Bad writing is wasting your time.
Eighty-one percent of businesspeople surveyed for the State of Business Writing report said that bad business writingthat which is too long, poorly organized, unclear, and full of jargon and errorswastes a lot of their time. I mean, we all need help once in a while, so it comes as no surprise that anyone from college students, with the assistance of writing services, to anyone who owns a business would look into the idea of improving their writing skills.
Of course, Im a content manager by trade, so poor writing works out for me in the job security department. But its also painful to watch, like Charlie Sheen post-2009 or Donald Trumps understanding of how Google works.
Marketers: Lets do better. Im here to help. Here are my 10 biggest tips to improve your writing, look smarter and get what you want.
1. Use simple language
Use the smallest word that does the job. E.B. White
Good writing is simple, clear and concise. Dont get fancy with your word choice, writing things like:
- Utilize instead of use
- Accordingly instead of so
- Facilitate instead of help
- In order to instead of to
- Commence instead of start
- In close proximity instead of near
- Call your attention to the fact instead of remind you or notify you
People use these longer words and phrases to sound smart, I believe, but they only come off sounding uncomfortable and full of themselves.
You can use the longer words, of course, if theyre the best words for the job. If your meaning is so precise that no other word will do, go for it. But if a simple word gives you the same meaning, go simple. If you think you need some help with this, there are plenty of writing tutors online. One website to look out for is, customwritingservice.com.
Good #writing is simple, clear and concise. #contentmarketing @MeganKrause
Click To Tweet
2. Cut the fluff
Good business writing expresses what you want to say using as few words as possible. Fluff, meanwhile, is the superfluous language that doesnt add any value to your copy. If a word is not necessary to the meaning of the sentence, delete it. The words you keep should be strong, decided ones.
- If you think you might want to visit Phoenix in the summertime, you should seriously look into whether or not you can get any discounts or cheaper rates at Phoenix-area hotels.
- If you plan on visiting Phoenix in the summer, ask for discounted rates at local hotels. Much better.
Good business writing expresses what you want to say using as few words as possible. #contentmarketing #writingtips
Click To Tweet
3. Avoid very, really and other absolute modifiers
This tip is an offshoot of the one above it, but its worthy of its own spot on the list.
Strike these qualifiers from your business copy: really, very, so, basically, pretty, virtually, definitely, and the like. These are weak words. And look, I have a Twain quote to prove it:
Substitute damn every time youre inclined to write very; your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be. Mark Twain
Besides, theres a better adjective to describe what youre trying to say:
- Its very hot Its sweltering.
- Shes so happy Shes elated.
- He was really angry He was furious.
4. Write in the active voice
Which sounds better?
- My lonely hearts ad was not responded to by anyone.
- No one responded to my lonely hearts ad.
- It was wished by me that drinking at my desk would be permitted by Arnie.
- I wish Arnie would let me drink at my desk.
- It was wondered by Nantale if professional help was needed by Megan.
- Nantale wondered if Megan needed professional help.
In each case, the second choice sounds better. Thats the active voice, in which the subject of the sentence performs the action. In the passive voice, the target of the action becomes the subject.
Most of the time, the person or thing performing the action should be the subject; its just tighter, better writing. The passive voice isnt wrong, but its not good, either.
You can spot the passive voice by looking for instances of a by phrase. In all three examples above, the action was performed by the subject. Rewrite the sentence so the subject is at the beginning of the sentence.
5. Avoid clichs and jargon
Clichs are trite and boring, and you risk appearing as such if you use them. Some of the biggest culprits here are:
- Out of the box
- On the same page
- Hit the ground running
- Top of your game
- In a nutshell
- Stand out from the crowd
- Under the radar
- Spread like wildfire
- Raise the bar
- Tip of the iceberg
- At the end of the day
- Circle up/circle the wagons
- Bang for the buck
- Low-hanging fruit
- Out of left field
- Reinvent the wheel
- Best foot forward
Clichs are trite and boring, and you risk appearing as such if you use them. #contentmarketing #writingtips
Click To Tweet
Replace these phrases with dynamic language. For example, instead of saying something is out of left field, you could say it is unexpected, surprising, odd, nutty, eccentric, wacky, peculiar, without warning, harebrained, erratic, oddball, goofy, fluky, or offbeat.
