So you’ve been tasked with a writing project at work – maybe it’s just a tweet for a client account, or maybe it’s a pitch to a journalist. Either way, the same amount of care and thought should be put into what you write. There are two types of people when it comes to writing: those who love it…
And those who don’t…
Either way – we’re here to help. Here are some guidelines to help you with the writing process:
Before you start:
First things first, you need to figure out what you’re writing and who you are writing for. If you don’t know who your audience is, then you don’t know how much (or what) context and background to provide. You also need to make sure you are following your company’s (or client’s) style and brand guidelines, as well as voice. It can be helpful to use previous content as a guide.
Take into consideration the medium you’re writing for: is it a newsletter, a blog post, an article to contribute to a magazine, a company email, etc.? This will determine the length of your writing and what tools you have at your disposal. For example, if this post were to go into print, you wouldn’t have the pleasure of seeing Tom Hanks not once, but twice at the top of this post. Publishing content online also allows you to embed links to other content, use videos, and share your work through social media platforms.
Pro Tip: Make yourself a cheat sheet of common brand terms, phrases, and style guidelines your company (or client) frequently uses. It will help you make sure your writing is in line with the brand’s voice.
Add phrases and terms you want to rank for on search engines to your cheat sheet. If your piece is going up anywhere online, including but not limited to your company blog, it can help with organic SEO.
Starting is often the hardest part of writing, so we recommend that you skip the introduction and dive right into the content of the post. Once you’re done with the rest of the post, it’s usually a lot easier to write an intro that doesn’t suck. (That is exactly how this post was written, FYI). If you’re facing writer’s block, try to find different ways to inspire yourself. One thing I like to do is start with the image. Find something that inspires you – whether it be a picture or a .gif – even if it’s totally off the wall (here’s an example of when I did this, and another one). Another thing I like to do is use this title generator tool. Even if I don’t use any of the titles it gives me, it can sometimes spark an idea.
Finally, consider different types of content you could write. If a “story” approach, isn’t working for you, could you do it as a listicle? Or find a thought leader to interview? Check out this infographic we put together on content creation to find out about different types of content you can create.
Once you finish writing, do not start your editing process immediately. Often editing involves reading your copy over and over again, causing the words to lose all meaning and you to be no longer confident in your writing abilities. Before you start banging your head against the wall, walk away and take your eyes off of it. Let your writing sit for at least half an hour before you start editing and go do something else. When you reopen your work, you’ll have fresher eyes and will be able to catch errors you may have previously missed.
Find an editor:
The expression ‘two heads are better than one’ is very applicable when it comes to writing. Even the greatest writers need an editor to spot errors they’d never catch. Find a trusted colleague or friend to review your work, even if it’s just to double-check spelling and grammar. Make sure they know what they’re editing (ex. Who the audience is) and give them enough time to actually read the piece thoroughly. You’ll feel more confident in your work once you’ve had a second set of eyes look it over.
In summary, here are some key takeaways that every good writer should know, so pay attention!
- Every writer should have a good dose of paranoia – Always assume you missed something, or that something is spelled incorrectly.
- Make time to let your writing sit – Build time into your schedule to let yourself walk away from it before you edit.
- Always keep the audience and your topic in mind – It can be easy to lose track halfway through.
- Create a cheat sheet – Don’t waste your time digging out how to spell that brand term when you can easily have it at your fingertips.
- TAKE. YOUR. TIME. – If you rush something, it will show.
Do you have any other tips for writing and editing copy? Share them with us in the comments below, or Tweet them to us @PRTheAgency.