Whether you’re an entry-level copywriter or a C-suite executive, the quest to improve your writing is never-ending (even if, at times, you’d like to pretend otherwise). Sometimes, when the bulk of your writing takes the form of email correspondence, taglines, or bullet points in a presentation, it’s tempting to stop at good enough – an arbitrary measure on any day.
What if you were to persist a little bit more? Stretch your boundaries, stick a toe outside your comfort zone? Even in today’s “never enough time” climate, we all can take the opportunity to hit pause, evaluate our ideas and words, and make changes to benefit our audiences.
These adjustments can ultimately make us far more efficient: The more people understand your ideas, and the faster they absorb them, the more momentum you create. Suddenly, honing your writing ability is no longer a nice-to-have: It’s vital to your bottom line.
Algorithms change. Great writing is timeless.
Not every growing organization has the resources to consistent help you improve your writing (even if the ROI is potentially exponential). Fortunately, expert writers have devised dozens of hacks that people of all skill levels can use every day to harness the power of writing for business gains. Let’s take a look at a few that are especially potent.
Use improv to generate and refine your ideas.
Few creative disciplines embody creativity under pressure the way improv does. Author Brian A. Klems offers a whole host of writing ideas based on the games that improv players employ to communicate effectively, build relationships, and have fun. If any of this sounds familiar, well, it should.
We’ve never shied away from gamification of writing and communication. It helps break down barriers and encourages people to think differently about often-monotonous work. Though it may feel silly in the moment, the potential gains are unlimited.
Build a library – and use it every day.
We love a good reference book, and we’ve shared a number of our favorites. Even though much of our work today is virtual and internet-dependent, there’s something that’s so satisfying about having a book nearby that you can thumb through for answers. Don’t deprive yourself of this small pleasure.
It’s not enough to have a pile of books on your desk. Make them work for you. Dog-ear pages with particularly useful information. Break the binding. Underline and highlight passages you keep coming back to. Use brightly colored stickies. Make it fast and easy to find what you need.
The bottom line? Expert writers don’t know everything, but they do know where to look. Give yourself a leg up when you’re under pressure or on deadline by having the insights you need at your elbow.
Share accountability with a peer.
Whether or not your organization has a dedicated editor, it’s up to you to ensure that what you share/submit fulfills its purpose and is polished and professional. That said, don’t punish yourself by toiling away all alone. Find a peer you trust, swap early drafts, and share honest feedback. You’ll see errors or opportunities to improve more easily in someone else’s work than your own.
Having a partner enables you to submit better work short term. It also sharpens your eye and your critical thinking. As you learn how to spot errors and inconsistencies in others’ work, your own writing will improve over time.
Wave your freak flag.
Who are your role models? Some people admire Hunter S. Thompson, William S. Burroughs, or F. Scott Fitzgerald. We love Dorothy Parker and Toni Morrison.
Every well-known writer leaves behind a treasure map, from which we can glean insights into the craft of writing. Dive deep into the life and work of someone you admire. Learn more about how they developed their skills. Dissect their work: What works, and why? What “rules” do they break, and why? How could their writing help you improve your writing?
Don’t do this only for your own benefit. Share what you’ve learned with others. Boil it down into terms anyone could understand. Spice it up with some shocking trivia. (Is scandal ever very far away?) Weave it into your team’s culture. Have some fun!
This method of writing could also be referred to as “death by committee,” but hear us out. If you have a well-defined brand and a sound content strategy, throwing everything on a wall is a terrific way to burst through barriers, reimagine tired ideas, and help you produce content that is both “on brand” and “dazzlingly creative” – two qualities that often seem mutually exclusive.
Use whiteboards to your advantage to explore original ideas for creative content and how they might be adapted for new and different platforms. Address language, structure, and tone, collaborating to show how all of these aspects of creative development are interdependent. Make the whiteboard a democratic safe space that’s loose and free. Encourage everyone in the room to contribute without fear or limitation.
Postmortem your work.
Most content these days is digital and can be updated wherever and whenever. Don’t take this as an invitation to publish half-baked content – the internet remembers everything. Teams should take the time to review their work, and often. We’re not just talking about analytics, though that’s obviously a vital factor in evaluating quality content. Scrutinize ideas themselves, the writing structure, the content creation process, and any best practices or takeaways you might reinforce.
To see measurable improvement, writers must have multiple opportunities to reflect and critique during the writing process. People who manage writers will benefit from this, too. Even Monday morning quarterbacks can contribute to game-day strategy in a meaningful way, because there’s always another game coming up.
This advice could be crippling or exhilarating, depending on your mindset. It requires a cool head and a degree of detachment.
What does it mean to be ruthless about your own writing? It involves letting go of sacred cows. Embracing the process. Enjoying where you mind takes you. Having confidence that your instincts are keen and your judgment is sound.
In short, to be ruthless is to ensure that every single word on the page counts. Are you using words well? Do they represent the brand effectively? Do they serve the audience? If not, start cutting. You might cut to the bone. It might hurt. But there’s elegance in simplicity. Your writing will be better.
We love helping writers of all levels do their best work, and we’ve got a lot of tricks up our sleeve to start their journey toward mastery. Contact Consummate Prose today to get started.