How to Improve Your Content – Part 1 – 5 Tips for Writing with Clarity
A few words from us at this challenging time:
We are all too aware of the issues facing many small businesses during the present crisis. We are also aware how privileged we are to have an online business, making social distancing and working from home the norm for us. We do, of course, realize that many other business owners are not so fortunate. At Prompt Proofing, we wish all business owners and entrepreneurs the best possible outcome from this crisis.
That said, if you are also able to work from home at this time, or if you are being forced into unwanted closures or isolation, it may be a good time to work on updating some of your business content. Our posts for April and May will focus on improving your content; first by writing with greater clarity, and secondly by writing more concisely. We hope you find this useful.
5 Tips for Writing with Clarity
If, like us, you read hundreds of articles and blog posts in a day, or certainly in a week, you can’t have failed to notice how some messages are actually quite confusing to read. Obviously, the writer had a clear understanding of the message they wanted to convey but – somehow – during the process of putting pen to paper (or, more probably, fingers to keyboard) their message ended up being ambiguous or muddled. How can we ensure that our message is disseminated clearly?
1. Organize your writing
Can you come up with an ‘elevator pitch’ for your message? Try to summarize the main point you intend to make and ensure that this brief summary is right there in your introductory paragraph. Each subsequent paragraph should link back to the main point while exploring a different aspect. Keep each paragraph to just one topic. End with a plenary paragraph that revisits your main message.
2. Use simple language
Some of us are so used to the technical jargon of our specialties that we tend to forget that readers outside our particular area of expertise may not be familiar with these terms. Unless you are writing only for colleagues in the same business as you, avoid jargon. If it’s occasionally unavoidable, explain it!
Similarly, many writers fall into the trap of using elaborate vocabulary. Whether this is simply a habit, or whether it’s intended to impress the reader with their extensive vocabulary, this too is best avoided if you want your message to remain clear. If you are writing business content, such as a blog post, article, or web copy, you shouldn’t be approaching it as if you were writing for academia. Communicate clearly – and simply.
3. Use headings and white space
If you are writing for the digital reader, bear in mind that – when reading on screen – attention spans are notoriously short. A long text with few breaks just looks overwhelming and many people will not get beyond the first sentence – if that. Break your writing into reasonably short paragraphs and ensure lots of ‘white space’ in between each one. Use headings and sub-headings so that readers who only have time to skim your content can readily find the parts that most interest them.
4. Include visuals if possible, or when relevant
They say a picture is worth 1,000 words and this is largely true. Visuals serve to:
- break up long passages of text (see point #3)
- draw the reader’s eye, making them more likely to actually read the text
- illustrate your point
- help clarification by producing a graphic image (chart, graph, etc.) that may be easier to understand
Just ensure that your visuals are appropriate and relevant.
5. Proofread and edit
Nothing makes your message ambiguous more than typos, mis-spellings, or simply incorrect punctuation. “Let’s eat, grandma!” means something far more sinister if we omit the comma – “Let’s eat grandma!” On a more serious note, commas misplaced or omitted; commas used in place of semicolons – creating run-on sentences; apostrophes misplaced or used where they are not needed; or even inappropriate capitalization; all lead to confusion for the reader.
Proofread your work carefully before publishing. If you are not confident of your own ability to proofread, Prompt Proofing can help – we proofread and edit business writing for others on a daily basis. Just send over your blog post or article, and let us double-check it!
Check back in May for how to improve your business writing by being more concise.
Meanwhile, stay well and safe!