love writing

On Good Writing and How to Get It

When I tell people I am a writer, I tend to get two reactions:

“Oh, I could never write well.”

“Do you like it?”

For the latter, consider whether I would work as a professional writer for more than 20 years if I disliked it. As for the former proposition, the only way to become is a good writer is to do a lot of writing.

You also must be willing to take and incorporate critiques. In college, my two majors happened to require contrasting writing styles. In journalism, you start a story by telling the reader the upshot or outcome. For history, by contrast, you start at the beginning and build a case toward a conclusion. One day, my history advisor stopped me on campus to tell me that my writing had become “weird.” That was to say I opened a history paper with a news lede.

At my first newspaper job, I was blessed with strong editors who gently guided me away from writing too much or writing in a manner too fancy to get the job done. With good writing, there is no need to gild the lily. You just say it straight. Get to the point. Yet so much of what we read online buries the lede. For example, how many recipe blogs start out with hundreds and hundreds of words before mentioning the recipe’s ingredients and directions? To be fair, I publish a lifestyle blog that narrates my cooking adventures, but they are rarely more than 500 words and the instructions are higher up in the copy. By contrast, I have found myself scrolling and scrolling and scrolling down a recipe post before finding the recipe.

Now, to be sure, there is some SEO method to this madness, but let’s not get totally carried away by padding blogs with search terms. I also suspect that people who write meandering musings in their blog never had a tough, wise-cracking news editor bearing down on their copy. Remember, the whole point of writing something is to engage the reader. What is the use of bringing someone to your blog if you are boring?

You have just a moment to grab their attention, which is the objective of a news headline. That’s akin to a great Tweet or the opening of a social media post. In news writing, people ask themselves – before hitting the keystrokes – what is my lede? (Lede is old-time news spelling for lead sentence.) In other words, what is the most important, new thing you need to convey to the reader? For marketing a product or service, you should give the reader information they just may not have been aware of; this educational material shows you know your stuff and gives the audience a reason to know who you are.

Say you own a jewelry store. Running a social media post about the cheapest diamonds in town is going to send the wrong message. What if instead you crafted a post about an electric toothbrush being a diamond’s best friend? That made you curious, right? Turns out, some jewelers recommend using a electric toothbrush to polish your diamond. Just don’t use the same brushhead you put in your mouth. My point is social media is supposed to be fun and you can use elements of humor and surprise to be quirky in marketing. Still, don’t go crazy. If you are a small business and doing your own marketing, be sure to go to trusted friends as sounding boards and test out any wacky ideas.

The beauty of social media, though, is it more often rewards experiments than it punishes mistakes. Your experiment would have to be really, really awful to hurt much. I like to try different art or animations for the images. I play with video editing and photo editing on design platforms. As a result, I can stay fresh with content presentation.

The writing can be playful too. As for regular day-to-day writing for your newsletters and social media, have a coworker read it first. At the very least, they can clean up the copy to free it of typos, which can hurt your credibility. Finally, one piece of biased advice: do not publish yourself unless you are an experienced professional editor.

Cheers,

Katharine Fraser, Adroit Narratives

How to Write a Blog for Your Business

Where do you start when sitting down to write a blog to market your business? Overcome whatever inertia is holding you back. You may only need a half hour to an hour to do this. You also need not be the greatest writer in the world – you just need to be good at writing.

In this blog, I will walk you through three basic steps to writing a blog.

  • Pick a topic and break it down into a series of related blogs
  • Aim to write about 500 words per blog
  • Edit yourself!

Blogging a Marketing Campaign

You have a lot to say; you built a better mousetrap and want the world to beat a path to your door. But, it’s complicated. Your business model is complex and your product’s value proposition is hard to explain in short order. This is why it is OK to give away some basic information for free. You are not giving away the farm, but instead getting people interested. Now, they view you as a resource and if you are good at what you do, they are more likely to buy. Speak from experience, use real-life examples to tell a story and paint the picture of what your product or service will do for them.

By stringing out a series of blogs under an umbrella topic you can showcase your product or service more in-depth. If you were selling mousetraps, you could first blog about why a breakthrough has been long overdue and highlight the simplest reason your product provides that. The next blog could be a quick history of how your product was developed and who is behind it. The third blog could be a customer experience story (how your product solved a problem for a customer). The fourth blog could overtly pitch the better mousetrap.

By mapping out a structure for yourself, you can easily write with purpose. Keep your audience in mind and write as it you are answering their questions:

  • What is this about?
  • Why do I care?
  • Why should I trust you?
  • Is this of value?

Always keep the writing fairly simple. You are not writing the Great American Novel. Speak as if your prospect is sitting across from you. The tone should be straightforward. Try not to get to casual or comedic; it’s still business.

Organizing Each Blog with Purpose

Create a roadmap or outline before you begin typing. I believe in the power of threes and usually set out a bulleted list of the three most important things I wish to convey. I developed this habit when I was a news reporter. I would come in fresh from an assignment and feel slightly overwhelmed by everything I gathered. My mind was awash with ideas. To get started, I would jot down the three most important aspects of the story. Then, I would ask myself, what is the lede (lede is news speak for lead sentence) that will hook the reader? It does not have to be sensational, but it needs to be interesting. Some ledes write themselves while others take some thought. Once you write that introduction and fill out the three sections, you will be amazed at how quickly you have written close to 500 words. Maybe you even ran over that amount.

Proofreading is Essential

To start editing yourself, take advantage of the tools in the program you are using. For instance, in Word, the tools menu includes word count. The red, squiggly underline will point out spelling errors. To catch other boo-boos, read your content from the bottom up. Print out the page and proofread the copy with fresh eyes and a pen to scratch out what’s wrong. Walk away for a few minutes and return with a critical eye. If you think it will help you, read it out loud. We often catch our own mistakes with a dramatic reading.

Pop question: did I follow my own advice with the structure and tone of this blog? Let me know what you think. Contact consultant Katharine Fraser.