By Kasmore Rhedrick
Association executives often rely on writing to communicate their ideas and promote the institutional priorities of their organization. Successful writing, whether it be emails, op-eds, blog posts, or Tweets requires clarity, logic, and brevity.
These qualities, of good writing, are paramount to capturing a reader’s attention and getting them to understand your ideas. Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, who prefers his staff to present ideas in writing believes that “When you have to write your ideas out in complete sentences and complete paragraphs, it forces a deeper clarity of thinking.”
To improve your writing, follow the advice listed below. These eight tips can be applied to any written format that you choose to express yourself in.
- Know your audience and purpose
Knowing who you are writing for and what you want them to do is the foundation for powerful writing. Researching your audience to find out their level of knowledge on your topic will go far in helping you to connect and convert your readers. Begin by asking yourself, “Who is my audience and what is the message I want to share with them?” If you are writing an openly subjective or opinionated article, for public publication, your marketing and communications team can offer you a deeper analysis of your target audience.
- Present the main idea first
You will save your reader time and support the logical structure of your thoughts if you lead with the main idea first. “Creating a good story means finding and verifying important or interesting information and then presenting it in a way that engages the audience.” By summarizing your key points in the beginning you will achieve clarity and directness in your writing. To help you in this effort, it is advisable to create a topic outline to organize your thoughts and ensure that you have not forgotten any key points that you want to discuss.
- Show don’t tell
Capturing the imagination of your readers is what helps your writing to succeed in getting your audience—staff, clients, and public stakeholders—to form favourable opinions, take action, and share your ideas with others. “Sentences that show are usually perceived by readers as more interesting, engaging and informative than sentences that merely tell.” The use of imagery in your writing will inspire your audience to continue reading and discover what you have to say.
- Avoid jargon and embrace brevity
Excessive use of jargon can frustrate a reader. Writing in plain language will help you to reduce the confusion that occurs with specialized vocabulary. In addition, the use of unambiguous language corresponds to the values put forth by the Global English style guide. Taking this approach will allow your audience to understand, without effort, what you are writing even when their first language is not the same as yours.
- Rewrite, rewrite, rewrite
Rewriting allows you see your own writing with fresh eyes. It is in the process of rewriting where you will improve the quality of your work. This is the chance to tighten language, strengthen arguments, and even reorganize the structure of your document. As the famous writer, William Zinsser, says, “Rewriting is where the game is won or lost; rewriting is the essence of writing.”
- Get a second opinion
Have someone you trust read and review your writing. Although proofreading and editing are not the same, an objective reader should be able to help you proofread against gross spelling, punctuation, and grammar errors; as well as ask basic editorial questions to help strengthen your argument or clarify ideas.
- Read professional writing
Regularly reading high quality, professionally edited, writing will help you to improve your own writing. You will discover different writing styles and techniques that you can incorporate into your own work. You will also begin to notice how clarity of thought is expressed through structure and sentence construction. After reading something that you find of value, examine how the information and ideas are organized and presented.
- Write daily
Writing every day increases your ability to organize and present information for others to easily understand. You might want to practice writing by composing a response to a daily writing prompt. Good places to begin your exploration are: 401 Prompts for Argumentative Writing, or 650 Prompts for Narrative and Personal Writing, or The Time is Now.
Another way to cultivate a daily writing habit is to keep a journal. The added advantage is that journaling will improve your thinking and problem solving skills and possibly make you a happier person.
Writing is a great way to understand yourself and your organization. The value of writing well is that readers will pay attention to what you have to say. People are more inclined to promote your ideas, products or services if they can easily comprehend what you have to say. For these reasons, association executives can further advance the work of their organizations by investing in and encouraging better writing habits for themselves and senior staff.
Kasmore Rhedrick is the Copywriter, Editorial Specialist at EDHEC Business School (www.edhec.edu) and has presented writing topics at previous NYSAE SIGs.