Ditto jargon. Jargon is language that is specific to a particular profession or group and is difficult for outsiders to understand. Theres a lot of crossover between jargon and clichs, so marketers, be careful before you write using marketing jargon, even if youre addressing other marketers. Examples of marketing jargon include:
- Thought leader
- Content is king (were guilty of using this one)
- Growth hacking
6. Dont use exclamation points (I mean it)
I know what youre thinking! Exclamation points generate excitement! Marketers need to be exciting! Ill just use one every now and then!
Blech. No. Exclamation points are amateurish and distracting. Theyre fine for personal expressive writing, social media posts, IMs, texts, even emails among chummy coworkersI use them myself in those circumstances. But for any type of business writing, including professional emails between colleagues, clients and prospects, avoid using them.
Cut out all those exclamation points. An exclamation mark is like laughing at your own joke. F. Scott Fitzgerald #contentmarketing #writingtips
Click To Tweet
7. Beware timid language
Watch for phrases like you may want to, sorry but, its possible that, just, I think, we can try, probably, sort of, sometimes, and the like. They diminish your voice. State it like you mean it. For example, compare the following:
- Im no expert, but Arnie Kuenn sort of seems like a smart guy.
- Arnie Kuenn is a smart guy.
- Im just writing to check in and remind you to vote for Arnie for president.
- Remember to vote for Arnie for president.
Im not saying you can never use them. Sometimes (see that?) its perfectly appropriate to cast doubt with your words.
8. Dont misplace modifiers
Modifiers are words or phrases that describe (modify) something else. A misplaced modifier is one that modifies something you didnt intend it to modify, because its placed in the wrong position in the sentence.
Despite their impropriety, these can be funny. Here are some real-life examples:
- I saw a dead skunk driving down the highway.
- She handed out brownies to the children stored in Tupperware.
- I smelled the oysters coming down the stairs for dinner.
- Abraham Lincoln wrote the Gettysburg address while traveling from Washington to Gettysburg on the back of an envelope.
The modifier should clearly refer to a specific word in the sentence. Aim to keep them as close as possible to the thing theyre modifying. If you are having a hard time fitting all the information in one sentence, simplify your sentences. Split them into two.
9. Mend your comma splices
A comma splice occurs when you use a comma to join two independent clauses. For example: I often ditch work to watch movies, its so much fun.
I often ditch work to watch movies and its so much fun are independent clauses; each could stand alone (independent) as its own sentence. You cant separate the two with a comma. Thats a comma splice.
You can fix a comma splice in one of three ways:
- Separate the two independent clauses with one of the seven coordinating conjunctions (for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so): I often ditch work to watch movies, for its so much fun.
- Separate the two with a semicolon, dash or colon: I often ditch work to watch movies; its so much fun.
- Make them into two separate sentences: I often ditch work to watch movies. Its so much fun.
10. Dont misuse quotation marks
Look at these examples. Quotation marks are not needed in any of the following:
Use quotation marks when youre directly quoting someone or denoting an official title (book, movie, song, etc.). You may also use them to indicate that you know a term is questionable or to indicate irony or sarcasm: I just love the food at this hospital.
But, if youre using them for emphasis, stop. You dont need them. Try italics instead (but use those sparingly, too). Let your words convey power. Please dont do cocaine in our bathroom, besides being a reasonable request, needs no extra punctuation for emphasis.
If you take out your quotation marks and your sentence can still easily be understood, you probably dont need them. @MeganKrause #contentmarketing #writingtips
Click To Tweet
Why is good writing important for marketers?
Good writing is important for everyone but particularly for marketers. Heres why:
1. Good writing is a brand ambassador
Good writing is a trust signal; it says youre sharp and conscientious. Poor writing says you dont care about quality and dont know how to express yourself well. It doesnt exactly inspire confidence in your abilities.
2. Good writing helps you get what you want
Marketing is about messaging, isnt it? If your message isnt communicated clearly, whoever is on the receiving end of that message has a lot of latitude to screw up your intent. Dont let that happen.
3. Good writing boosts productivity and saves money
Bad writing is a waste of money and a killer of productivity. Josh Bernoff, author of Writing Without Bullshit: Boost Your Career by Saying What You Mean, claims its costing U.S. companies an astounding $400 billion annually.
Our Creative Content Services
Diversify your offerings to stay at the cutting edge of content marketing with our creative content design for infographics, videos, whitepapers, content visualization pages, and more.
The post 10 Writing Tips for Marketers: Improve Your Communication, Look Smarter & Get What You Want appeared first on Vertical Measures.