Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Copyrighting: 3 Quick ang Easy Ways To Perfect Your Writing Style

As a writer and editor, I’ve come across a lot of documents that someone asked me to “look over and tell me what you think.”

Overwhelmingly, I have the same reaction to most: Way too long. Way too stiff. And way too boring.

Nowhere was this more rampant than in a recent gig I had at monthly magazine. I was charged with editing material that had been submitted by business people writing “expert articles.” For the most part, the subject and content manner was fine. But the prose usually made me want to stick a chopstick left from the lunchtime Chinese takeout in my eye. It would have been a smaller headache.

What was wrong with the prose? It was full of jargon, long words, and had about as much spark as stereo instructions. And they were hard to read.

For examole, one article from a vet on common cat sicknesses read like an excerpt from a veterinary school textbook—full of words that I couldn’t even understand, much less check for proper spelling.

Others were full of language like this:

“I felt that it was necessary for me to examine the situation to see what could be done to rectify it. It was determined that a full diagnosis was necessary in order to properly determine the necessary
course of action.”

Swear to you, I’m not making this up. Read this thing out loud…is this
something anyone would say in daily conversation? And I saw this repeated over and over and over…


But this plague of bad writing can be cured. The prescription for readable writing style is simple. All you have to do is look at your piece (or better yet, give it to someone else to read) and honestly answer three, simple questions:
  1. Can this exact same thing be said in fewer words?
  2. Is there any repetitive language?
  3. Could I say this sentence out loud to someone and not sound like a robot?

That’s it! Don’t believe me? We’ll try it with our “necessary course of action” sentence. Take the same thought, check to make sure it’s not repetitive (words or message), cut a bunch of words
and write it like you’d say it daily conversation. It might end up like this:

“When I first saw the patient, it was obvious we’d need a full-diagnosis to know what to
do next.”

Doesn’t it say the exact same thing? But it’s a lot shorter and a lot easier to read. And that’s the key to connecting with your reader.

So when you’re writing anything for public consumption, these three, simple guidelines will help make your writing better and more powerful.

Try it and see!