5 easy ways to instantly become a better writer
I’m no Brontë sister. My blog posts do not make grown men burst into tears, or women swoon. It’s taken me a solid 10 minutes just to come up with this introduction and I’m still not happy with it.
I am, however, experienced at writing and editing digital marketing content. And over the years I’ve picked up ways to quickly and easily improve your writing that basically anyone in marketing can do.
I know it can be difficult to start a blog, email, or whatever you need to type up – especially when you’re not a professional writer. The lack of confidence other marketers have about their writing abilities becomes apparent when they tell me how nervous they are about their work being proofread or edited.
I want to help, so I’ve pulled together some recommendations.
I’m not going to focus on spelling and grammar because a) that’s boring, and b) I am a terrible speller and have no intention of being a hypocrite. Instead, I’ve considered the most common mistakes I’ve come across during my time in the industry and proposed some solutions.
So, here are five easy ways to instantly become a better writer and improve your confidence, whether you’re presenting a strategy document, working on a creative campaign, or simply firing off an email.
Make a plan before you start
Your writing is worth taking time over, and part of that time should be spent planning what you’re going to say. It’s not a dissertation, so you don’t need a 20-point strategy with chapter breaks, but a general structure with key topics can make your piece more coherent and easier to write.
There must be a point to what you’re writing, so start with the core message and work backwards:
- What is the main takeaway? What questions are you answering?
- How is the answer best communicated? Should it be broken down into short sections?
- What insight or statistics could back up your point?
Answer these in your plan and suddenly that vast, white ‘Untitled’ Word document won’t seem as intimidating.
Stop trying so hard
Nothing reveals an amateur writer quicker than try-hard copy. It sounds harsh, but if you’re using 10 complicated words when one simple word will do, you sound like a candidate for r/iamverysmart rather than a marketing expert.
Your reader shouldn’t need a dictionary to understand your message. Keep it simple and use the words that come most naturally to you. Break up your paragraphs so they’re no more than three or four lines (long paragraphs look intimidating online). And only use technical language when you need to – not to try and impress your reader.
Concentrate on what you’re writing
Anyone working in digital marketing – particularly in an agency – knows it’s hard to sit, concentrate, and not be distracted by emails, ‘quick’ requests, and meetings.
Stop. Close your inbox. Find a quiet space away from everyone else. Set aside an hour or so when you can purely pay attention to what you’re writing. You’ll probably find you’re a better writer than you thought, and writing is so much easier when you can give it your full attention.
If all else fails, stick on your headphones, blast your favourite music, and adopt a facial expression that tells visitors your desk is closed for business…
There’s no such thing as first-time finished copy
I’ll let you in on a secret: I hate drafting. I hated drafting all the way through university to such an extent that I only wrote one version of my dissertation, and submitted it without reading it back. This is my secret shame, and there’s a catharsis in revealing this to you all.
Now I write for a living, I have to swallow my hatred for re-reading and re-writing my work to make sure it’s good enough for paying clients. And you should do the same.
I completely empathise with everyone who thinks, ‘But I can’t be bothered to read it back.’ Neither can I. But spending time reading over your work, editing mistakes, and clarifying confused copy is something we all have to do – even if there’s a proof-reader and editor waiting to get their hands on it, too.
On a related note, when you get feedback, actually read it. Feedback is every writer’s greatest fear and most important asset, because others can see improvements a writer can’t. While it might be painful that everything you write first time isn’t perfect, you will only improve if you take that feedback on-board.
Read, read, and read some more
Any writer worth the keyboard they type on knows there is always someone far better than them out there. Those better writers are producing their own work, which you can use to become a better writer in turn.
Just read what others are writing. Marketing blogs, fiction, graphic novels, news stories, those little subplot storylines in video games when you find hidden treasure that everyone skips over. Read everything.
You’ll learn how to develop a personal tone of voice, which is what will set your work apart from the crowd. You’ll learn how to use different tones and techniques for different purposes and audiences. And if something someone else wrote doesn’t work for you, you’ll learn how not to write, too.
You have the potential to be a fantastic writer – even if you’re not interested in copywriting. Contact us @Branded_3 on Twitter to let us know your writing tips, or get in touch with the Editorial team to have us write everything for you. We’re pretty good at it.