by Amy J.V. Atwell
In my work, I have encountered many professionals who not only don’t like to write, but who actively fear it. In my role as a corporate editor, those people were lucky – they had me and a few other colleagues who were happy to write on their behalf. My clients now have that luxury as well, but most people in business will have to write as part of their job at some point, even if they have a professional writer or editor at their disposal.
For the people who hate and fear writing, here are a few tips:
1. Be confident. You are the expert.
You might not win a Pulitzer anytime soon, but people want and need to hear what you have to say. Own your role as an expert in your field and let that come out in your writing. When writing a first draft, just let your knowledge flow and get something on paper. It doesn’t have to be pretty – just get it out there. You can go back and refine later.
2. Simpler is usually better.
Because you are the expert, you know all the jargon in your industry and might be tempted to share every technical detail you know about your product or service. Unless you are writing a technical manual, most audiences won’t want to weed through acronyms and buzzwords to get to your true meaning. It can be helpful to have someone outside your field review the content and point out anything that is confusing or too technical.
3. Find the hook.
Especially in this digital age, readers have little patience for long-winded diatribes. You need to reel them in with the choicest nugget of information right from the beginning. Put yourself in your reader’s shoes: What piece of information would be most important or interesting to them? Start with that and build on it. This practice applies to everything from internal staff e-mails to external marketing pieces. Lead with the good stuff and capture your audience’s attention.
I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to read and re-read your work. If possible, read it aloud to yourself. Does it flow? Does it make sense?
Don’t rely on spell check, either. One “there” where a “their” should be could impact your credibility.
5. Ask a colleague for a second set of eyes.
If you have an editor on call, call him or her. If not, find a trusted colleague who can give your document a once-over. If your content is near final, make it clear that you just need someone to look for typos or glaring errors. When you have been working on a document for hours, you’re often too close to it to easily spot errors.
Amy J.V. Atwell is a Denver-based freelance writer and editor. She works with businesses to grow their brands through high-quality copy and content. Read more at www.heirloomcommunications.com.