Writing Tips I’ve Held Onto Since The Beginning

When I got my first marketing job ten years ago, I had no real experience, a distant marketing manager and no clue what I was doing.

I remember ordering this book – How to Do Better Creative Work by Steve Harrison. It was a game-changer for me.

I had envisioned that being a professional writer meant that my writing should be flowery and beautiful. And well, I’m no Oscar Wilde or Terry Pratchett. But actually, I learnt that writing for marketing purposes is very easy once you know-how. All you need to do is follow these points:

  • Use short words.
  • Use short sentences.
  • Use short paragraphs.

When proofreading my work I don’t just think ‘have I made any typos?’ I actually go through my work with a fine-tooth comb and think to myself ‘what can I cut out?’

‘If I remove this sentence, will the blog still make sense and read well?’ And I definitely am not sat with a thesaurus thinking ‘instead of saying remove, should I say expunge?’

The average person is not very fluent at reading.

Did you know that the average reading age in the UK is 9 years old? That means, the average person can read as well as is expected of a 9-year-old. This obviously differs depending on your audience. For context, the average reading age of a Guardian reader is 14.

If you want to write something that is attention-grabbing, it needs to be understandable.

Long paragraphs and sentences are dull.

Long words can actually be alienating. The moment you use a word that your audience doesn’t understand, you’ve lost them. This age-old marketing knowledge has only become more relevant in the age of the internet as our attention spans decrease.

People don’t think more highly of us when we use big words and waffle on. It doesn’t make us sound more intelligent. It only makes it harder to listen. Don’t be afraid that your customer will think less of you when you chose to use a shorter and more commonly used phrase.

Keep it simple.

This is why I am never tempted to sound clever when writing. I always aim to get my message across in the clearest and simplest way possible. And I often refine my work over and over until it is as clear as I can make it.

My clients are usually doubtful at first that I will be able to write something that sounds ‘convincing’ and knowledgeable enough. But they soon learn that actually, they are so educated and so immersed in their field, a lot of their customers don’t actually fully understand what they’re talking about! Sometimes it takes a middleman (a marketer like me) to step in and say ‘I don’t understand this, and I don’t think your customer will either, how can we make this instantly understandable?’

Marketers don’t have to be genius poets. We simply need to be able to put ourselves in the shoes of the customer and talk to them in a way they recognise.

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