Posted by Ray Poynter, 28 November 2019
I am running a training session in a couple of weeks on how to write blogs, articles, conference papers, and synopses. So, here are a few tips that I have gathered together as part of that process.
- Start! This piece of advice has been mentioned by almost every person I have listened to about writing. Don’t agonise, don’t worry, sit down at your computer and start typing. Expect to edit what you write. The key thing is to start writing.
- Write the easy bits first. Maybe you are going to write six tips about the social side of frisbee throwing. Do not think you need to start by writing the intro, then tip 1, then tip 2 through to tip 6 and the summary. If you are really sure what two of the tips will be, write them first.
- Write about things you know. When you get more proficient at writing you will start to research topics to push the boundaries of your knowledge and create something that is a more complete reference. You should not be worried about doing lots of research. Write about something you know, where you have a clear position, and then check your facts before publishing.
- Check your work. My checking includes the spelling and grammar checker in Word, Grammarly, and I listen to my text via a text-to-audio app. I know the checkers do not pick up everything, and sometimes what they suggest is wrong, but if there is a red squiggly line under a word, check it is not misspelled.
- Get somebody else to check your work. My writing has improved immensely over the years because of the input of other people. You need to find people who will tell you which bits are unclear, whether it is too long (or too short), and to highlight odd things you do.
- Write for the bulk of the audience, not for your friends/nemeses. Sometimes when you write something you suddenly think Steve will challenge me on X, or Andrew will query Y. In these cases, it is tempting to expand the point or put in what politicians call a pre-rebuttal. Don’t! You may win your point, but you will make the post less interesting/readable to 90% of your readers.
- Read other people’s articles. If you are writing for ESOMAR Research World, or the MRS’s ResearchLive, look at other posts to get a sense of the variation in styles and lengths. You want to fit within the normal patterns of articles. Later, when you are a ‘go to’ writer you can move further from the mean, creating your own genre. If you are writing for LinkedIn or writing an article for your company’s website – again, you fit the prevailing pattern.
- Mention and thank other people. There are two reasons to do this. 1) It is a fair and nice thing to do. 2) It can increase the number of people who read and share your article. In LinkedIn, remember to make their name a link to their profile.
- Check the title and introduction. You might write the title and introduction first, or you might write them later. But, when the post is finished, re-visit the introduction and the title and see if you can improve them.
- What is the Do? When you write a post or article there should be a ‘do’ that you are trying to create. This do might be as simple as please think about this topic, you might want people to change the way they work, or you might be trying to get them to click on a link to a product you are promoting. But be clear about what do you are trying to create and put in a call to action – see the bonus tip!
- Bonus Tip! – Do it! Start writing! If you are a bit unsure, write it, publish it, and only tell a few people, quite soon you will develop your style (they call it finding your voice) and you will be a regular contributor. But, definitely, do it! We need more people writing and contributing.
What would you add to this list?