5 Steps to Better Writing
"What does this mean?"
We all have moments of confusion, where we’ve read an email or an article and we’re completely baffled by the meaning. It’s lost among the spelling mistakes, poor punctuation and non-existent grammar.
But it’s not just understanding that gets lost.
A recent survey by Method Marketing found that brand trust is eroded by mistakes on a company website. In fact, 93% of people say they would be less likely to spend money with a company that has mistakes on its website.
So what can we do about it?
Here are five simple tips to help you get your message right, both at work and in life.
1. Make A Plan
This might seem like overkill for something as simple as email to a colleague, but trust us, it really helps.
The base of any plan should be the 5Ws: Who, What, Why, Where, When. Answering these five questions ensures you consider every aspect of your message.
‘Who’ refers to your audience or recipient. ‘What’ is the message you want to communicate. ‘Why’ clarifies the reason you want to communicate it. ‘Where’ refers to the destination of those words, from email to print. ‘When’ ensures you consider the timeliness of your words, because your message might be affected by the deadline.
As an example:
• Who: Your friend
• What: Invite them to dinner
• Why: To thank them for being awesome
• Where: WhatApp
• When: Now
2. Do Your Research
This isn’t necessary for every message, but if it is, do it early in the writing process. Your writing might take a different direction as a result of the data you find.
In addition, it can add authority to your writing, supporting any arguments you may make.
This is the shortest section, because there are no rules.
Just get your words onto the page in whichever way feels comfortable. From writing with a pen and paper, typing directly into a laptop or smartphone, you need to get your words out. In most instances, you will be guided by your plan and research.
4. Edit Your Words
This is arguably the most important step in the process. Editing your words allows you to shape what you’ve written, ensuring that it’s coherent.
First, make sure each sentence and paragraph flows into the next. You should also make sure you’re consistent with your spellings, punctuation and tenses.
You must also delete anything unnecessary. If it doesn’t add to your message, remove it. Clichés and adverbs, we’re looking at you…
Then read it out loud. If you stumble over the words or it sounds unnatural, edit it out.
And don’t forget the humble spellchecker. If you’re typing your message, it’s always worth using this tool to eliminate silly mistakes.
It’s important to highlight that this is not the same thing as editing. It’s a distinct discipline for the very end of the writing process, right before you hit send or publish.
Hiring a professional proofreader might not be necessary for your next email, but you might want to consider getting a second pair of eyes on your words. They can point out if anything is confusing, or might cause offence. Ask a trusted friend or colleague to give their opinion.
And you’re done! You should be left with a clear, concise message.
This article is a condensed version of How To Be A Better Writer, a series of articles written by Method Marketing.