Writing is a fundamental skill. We’re talking writing in its very basic form here. It’s something we learn as children and develop from there – some people go on to hone their craft to write masterpieces for screen and stage, or, like the PR team at Carrington, use it to shine a light on our clients or write this blog! However, many people will use writing as a simple day to day communications tool at work and at home.
So what happens when someone who isn’t a wordsmith by trade is tasked with writing for a company blog or newsletter?
In a similar way that some people are blessed with the ability to speak in public like its second nature, writing is often considered a natural talent. Something you can or can’t do. That’s why it can feel a bit daunting if you’re sitting in the office one day, and out of the blue, you’re asked to write something for the company newsletter or blog.
Though like with any skill, writing can be developed over time and with practice. Getting the basics right can go a long way to helping you feel confident in your abilities, and ensure that you’re putting out quality, accurate content for readers – whether that’s for your company’s website, newsletter or even internal comms.
As we’re lucky enough to have a lot of experience in copywriting (as you’d expect from a PR company!), we thought we’d share our top tips for writing good copy for those who usually prefer to be the reader, not the writer.
Write in plain English
There’s no need to use complicated jargon if it isn’t necessary. However, if you find yourself leaning on one or two words a bit too much, there’s no shame in reaching for – or Googling – a thesaurus.
If you think about the most recent article you read, it was probably quite simple and straightforward in order to effectively convey a message. It can be easy to fall into the trap of feeling like you need to over-complicate your language as a way of sounding more professional.
However, a formal but relaxed tone that can be read and understood by anyone is much better than an article full of words that people have to research to understand.
Write for your audience
This tip links closely with our previous suggestion – avoiding complex words and confusing jargon is a great approach to take, so it’s also crucial that you keep your audience in mind.
Don’t worry too much, it’s not likely that you’ll be writing 1,000 word features about intricate topics that only PHD candidates would understand (unless you take these tips on board, of course!). It’s more about recognising when a piece is for the general public who might need to know the details and know them fast.
Or perhaps you’ve been tasked to write something that the average person wouldn’t know much about, in which case it’s important to add in details where you can – even if it seems simple to you or someone who knows the subject well.
Alternatively, perhaps you’re writing a short piece for your company’s newsletter and everyone will have a good amount of context and knowledge about the topic, so you’re safe to assume that you won’t need to over simplify your message.
Give your reader a break
Too much text on a page can look daunting to any reader, and can also make writing the piece much more of a slog than it needs to be. Often, blogs and articles can contain lots of information very easily as long as you write it in a digestible way.
You’ve focused on simple language, and now you don’t have to be afraid of breaking your copy up into paragraphs – think three or four lines if possible – and bullet points, and even pop in an image here and there if you’re posting something to a blog. This creates space on the screen or page that makes a piece of text look more more friendly and inviting!
Vary your sentence length too. Sometimes, a short and snappy sentence is great. Like the one you’ve just read. It does the job, but don’t overuse them. Like I have in this paragraph so far. Instead, mix your sentences up and use longer, more structured sentences like this one, as well as shorter ones that get straight to the point. Otherwise, your audience will get bored or tune out – especially if every sentence is five lines long!
Being consistent with your style is a simple way to make your writing look and sound professional. This means simple things like using capital letters in the same way (for example, using Head of marketing in one place and Head of Marketing in another looks messy and can conflict with any brand guidelines your organisation might have in place.)
This can often come down to your business’ style of writing – give the style guide a read if you have one! Or alternatively, read up about journalistic styles, like how numbers should be written or how speech marks should be used. These simple things make all the difference. So be sure to take the time to look back over your work and check that you’ve been consistent throughout – especially if it’s going to print!
Proof, proof, proof
It’s often difficult to spot our own mistakes. No, I’m not being deep here. I mean it’s tricky to see errors in copy that you’ve been working on for an hour or two – especially if it’s a lengthy article.
What that means for writing is that checking and re-checking your own work is essential to avoid sharing a piece of work that’s littered with spelling mistakes, accidental double spacing or similar. Once you’re satisfied that you’ve had a good comb through your writing (make sure you do this after you’ve been away from your writing for a bit as fresh eyes are the best eyes), ask someone else to take a look.
It doesn’t matter if they’re an expert on the subject you’ve written about or a total novice, what matters is that they aren’t snow blind and will easily spot any mistakes – no matter how small.
If you’re a copywriting pro but need some support, get in touch with our team of experts today.