The holiday season is full of family, friends, fun and food. If you’re like us, that homemade pie was just too tempting to resist a slice… or two. Now, as the new year starts, we notice our waistlines seem a little fuller, our motivation kicks in, and we make resolutions to drop the added weight as fast as we can.
It’s no coincidence that more gym memberships are sold in January than any other month. Unfortunately, as usual, old habits triumph over new goals after the first few months, and all we’re left with is the bill.
So here’s a suggestion: instead of trying to lose your love handles, shed some pounds elsewhere – your writing. No sweating is required (we promise!) and this is a resolution that you can actually see through the end of the year.
Cut your calories
Think back to your holiday meal. At the table with your loved ones, would you ask, “Can you please circulate the tryptophan-rich, bi-colored poultry that is supported on a porcelain mechanism?,” when “pass the turkey” gets the message across with less effort?
We’re all guilty of indulging in inflated, convoluted phrases, convinced that some high-calorie words will give our writing more conviction and pop. In reality, this expansion gets confusing and buries the message rather than highlighting it. Sentences become bloated as they approach 15 words or more. Cutting them down, and avoiding technical terms helps get to the message faster. One trick is to write your pitch as if you are selling a 10-year old, or your grandmother.
Also, keep the smartphone culture in mind when writing. Today’s reader is less likely to scroll through lengthy paragraphs when reading on a mobile phone. Get the most important details across early, and use bullets and subheads as support rather than additional lines.
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Try a new recipe…
Every holiday meal has its staples – turkey, gravy, cranberry sauce and “whatever’s in that bowl over there.” While we all love the traditional items, how often is the most memorable dish on the table something your family has never had before? A fresh marinade for the turkey, say, or a novel spice on the potatoes.
Along those same lines, we should challenge ourselves to add some seasoning to our writing. There’s a fine line between “killer words” and “words that kill” – while the former can make your audiences want to read more, “words that kill” will do just that to any possible interest.
Maintaining an active voice and relying on strong, exciting verbs add refreshing flavor to your writing. Choose your words wisely, but don’t be afraid to add in a phrase or term you have never used before. If you hear a new word that catches your attention, try incorporating it into your writing. If it was memorable once, it may be equally memorable to your readers.
…But don’t forget the basics
The growth in social media and text messages has made “the casual” acceptable. In an agency environment with surmounting deadlines across several clients, we don’t have as much time as we would like to check the AP style guide for every single word in our writing. As a result, we tend to stray from the basic principles.
Being lazy can weaken any attempt at strong writing. For starters, make sure your subjects, verbs and pronouns all agree (hint: someone, each and everybody are all singular). If you would use it in a text message, even though your audience will understand it, it should not be used in written materials for your clients. And while we are all scrapped for time, even 15 minutes of proofreading can make the difference between an effective piece and a mistake that could harm the reputations of both your client and yourself.
Enjoy the leftovers
While the amount of effort that goes into preparing the perfect holiday meal can be troublesome, we do it because we want to provide something memorable for our guests. Much in that way, PR and marketing professionals put a great deal of effort into writing in hopes of not only generating “delicious” results for their clients, but also to challenge themselves to make every authored piece better than the one before.
Returning to basics can add that memorable zing to your writing. Removing a few of the “excess ingredients” will better highlight what’s really at the core of your message in a clear, concise and complete fashion – and make your audience want to go back for seconds!
If you are looking for assistance with a public relations or marketing campaign, we’re always happy to help. Start a dialogue with Arketi at firstname.lastname@example.org.