Four Habits of Highly Effective Writers
Some people may think to be a good writer you have to be born with the skill. You either have a way with words or you don’t. There may even be this idea that good writing is about using a lot of large, fantastical words. But, it isn’t. Writing, at its core, consists of simple relatable ideas that make people say “hmmm” versus “huh”. I want you to take a brief moment to think about the things you’ve read or listened to. A journal article, book, magazine, even a brochure or pamphlet, a television show. I’m willing to bet the ones that stick with you are those that you felt a personal connection to or whose ideas were easy to comprehend. The writer(s) didn’t have to go above and beyond to make a point to draw you in. When it comes to writing you don’t have to either. To be an effective writer we need only adopt a few habits and actively work on applying them to our writing. After all, practice makes perfect, right? Wrong. Practice makes it permanent.
Identify your audience
Ask yourself, Who am I writing this for? How will this help my audience? And why am I writing this? We want to ask ourselves these questions because not only is language a focal point for our writing but so is our tone. You may have heard it’s not what you say but how you say it. The same applies to our writing. The way we write is a reflection of how we relate to different people and respond to different situations. Even if we were just sending an email, we want to be mindful of how our message is being received and that means thinking about our audience.
Keep your writing simple
Now, depending on your industry, and the purpose for your writing, it may be necessary from time-to-time to use more technical writing. But, one thing we have to keep in mind is that our writing is not solely seen by people in our respective industries. Sometimes a person comes along that wants to better understand your services or products. So, we want to make sure that our writing is easy to comprehend. A few simple tips to accomplish this can include not using too many cliches, jargon, or big words. No matter how great, or how much it makes you sound like an intellectual, using what I like to call “fillers” often takes away from your writing and can lead to your message being lost.
Stay on topic
When we get excited about an idea it’s easy for us to jump around from one topic to another. The same is true when it comes to writing. Sometimes, we get an idea and it takes us in several directions. And before we know it, we’re reading something we’ve written and it makes no sense. Part of staying on topic is only including relevant information. No one wants to read three out of five pages of a report before they get to the most pertinent information. Right in line with staying on topic is being concise. While it may look good to say I’ve written three pages of content, ask yourself could I have said the same thing in two pages or less?
Identify your goal
Determine whether your reason for writing is to encourage your audience or readers to act, or if it’s for the purpose of sharing information. Doing so could help you determine the structure and depth of your writing, whether to include additional resources for your readers, or as mentioned earlier, the tone of your writing.
So, just to quickly review, when it comes to writing you want to identify your audience (who are they, what message do you want to convey to them). Keep your writing simple (there is no need to go around the mulberry bush, with the exception of more technical writing, keep the language simple). Stay on topic (once you’ve determined the message you want to convey, do so clearly, be concise). And lastly identify your goal (what do you want to do with your writing, do you want to encourage your audience to act or do you want to inform them of your products and/or services). While each habit I’ve mentioned are important steps, the most important is simply practicing the application of each. I’ll leave off with these words from a documentary I watched not too long ago, “We don’t practice to be perfect. We practice for permanence.”