Writing, writing well, can seem hard to do.
Recall the last time you read something that was nothing but painful- getting through it hurt, if you did manage to read it all. Yuck.
And by the same token, you can probably remember a piece you read that was a pleasure to read- the message and tone were clear, there was cadence, variety and rhythm. There was more than likely a variety of vocabulary words, ones we all understand, and a nice summation at the end.
Making the words you write both an informative and pleasant experience for your reader will help them clearly understand your message and remember it better. Which is the point, yes?
However reading good, or bad, writing doesn’t do much to show us write well.
Below are 6 tips that can help you build that next article:
ONE: Who’s Reading This and Why?
Whether you write for online reading or print, chances are you are writing for a specific purpose, for business. These guidelines are not for the Great American Novel, an in-depth journalistic expose or juicy magazine article.
Business writing is a whole different animal.
A book or article requires more time and focus to read; your online piece needs to deliver a clear message, directly and succinctly. If it looks too long or dense, chances are few will even begin to read it.
Think about the people you want to read your piece and what you want them to understand- how cleanly and clearly can you share your point?
TWO: What’s The Point?
Be direct with your point- what is it? Don’t make the reader guess what you want them to know.
- What is the one thought you need your reader to walk away from this piece?
- If they were going to tell someone about what they read, what would you want them to say?
Be clear on your topic- you should be able to describe this in a few words.
THIRD: Small Bites
Keep your paragraphs short- focus on making only a single idea or point.
Make it easy for your reader, your paragraphs need to be short: 3 or 4 sentences at most. A big block of text looks like a brick, and may look intimidating to some. Many people will skip over that many words strung together, some will skim them with the end result is your point could get lost or overlooked.
To make a bigger impact, your paragraph can be really short, maybe only as few as a couple of words.
The length of your paragraph is as important as the words you choose. How you set up your writing is as important as the subject you are writing about. All of these considerations really affect how clear and impactful your article will be.
FOURTH: How Long Should a Sentence Be?
Look at the sentences you have written: are they all about the same length? Be sure your sentences range from medium length to shorter ones. Choose different sentence structures, try not to have every sentence have the same tone.
For emphasis, a sentence can be very short, even a little as a word to two.
FIFTH: Add variety: words, sentences, paragraphs.
The idea that a paragraph can vary from as short as a few words to several sentences gives you the freedom to create some cadence and rhythm to your written piece. ( see how long that was?) You don’t speak like a robot would; you change up the length of your sentences and thoughts to keep your listener engaged.
The same principle works with writing. Think about what you would say if you were talking about your point rather than writing it. Imagine the person you are trying to reach is sitting with you as you write, have a conversation with them.
SIXTH: The conclusion
The best way to conclude your piece is to sum up the purpose of your article. Recap the facts you use, from the more general beginning to the more specific end. Tie everything together, have the end mirror the beginning.
As this is the last paragraph that is read ( maybe the only paragraph for some!), invest the time to make this really convey your message.
There are endings with an important or interesting fact, with a story or vignette, quote or question. The question you want to answer in your conclusion is why this topic matters, why you took the time and effort to write and publish it.
While it can be longer, 1-3 short paragraphs is a good length. If you are not sure, a rule of thumb is the conclusion ought to be ⅙ of the size of the piece.
TL; DR Recap:
Know your audience, know what kinds of vocabulary will making reading easy for them.
Be clear and succinct about the point you want to make.
Don’t cram in too many points, focus on your most important message.
Keep your paragraphs toward the shorter side: short, rhythmic and varied.
Use variety in the lengths of your sentences and paragraphs.
Sum up your point and purpose in the conclusion.
Now, read your article out loud, how does it sound? Would you read your own stuff?
What you have to say is important, set up your article so its structure lets your words flow, make them efficient and clear.
Business and web writing doesn’t have to be painful or awkward. Remember pieces you have read that were wonderful and some that were just plain awful. As you find articles that you read and enjoy, sit back and look at it from a writer’s perspective. How did they set up their words, sentences and paragraphs and close that made it good or bad?
Keep it short, keep it simple, keep it clear.
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