Wednesday, January 11, 2017

7 ways comms pros can improve their writing in 2017

Let's be honest: Writing may be your strongest skill as a communicator, but it can always be improved. Take these seven ideas to your keyboard and get moving:
  1. Edit all the "shoulds" and "musts" out of your copy, particularly if you are offering public tips and advice. No need to shame your readers or users into doing what you are urging. Try actual persuasion.
  2. Tighten up your writing production. Maybe because I got my start in journalism school, where the news writing finals were timed, I am always appalled when a communications pro tells me he needs two weeks minimum to write a press release. Really? Try timed writing tests with your team. Issue one fact sheet with the known facts and statements, let everyone start at the same time, set the clock for 20 or 30 minutes, and see what happens. Then try timing the lede. Five minutes should do it for that. You may well find you get better releases as a result.
  3. If you're using very, little, many or pretty as descriptors, you're not working hard enough. That's advice from E.B. White, dears. Try using more descriptive noun-verb combos (he's not fond of adjectives and adverbs, overall), or at least find some more precise and detailed descriptors. 
  4. Learn how to edit for space, so you can bring that blog post or tweet in under the word or character limit. (You do set word limits for things, don't you?) This means cutting a wide range of words that take up more space than others, due to placement as well as character count. Details at the link.
  5. Learn how to touch type if you haven't already. There are a million tutorials online, and you'll be able to write more, faster, and take better notes in real time. I promise not to tell your boss. If you already touch type, take a timing test or do a refresher.
  6. Take the time to edit your document software's dictionary. You can save many, many minutes in the coming year if the software you use to write has a dictionary that reflects your typical abbreviations, terms, proper names, and more. Bonus: You won't have as many errors.
  7. Wrassle that dictation software. I have a love-hate relationship with mine, but admit that it does make my forearms, hands, and elbows happier. Make sure you figure out which documents and which types of writing are easiest to do with dictation, and make a point of putting it in play more often. Extend this to your texts, as well; Google can help you. You'll be saving your writing hands for another day.
(Creative Commons licensed photo by Anonymous Account, with amendments by me)

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