More words are not any easier to understand

One of the disadvantages of being a copywriter is having to wade through so much material to produce a piece of writing that means something and which people will want to read. I’m doing some research at the moment and whatever I read seems to take far too long to get to the point. It’s not as if I’m reading a novel where the scene has to be set or a play where the atmosphere has to be created: this is business.

There is a temptation, especially when an argument is a bit shaky and there is not sufficient evidence to back a point, to write more words in the hope that repeating it will convince the reader. It’s a bit like repeatedly shouting the same words at someone who does not speak your language in the futile hope that repetition and volume will force them to understand.

For busy people who are looking for information fast, clear and simple is best.

Of course, this can be complicated by the needs of internet search engine optimisation which can require keywords to be included in online content for the sake of technology, not the reader. There are also techniques to increase recognition of a brand or an argument through using repetition.

Such writing techniques require balance. Text written purely in keywords will sound like someone who’s swallowed a product catalogue, while aimless repetition of a point will sound like the cries of a market trader. Crude use of these techniques will turn readers away as the text won’t sound natural.

However clever a writer wants to be, if there are too many unnecessary words, the reader will tire and stop reading.

After yesterday’s blog, what have you done to progress your marketing and communications today?

z2zine tomorrow: public sector dehumanising language

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Writing those first words

Many people put off writing because it worries them. This is understandable if you don’t feel you’re a natural writer, but there really is nothing to worry about. If you don’t like what you’ve written, you can tear up your sheet of paper or delete your word processing file: it can’t actually hurt you.

Even experienced writers sometimes find it difficult to write, while on other days they find the words flow easily.

If you do worry about writing, especially for business, remember that you don’t have to publish anything until you’re happy with it. This means you can write as many versions as you want and ask as many people as you like to check it and proofread it before your readers see it.

If you don’t like what you’ve written, ask yourself why you don’t like it and how you can change it. Read it to a colleague and ask for their opinion. It can be easy to be too critical of your own writing and other people sometimes have a more balanced view. When you’re reading material written by other people, think about what you like and what you don’t like about how they write.

What’s important is to make a start and put some words down on a blank sheet of paper or type something on to the screen so that you have text to work on and can start building your confidence.

After our last blog, do you know what and why you need to communicate?

z2zine tomorrow: Moving your plan forward

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Use a style guide for consistency when writing for print or web sites

We’ve been doing a lot of proofreading lately, which brings to mind just how useful a corporate style guide for writers can be.

It’s quite common for businesses and other organisations to have visual style guides, but the actual content is often forgotten until a proofreader points out all the inconsistencies.

A style guide can be as simple or as complex as you want: covering basics from always writing brand names in capitals – or not – to whether specific words are hyphenated.

Once simple rules are written down, it’s much easier to remember them when you come to write a word and think “company policy is to hyphenate this word” or “we write that with a capital”.

The result is greater consistency, more effective communication and less time spent ironing out inconsistencies every time you want to publish a brochure or web site content.

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