus: bulleted lists have their own formatting rules too.
To learn more, check out this guide on Quick and Dirty Tips.
4. Double-check the spell checker
Please, do it. Every time. Weird things happen if you don't.
Spell checkers work well for a coarse-grained revision. However, when the error is still a proper word in your language, they won't spot it.
Happened to me once with a "cute for cancer" instead of a cure - and I'll be eternally grateful to the editor that picked that up before going live with the article.
These errors often happen when you revise right after finishing the draft. In such situations our brain already "knows" what's in there, and fills in the blanks automatically. You redrafted that sentence 7 or 8 times after all, right?
Hence, you should always let the page cool down a bit. Take a break, a nap or a walk: your choice - but give your brain a rest before revising your work.
In all cases, double-check the spell checker. For your own good.
5. Draft an outline
Blog posts, emails, quotes and proposals, presentations. Outlining your content is a great way to organise information effectively, and keeps your writing on track.
How do you do that? Well, that is up to you. Some people go for a shopping list-style outline. Others go visual, and create mind maps. There is no fixed rule, and every person develops "outline templates" naturally over time.
Looking for some inspiration for your blog posts and articles? Check out How to write an outline on Skilledup.
The bottom line
Effective business writing starts with keeping your readers' needs in mind. Writing structured, concise, and lively copy will help you get the attention of the people on the other side of the screen (or page) - and have your message heard.
What about you? What are the tips and tricks you use to improve the style and flow of your writing efforts? Join the conversation in the comments below!