Raise your hand if each time you hit the ‘new email’ button or open a new document to write a report, your mind blanks not knowing where to begin.
Now, I can’t see your hand raised but can I let you in on a secret?
I write for a living and my hand is raised, so high!
It doesn’t matter how many times you’ve written a report before or the thousands of emails you’ve sent in your lifetime, the beginning is always the hardest.
And staying the course is almost as hard.
What if I told you there’s a simple method you can follow to help you write anything? That’s right, anything.
Does it apply to a thesis? Yep.
An email? For sure.
A contract? You bet.
I know, it almost sounds too good to be true. But it is!
From essays and reports to articles and stories, to produce any good piece of writing, follow these 4 fool-proof tips.
#1 Define your reader persona
Who are you writing to? Client, subscribers, a lecturer, friends, colleagues?
What are the characteristics of your reader? Note their personal interests, demographics, background, experiences goals, values.
If you can imagine this reader as you write, this will help to put yourself in their position and craft the words that will resonate most with your reader. It will also help you tighten your writing as you write with intention.
Three questions I like to ask before I write (a tip shared by a copywriter I admire) are:
- What do I want the reader to know?
- What do I want the reader to feel?
- What do I want the reader to do?
#2 Write a checklist of criteria to meet
Do you remember being given marking criteria with your assignments in school? This is a little bit like that, only you get to write the criteria yourself.
Create a checklist to refer to, this helps keep your writing on track. It stops your article from accidently becoming a blog post or your essay from unintentionally sounding like a personal story. Believe me, this can happen ever so subtly as you write, only for you to realise once you’ve finished writing!
As an example, below are checklists for writing an article versus a blog post:
Sophisticated writing style
Purpose is to inform
Informed by experts
Facts & personal experience
Purpose is to prompt action
It doesn’t matter how long your checklist is, having one will help you hit the mark and save you from any rework.
#3 Do your research
To give your writing piece more credibility, take some time to research.
Now, the amount of research you do will depend on the nature of what you’re writing. An essay will likely require more research than a short story.
The same applies to the source of your research. For a blog post, a simple Google search is sufficient, whereas an article may also require interviews with credible experts.
Whatever the extent and source of your research efforts, don’t just take the information you find as gospel, take a minute to critically evaluate. Line up the facts against each other. Where to they align? Where do they contradict? Why?
Answering these questions should help you determine what sources to use and which ones to throw off the back of the wagon. This will also help you avoid any inconsistencies within your single piece of writing.
#4 Structure your content
Here’s an easy question for you. What does every good story have in common?
A beginning, middle and ending. It’s the same with all other forms of writing, even emails!
Before you start writing full sentences, plan the structure. Think about what you want the finished product to look like. What are the main ideas you want to communicate? Write them down from the start so you don’t lose sight of them.
If possible, write your intro and your conclusion before you dive into the middle. This will assist you in steering your ship strategically from A (your intro) to B (your conclusion) without the message getting lost somewhere in the middle. Of course, you’ll need to go back and refine the intro and conclusion in light of the content in the middle. Writing isn’t always a linear process!
For an extra eye to review and edit your writing with attention to detail, contact me to help you enhance the overall quality of your content. It’s worth the investment!
Try these tips next time you write and let me know how you go! Do you have any other tips for mastering any piece of writing? Leave a comment below and share.
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Oyelola is a freelance writer based in Sydney, Australia. She works closely with entrepreneurs and businesses in financial services, consulting and education, writing quality-rich content to engage their readers and motivate action. When not writing for clients, Oyelola provides insights on writing, wealth and work on her Phrased with Purpose blog and shares her faith journey on her personal blog, He Speaks, I Write.