Whether you’re writing cover letters, a CV, blogs, copy for your personal website or articles for FutureRising, you should read this guide. Hell, even if you already have a job and the only thing you write is the occasional email to a colleague, you should read this guide. Here we’ll be discussing some basic tips to help make your writing worth reading.
If you’re a copywriter then this stuff should all be second nature to you. Having said that, we recommend giving this guide a quick once over to be sure you know this stuff.
- Know your message
- Know your audience
- Write like you talk
- Writing advice from the legends
- Write for FutureRising
Know your message
Each piece of writing should have a single-minded message. Whether it’s an advert, a blog or an email to someone you want a job from. For example, the message of this page is “Improve your writing to improve your career opportunities”. Anything that doesn’t help with that is cut. If you stray from your message then the whole piece becomes difficult to follow. If we started talking about the history of writing you would probably switch off. So whenever you sit down to write something, first think about what it is saying. This will keep you on track and ensure your writing is clear and easy to follow.
Know your audience
This phrase should be etched into your mind. It applies to just about everything you will do in the creative industries and writing is no exception. The more you know about who will be reading your writing, the better you can make it for them. Are they stern and serious? You may want to avoid too many jokes. Are they young? Consider using some colloquial language. Is English their second language? Try to use very simple langauge and avoid any English sayings. Knowing your audience will help you decide what kind of language to use and the content of your writing. The more you can personalise it, the more receptive the reader will be.
Write like you talk
You’ll find this tip in just about every book, blog or talk on good copywriting. That’s because any writing that doesn’t sound natural is very off-putting to the reader. They don’t want to hear some weird, robotic voice inside their head, they want to hear from a real person. Especially if you’re trying to sell yourself to an employer.
Writing advice from the legends
Orwell’s questions and rules
A scrupulous writer, in every sentence that he writes, will ask himself at least four questions, thus:
- What am I trying to say?
- What words will express it?
- What image or idiom will make it clearer?
- Is this image fresh enough to have an effect?
And he will probably ask himself two more:
- Could I put it more shortly?
- Have I said anything that is avoidably ugly?
...one needs rules that one can rely on when instinct fails. I think the following rules will cover most cases:
- Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
- Never use a long word where a short one will do.
- If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
- Never use the passive where you can use the active.
- Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
- Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.
Ogilvy’s tips on writing
“The better you write, the higher you go in Ogilvy & Mather. People who think well, write well. Woolly minded people write woolly memos, woolly letters and woolly speeches.
Good writing is not a natural gift. You have to learn to write well. Here are 10 hints:
- Read the Roman-Raphaelson book on writing. Read it three times.
- Write the way you talk. Naturally.
- Use short words, short sentences and short paragraphs.
- Never use jargon words like reconceptualize, demassification, attitudinally, judgmentally. They are hallmarks of a pretentious ass.
- Never write more than two pages on any subject.
- Check your quotations.
- Never send a letter or a memo on the day you write it. Read it aloud the next morning — and then edit it.
- If it is something important, get a colleague to improve it.
- Before you send your letter or your memo, make sure it is crystal clear what you want the recipient to do.
- If you want ACTION, don’t write. Go and tell the guy what you want.”
Write for FutureRising
Got all this down? Great. Maybe you can write for FutureRising. We’re always looking for articles on young people’s experiences in the creative industries. You could share the story of how you got a placement or internship, or talk about your university course, or write about an awesome piece of work you’ve done. Share your experiences and advice with others and get a platform to shout about about your opinions and accomplishments all at the same time. Sound good? Get in touch and we can chat about what you’d like to write.