This post was co-written by Lex Perry.
In my role, I review and edit hundreds of articles in any given month. It never fails to astonish me how effectively written articles jump out at me and stand out from the pile of, well, not so effectively written ones.
It used to be simple: Professional copywriters would be in charge of producing 100 percent of a company’s content. Now in this new age, anyone with access to a keyboard and an Internet connection can publish content. And the responsibility to write falls on just about every employee.
Unfortunately, not every professional has the writing skills to deliver good content. The digital era has given rise to a modern quandary: Before, a company’s content might have been limited in quantity and distribution but high in quality, but today, thanks to sophisticated online publishing platforms and social channels at every employee’s fingertips, the sky’s the limit for the amount of content available, the reach of that content — and the potential for subpar writing.
Amid all this noise and clutter is a golden opportunity for you. How would you like to be that expert able to articulate her know-how and views, and inform and influence the decision of another? The fact is, if you can’t, someone else can. That’s why writing skills are more of a must-have than ever before.
Below are tips on how to write great content and differentiate yourself from your peers — not to mention advance your career.
Elevate your writing skills.
1. Take writing courses. Good writing is much more than correct spelling and grammar. Writing courses teach you to write using the appropriate style, flow and voice for your target audience. They take you through the fundamentals of capturing — and maintaining — your readers’ attention and making it easy for them to grasp the message you’re conveying.
Business writing courses aren’t your only option. Creative writing courses are great for facilitating out-of-the-box ideas and styles, and learning how to communicate even the most complex, abstract concepts in the simplest way. Access to these courses is also easier than you think.
Your own company may be offering them, at no cost. Colliers’ Canadian business, for instance, has several writing courses available online, on demand. Most recently, we presented a course specifically on writing effective property listings.
2. Take an editing and proofreading course. Editing is not the same as proofreading. Think of editing as optimizing your writing: shaving off the superfluous words, tightening your sentences, making your points as simple and direct as possible. Proofreading involves checking your spelling and punctuation: crossing your t’s and dotting your i’s.
3. Practice, practice, practice. The more you write, the better you get at it. When you recognize your tendencies, patterns and shortcomings, you can only improve. The first article is always the hardest to write. Once you adopt a process and approach that work and you get into your rhythm, you will more intuitively incorporate the best tips and techniques into your writing and ultimately deliver solid content.
4. Ask for feedback. Take it to heart but not personally. Understandably, seeing red marks on your work can be discouraging. But think of every comment or critique you receive on your writing as a chance to improve it. Keep in mind your reviewer is providing feedback on your writing, not you as an individual. And keep your mind on the endgame: moving people toward a specific thought or action with your convincing words.
5. Read good books or articles — a lot. Reading good content helps with writing good content. It also helps expand your vocabulary. In the middle of a particularly good read, ask yourself, “What makes this so riveting? What about this interests me and makes me eager to read more?” Whatever it is you find effective in another piece of writing, make an effort to incorporate it into your own. Eventually, you won’t have to make a conscious effort. You will naturally gather best practices and become a better writer.
Never has there been a better time for you to “stand out from the pile” with good writing skills. The ability to clearly communicate facts and insights, and make a compelling case with carefully chosen words makes a big difference not only in your readers’ perspectives but in your own identity and career. Up your writing capabilities and get set to reap more success in today’s workplace.
Some helpful writing resources:
- Use the Active Voice to Strengthen Your Writing
- 15 Words to Eliminate from Your Vocabulary to Sound Smarter
- The Secret to Better Writing: Word Conservation
Michelle Santos is the Communications Specialist for Colliers International in Canada. A passionate writer, Michelle regularly contributes to Colliers’ business magazine, Knowledge Leader, and is a writing coach to professionals across the Canadian business.