Let’s face it: You’re probably not a writer. You wanted to pound your head against the wall while composing high school essays. You don’t sit down and pour your heart out into your journal every night. You have no aspirations of selling your business and writing a novel.
Then again, being a small business owner means constantly adapting and learning new skills. Good writing is an essential component of your marketing strategy, especially in the online world where the written word is still the fastest, most accessible and affordable way of getting your message to your website visitors.
If you’ve already launched your corporate blog but are having trouble keeping your posts readable and interesting, read on to learn my five tips to improve your writing:
1. Keep it short.
This is a point I’m still trying to master. In business blogs, I can usually hit the 500-word mark, but in my personal blog, I find it much easier to just let the word-spewing monster inside me run the show. Sometimes you have to do that. Your business blog, where you’re trying to quickly capture readers’ attention and then give them the main idea before they drift away, is not the place.
2. Edit fearlessly.
A writing instructor once told me that the best way to improve an article or story is to go back and remove 50% of what I had written. This may be a little excessive, but it’s a good number to shoot for. Our human tendency is to keep our fingers moving even when our brain has stopped, and the result is usually a bunch of fluff between the real ideas in a given piece of writing. It’s okay to go ahead and write the fluff, just don’t be afraid to be brutal when editing.
Another writing adage I find helpful: If you can’t figure out a good way to say it, it doesn’t need to be said. After rephrasing a sentence ten times, you might want to step back and ask yourself, “Do I really need this sentence at all?” Usually, the answer will be no.
3. A bigger word is not a better word.
Therefore, spare your readers’ sensibilities by utilizing your vocabulary judiciously. Really, though, you don’t need to sound smart. Let your expertise and your communication skills shine with prose that a fifth-grader could swallow. That doesn’t mean your concepts should be simple – just say it as directly as possible.
As you trash your dictionary, you might as well trash your thesaurus, too. There’s no reason to fish around for another word that means the same thing as the word you want to use. If a paragraph sounds awkward because you’re using the same word over and over again, condense your ideas.
4. Be honest.
Clearly, on the internet or anywhere else, you should avoid fabricating information or stretching the truth. But in your blog, honesty means more than that. Readers can go to your main page to get a sense of what you’re selling or the service you offer. Your blog should be a place where they learn what it is about your business that makes it different. They want to read about your real experiences, not just statistics and numbers. In an environment where abstract information is almost unlimited, what your corporate blog should offer is a personal touch.
5. Write to your audience.
If you’re having trouble getting started on a particular article or blog post, pretend you’re composing a letter to your best friend that happens to be about the subject at hand. Most of us find it impossible to begin an article if we have no idea what kind of context our readers need. The truth is, it’s impossible to know this. Assume an average level of knowledge (ask someone outside of your company if you really can’t get a perspective on this) and just start writing. Keep it conversational by putting yourself back into the letter mindset every few sentences.
If you’re a non-writer, the best way to learn is to just start doing it. Say what’s on your mind, whether it’s a new product idea, the top five misconceptions about your industry, or what you had for lunch yesterday. Before you publish it, try to read it from your audience’s perspective, or recruit an outsider with a critical eye. Finally, don’t forget to proofread and edit thoroughly. Happy writing!