I’ve just read Elmore Leonard’s 10 Rules of Writing. It didn’t take long. It’s certainly more a novelty gift than a book, so don’t get your hopes up for anything revolutionary and read the reviews before parting with your money.
Why am I telling you this? Well, whether it’s a novel, a magazine article, or a company website, a lot of writing I read today sucks. It’s often carelessly written with a lack of understanding of audience engagement. So, I want to share a few basic things I’ve learnt over the years of writing press releases, case studies, websites and tweets, in the hope that it prevents silly mistakes and sloppy writing slipping into small business:
1. Spell check everything (just make sure what country your spell check is set to if you’re not sure when it should be a z or an s).
2. Grammar and punctuation still matter even in tweets, blogs and websites. Don’t fall into the trap of text speak – it’s not becoming of a professional business.
3. As much as possible, use active rather than passive language. For example: ‘I write’ rather than ‘I am writing’. An easy way to look for this is to check words ending in _ing and replace them with the more active form of the word. It may mean adjusting the sentence structure, however this is almost always beneficial to the flow of the copy.
4. Read your copy out loud. Always. See where you stumble and rewrite as necessary.
5. Avoid jargon and buzzwords. Read it to your gran or your ten year old. If they don’t get it, it may be poorly written. Complex concepts can be explained in plain English for anyone to understand with the right wording.
That’s it for now. I’m sure I’ll think up some more and let you know in due course.