I know, I know ... it’s so tempting just to let your newsletter/blog/post take flight the moment you’ve penned it.
If you write regular posts, newsletters, or indeed any type of public communication, take a moment before uploading to consider how your readers will process the material.
Are all of your points really going to hit home?
Do you know your audience and what they need help with? Are you articulating precisely what you can do for them?
How will your message stand out among the masses?
A simple approach to take is to ask ‘So what?’ after each point you make; that should help to deal with the content at a macro level. But from a micro level, you then need to go back to the language you used, slow right down and start editing.
So ... how can you make your writing more effective?
Making an impact with your writing is a subtle process and there’s much to consider, but it may help to start by looking at the following:
Be conscious of your word choice. Is there a better word which stresses exactly what you mean to say? It’s fine to appeal to a wide audience, but sometimes it pays to use a different word precisely because it might alert the reader to specifics.
Use this to your advantage to hammer home a concept or capture the reader’s attention. Usually this means using repeated consecutive constructions (e.g. ‘Catch it. Bin it. Kill it.’) or repeating the same word(s) across consecutive sentences.
However, if you can see other types of repetition creeping in (e.g. using a favourite word/phrase too often, or being sloppy with similar sentence starts), rework things to make your writing more interesting for the reader.
Vary the sentence length within each paragraph. Careful use of short and punchy versus longer and flowing can be emotive and draw the reader in. Play around with what works to deliver your message effectively. But equally remember that you can always rein yourself in when you fear you may have gone too far: if you’ve ever cringed at constructions like ‘Make. It. Happen.’ then perhaps so too will your audience.
With the saturation of media we trawl through every day, it’s worth questioning what a busy person can cope with. How much do you want to read and how do you like to see it laid out? If you’re not aiming for a scholarly article, break your writing up into digestible chunks.
Tease your reader into an idea. They’re much more likely to read on if you’ve tempted them in, rather than turning them off.
Naturally we all miss things occasionally, but giving everything one final check can catch those glaring blunders and make your writing much more finessed. With any changes you make, reread the previous and following sentences as well as the current one to check that your edits work well in context and that you haven’t introduced new errors or repetition.
The writing and editing techniques listed here are not exhaustive, but even if you only cover a few of these points, you’ll certainly have tweaked your piece for the better.
If you’d like to find out more, do contact me. A good editor works with you (never against you), respects your tone and style, and helps you communicate your message more smoothly.
Georgina Fradgley is a professional web editor, copyeditor and proofreader, based in Hampshire and offering a range of services. She is an Intermediate Member of the Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading (CIEP).