Writing can be a funny thing. For all the stipulations, rules and wisdom that we picked up in grammar school, sometimes the situation calls for everything to be thrown out the window. Other times, we want our writing to be as clean and concise as possible, following the letter of the law. For whatever the situation calls, here are a few things that are always good to keep in mind…
- Know your audience – In my experience, this one is probably the most important element. It will dictate the level of detail and type of language that you use. It will determine how technical your speech, and how thoroughly you need to explain.
- Know your project – This is where adhering to the rules, or throwing them out the window, comes into play. Especially when writing for advertising purposes, writers will often start sentences with “and” and “but,” omit punctuation or use fragments. Rules are ignored so long as the copy is catchy and succinct - but it’s certainly something to avoid in an official memo or press release. Formality will vary greatly from piece to piece.
- Know the content – We’ve all been there at some point … You’re tasked with a writing assignment, and don’t even know where to start. Don’t know what you’re writing about? Sounds like step one isn’t writing, it’s reading!
- Active vs passive – Past the basic and into the technical. Juxtaposition of words will govern the strength of your statement. The active statement: “John threw the ball,” is much stronger than the passive: “The ball was thrown by John.”
- Reducing unnecessary words – Active writing is a good first step towards tightening, and reducing unnecessary words, especially prepositional phrases, is another solid step. Consider that, “It would be best if John threw the ball,” is saying the same thing as, “It would be the best case scenario this time if John threw the ball,” only using less words.
These tips all assume that the writer has a good foundational mastery of grammar, comma usage, spelling, etc. Some are better than others with these basic building blocks, and we all have our strengths and weaknesses, but keep these few simple tips in mind and keep moving in the right direction.
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