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Resolved: To Write Better


Top 5 Tips for the New Year

By Judith Stern Friedman

January is a fitting time to reflect on our work as communication professionals. Thanks to the Romans, the name of this month hails from Janus, the god of beginnings and transitions. How ironic that in a writing framework, starting and transitioning are among our greatest challenges!

Take a moment to look back and forward to consider writing as your superpower:

  • When have you seen your words make a difference?
  • What kind of feedback have you gleaned from audiences?
  • What are your writing strengths and opportunities?

As you navigate an ever-evolving media landscape, you are a keeper of the written word. Through the messages you create and the stories you tell, you have the power to transform people’s thinking, influence their behaviors, and rally for values that are important to you—and to the world in which we live.

At the same time, our technology-driven marketplace is saturated with ideas and just as many outlets to deliver them. Technology has enabled breadth, depth, and diversity of information. Yet, speed, easy access, and an absence of editing are chipping away at our writing standards.

So how do we, as communication professionals, rise above the clutter to make our voices heard?

Clear, concise, convincing writing.

In the spirit of Janus, use this time as a space for new beginnings, and consider these strategies for writing more powerfully:

  1. Research first. Overcome the curse of a blinking cursor by exploring your topic before you begin. Gather details from reliable sources that fuel stronger, more meaty writing.
  2. Outline your direction. Organize your points with the most important idea(s) first. Write a single sentence that captures your message, considering what will resonate most with your audience. Then add details that support the idea in a logical (chronological) sequence.
  3. Write with detail. Differentiate the scene, experience, emotions, etc., that involve the reader in your ideas. Help them visualize participating in your story, which will make them more likely to believe your message.
  4. Write simply. Like looking through a pair of blurry glasses, poor grammar and punctuation can compromise your impact. Master writing fundamentals, and read your words aloud to check each sentence for a subject and verb.
  5. Communicate a benefit. Add value to your message by connecting to a reward. Ask, Why should the reader care? For instance, notice the difference between these two sentences:

          – Good writing is a necessity in this profession. [neutral statement of the idea]
          – Good writing will distinguish you from your peers. [this idea connects to the benefit]

Like Janus, writing is synonymous with continued reflection: look back at your words and look ahead to see how you can make them better. Remember that writing is a lifelong journey. Like every new year, every draft brings new beginnings and transitions to a place of greater professionalism.