Writing is a skill that will hugely benefit anyone’s career, and luckily, it’s a skill that anyone can learn. Nicely Said is a wonderful guide to writing clearly and concisely for the audience you’re trying to reach. Whether you’re a professional or just getting started, you’ll find a ton to steal from here.
…but I forget to blog about it! Some of my favorite parts, below.
“Everything you publish should serve a purpose.”
Consider how different this is than writing fiction:
As you work on a piece ask yourself: How does it support your goals? How does it align with your mission? Does it teach people something new?
When researching, get people to tell you their stories.
To get better answers, ask better questions:
Don’t ask “Would you search for ‘meaningful gift’ on Google?” Make it more neutral, like: “How would you define a keepsake?” or “When was the last time you gave someone a meaningful gift?”
Use Mad Libs.
Fenton and Lee suggest Mad Libs for writing a mission statement:
We make (plural noun) for (audience noun).
We help (audience noun) (verb) (adverb).
We want to (verb) (noun) to (verb) so they can (verb) (adverb).
And a bio:
I’m a [ ].
We’re a [ ] company.
That means we [ ].
We help people [ ].
My day-to-day looks like [ ].
“Don’t get to the point; start with it.”
Edit writing live in your internet browser.
This is a trick I used a million times as an interactive copywriter:
Open the page in your browser. Right-click the text you want o edit. Choose Inspect Element in the pop-up menu. The text should be highlighted in the source code. Replace it with something new. Press the Return key to see what the page would look like with the new text. If you want to show a few variations before making the changes, take a screenshot of each one.
Learn the difference between voice and tone.
Your voice is your company’s public personality. It doesn’t change much from day to day. Like you own individual personality, it comes through in all of your content and influences how people perceive you. On the other hand, your tone changes to fit the situation. While your voice if more about you, your tone is about your readers and how they feel. Together, your voice and tone make up your writing style.
“Read your work aloud.”
Learn to love talking to yourself, because reading your work out loud will transform your writing. When you’re not sure if you’re striking the right tone, read your content aloud to see how it sounds. Peter Elbow, professor emeritus of English at the University of Massachussetts at Amherst, calls this “speaking onto the page.”
I also recommend reading aloud through a good microphone and a set of headphones — I find hearing my voice amplified estranges things and helps me hear the words.
Be a good date.
That’s how Vonnegut put it. Here’s how Lee and Fenton put it:
Put yourself in the reader’s shoes. When you sit down to write, think about the people on the other side of the screen. Who are they? What do they need to hear from you? Before you publish anything, [ask these questions]: Is it useful? Is it true?
"When I’m driving in my car and I realize I’m singing out loud, those are the moments I realize I’m most happy. When it hits me that everything is the way it’s supposed to be and I’m just content. I sing."