Someone recently asked me for some tips to get them on the right track when writing an article and it got me thinking.
I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember – stories, poems, anything and everything. In fact, my very first school report mentioned my love for writing and it’s that early love which sparked my desire to be a journalist from a young age.
I’m lucky enough to have become a journalist, spending more than a couple of decades churning out snappy copy in the fast-paced newsrooms of national newspapers (there’s nothing like a deadline with a demanding editor prowling nearby to hone your quick and accurate writing skills!). And I am still lucky to be writing a varied range of content for newspapers and numerous clients, among other things!
Writing has always come naturally to me, I’m good at it, and I find it easy and enjoyable. But I know this isn’t the case for everyone.
For many people, being asked to write something triggers “imposter syndrome” feelings – why would anyone want to read what I have to say? What if I write the wrong thing? What if it’s irrelevant/boring/too long/misses the point/the client hates it?
So for all those self-doubters, here are a few pointers to help you banish the blank page and get your writing juices flowing:
o What’s the hook? Think of an impactful way to start. You need to grab the attention of the audience. Is there a shocking statistic or hard-hitting comment which will draw people in and make them want to keep reading?
o What’s the “So what?”. With every statement you write, make sure you’re scrutinising it for the “So what?”. In other words: make a point, then explain what it means and why it matters.
So if you wrote: “The pandemic has changed the face of the workplace for good, with demand soaring for continuing flexible working.” Then you should be asking “so what?” What does that mean and why does it matter? So it could then read: “The pandemic has changed the face of the workplace for good, with demand soaring for continuing flexible working. This means that in order to futureproof, companies need to adapt their policies to accommodate this huge shift in attitudes about where and how people now want to work.”
o Just start writing. It won’t write itself so at some point you just have to take the leap. If you know the key points you want to make, that’s a good start so write them down. This can be bullet points or subheadings, whatever helps you organise your thoughts. Then you can start expanding them with proof points, statistics, quotes, key messages.
o Keep it short and simple. Going off on a tangent, including information irrelevant to the point you’re making and littering your copy with too many clever-sounding words will confuse your readers and you could lose them. Both of which are the opposite of what you’re trying to achieve. Take out all words that don’t make your point any clearer.
o Keep your opinions out of it. Unless it’s for a first-person piece. So rather than saying: “Since the pandemic struck, I think people are more interested in taking care of their health.” Try: “Since the pandemic struck, people are now doing more to take care of their health with recent figures showing XX% are taking more exercise and eating more healthily.” A statement of fact backed by a statistical proof point. Not your opinion with nothing to back it up.
o Edit when you’ve finished writing. Some people try to edit as they write and make each sentence perfect before moving on. The trouble with this is it interrupts any flow and means you may get no further than the introductory paragraph. It’s a very inefficient way of working. Writing is all about the flow. Every good writer also understands that writing and editing are two very distinct processes that have to be done separately, in order. So, write the piece. Take a break. Then go back and edit it looking at how you can shorten it, make it snappier, amend your points, rejig the flow and make it scan well from start to finish, ending with a strong payoff paragraph.
Contact me today if you would like help writing your next article, blog or press release