Writing tips – Learn from the pros
Want some writing tips? Then why not learn from the pros … In my training courses on effective writing I show delegates some of the writing techniques used by professionals, and then let the delegates apply the techniques to their own writing. I summarise these pros/professional writers as the ‘3Ms’: people who write for
- Mass Markets (i.e tabloid journalists)
- Marketers (writers of advertising copy)
- Maestros (newspaper/magazine feature writers).
Here’s a few of my writing tips from the pros — two from each — which you can easily apply to your writing.
(A full version of this and other writing tips will appear in my forthcoming book on Business Writing Skills).
Take a look at any of our tabloid newspapers, which attract millions of loyal readers every day. You should notice several things about their writing style: short sentences and paragraphs; easy/familiar language, and a message that is brief and to the point.
An early lesson to any trainee journalist, reflected in the above and a motto that should help you, is ‘Keep It Short and Simple’ – K.I.S.S.
Make it topical
You will be more likely to grab readers’ attention if you can hook onto what is already in the news/on their minds than if you are starting out from scratch.
Whether you are writing a new brochure, blog, web text, or whatever, try and make your writing topical – draw on issues, stories, ideas, quotes/straplines, etc. that are already on readers’ minds and will catch their attention.
Know your audience
Do you know your audience? Having an imaginary profile of them in your head, which outlines their key characteristics, will help you shape your writing: what might grab their attention, what sort of language to use, and what type of content they will be influenced by.
It might take a bit of market research, or teasing out their details, but knowing your audience will help shape your writing.
Appeal to readers’ self-interest
Look at some of the advertising copy around you, the ones that catch your attention and are persuasive. The chances are that they pull out how their product is bigger/better/faster, will sort out our worries, make us more liked/loved, enable us to live some of the life we dream of, etc.
Add a bit of that into your writing!
Variety is the spice of life
It might sound strange but, although readers’ attention depends on what you write about, and how well you write, it also can depend on what your writing sounds like – the sounds of the word combinations, and the length of your sentences.
To stop your writing from sounding dull – and risk turning off your readers – be sure to write sentences that are of different length, and put in the occasionally really short one, whose particular point will also really stand out as a result.
Add a quote
When you work as a journalist and return to the office from collecting information for a story you are writing, the first thing your editor usually says is, ‘Did you get a good quote?’
At the end of the day we are all humans, and we relate best to other people. Wherever you can, make sure you try and include a good quote.