The Secrets of Effective Writing

Y U NO...The internet is a brilliant medium for too many reasons to list, but giving a voice to so many people must surely rank up there among the top bonuses.

There are thousands of formats and mediums to publish yourself on, so there is really no excuse not to be writing about a subject you are knowledgeable about. In fact, well-written articles are some of the best ways to build a solid reputation online.

There is one major drawback though. No one moderates what is being written and published and as a result the general level of written English has deteriorated dramatically. Nowadays you do not need to be an exceptional writer or have something very interesting to say to get published.

Most businesses try to save a buck by handling content creation themselves and, as a consequence, the number of web sites and blog posts that are riddled with horrible grammar is staggering. What most people writing don’t realise it that most of us (and most of their potential clients) can tell an amateurish piece from a well-written one, even if we are not all professionals.

If you are writing for your own business or on behalf of someone else’s business, it is imperative to have flawless grammar. The quality of the material you present reflects your company’s image as much as a clean office, a smart uniform or your brand identity. Clients and the press alike will build their impressions based on what they read about you, so when you put poor-quality material out there yourself, you are communicating an air of mediocrity. I remember working in a newsroom where we received dozens of press releases every day. We used to simply ditch the poorly-written ones and publish the interesting ones which did not need lots of grammatical corrections – it made our lives much easier.

Every problem, however, breeds an opportunity. The more bad writers there are out there, the more you will stand out if you can write well. I have seen quite a few businesses flourish online simply because they could put themselves in their clients’ shoes and communicate effectively.

There are a few tips to keep in mind if you intend writing yourself. The first, and probably most important one, is to edit brutally. Hemingway is said to have believed in writing drunk and editing sober. It might not be wise to take him up literally on that, but my advice is to write what you mean to say in a stream of consciousness and then read it over and over again, fixing it as you go along.

Ask a friend or relative to read your articles and suggest ways to improve them. If you don’t have someone you can trust enough to help you, find someone online. There are many friendly writers on Facebook, Twitter or Google+ who would be willing to give you their input. If that fails too, you can find websites which can connect you to proof-readers all over the world.

Quality is not merely about grammatical correctness though, if you write something well but do not take the time to understand the wants and needs of your reader, then you have failed just as miserably. If you are writing on behalf of a business then take a step back, look at what you want to get out of the article and imagine you are the reader for a bit. If you’re selling a car with some special gadget that saves fuel, the manufacturer might be very excited about it and would want you to write all about the way that gizmo works. Your average reader, however, would be far more interested in simply learning that the car will be more efficient, and possibly by how much.

(#23 of 366 X 2012 project)