Friday, January 19, 2007

12 steps to better, more persuasive writing (if you can't be bothered to read the book).

Publication is getting closer, at last. And I've just written an article for a management magazine explaining why every organisation can benefit from learning to use words more persuasively. But, to make the piece a bit more user-friendly, I also included a few handy hints on how to communicate more effectively in writing. Here they are:

1. Start with a bang
Remember, if your opening doesn't give a busy person a compelling reason to read on, he or she almost certainly won't.

2. Splurge, then edit
Don't agonise over every word. Just get it all down, fast - then go back and cut and shape and polish.

3. Write as you'd speak
Don't be chummy or jokey, but do write as if you are talking, articulately and knowledgeably, to another intelligent person.

4. Use the "y" word
Is there at least one "you" in your first few sentences? If not, your reader will be feeling neglected.

5. Never utilise elongated verbal formulations.
And avoid clichés like the centre of town on a Saturday night.

6. Read it aloud
Hearing what you've written is a foolproof way to spot clunking phrases or convoluted sentences.

7. Is it a good idea to use questions?

8. Put a figure on it
"Customers in 37 countries" not "customers all over the world".

9. Go for a walk
When the words won't come, leave it and come back later. In my experience, it always does the trick.

10. How does it look?
Make things easy for your reader: break it up with headings; pull out key quotes; include a bullet point summary.

11. Don't just spellcheck
Give it a proper read-through. No point getting the spelling right if you've used the wrong worm.

12. Never stop editing
. . . until you finally hit "print" or "send".


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