Social media, self-publishing and the Internet have created an amazing new opportunity to spread our words far and wide. Entrepreneurs can take thoughts out of their head, and put them into words that change people’s lives.
This new opportunity has been a blessing and a curse. Today, everything is short and punchy. A tweet is fewer than 140 characters, no one reads long Facebook updates, and blog posts have to be fewer than 1,000 words to hold people’s attention.
“Write good copy,” is the new buzz phrase. Everywhere you look is a new copywriting expert. You’re told the copy on your website has to be appealing to your target audience. In this movement to write good copy, the art of writing is lost.
Writing is not the same as writing copy, and just because you can do one, doesn’t mean you can do the other. Writing good copy can help your business, but good writing changes lives. Here are four ways entrepreneurs can write more effectively.
1. Cut out the fluff.
Some of the greatest writers in history did this well. Vonnegut, Hemingway, King and many other great writers spent an extraordinary amount of time making sure their writing was free of what they considered “extra words.” Your audience will read longer articles and books, if they’re free of fluff.
Avoid adverbs. Stephen King says, “The road to hell is paved with adverbs.” I don’t know if that’s true, but adverbs hurt effective writing. We use them when we’re timid. Don’t be hesitant to state your truth. There will be those who disagree, but your target audience will appreciate it.
Everything you write won’t be fluff-free, but as you work on it, and write more, you can get better. A wise man told me good writers read a lot and write a lot. Do both of these and you’ll develop solid, fluff-free writing.
Related: 8 Writing Rules for Entrepreneurs
2. Write for one person.
Too often when we write, we’re thinking about the hoards of people who will read our words. We end up writing for this throng of people, which comes off as us preaching with words.
The problem is that the group reads our words as individuals. The group approach doesn’t connect with each person individually. Great writing is very conversational. You write to that person as if they were sitting right next to you.
Effective writing makes your reader feel like you’re speaking directly to them. It makes them feel like you’re addressing a problem they have, that no one knows about. You have to write for one person: your ideal reader. It will be different for each of us, but we started our business to help a specific type of person. Write to them and for them. Stephen King says everything he writes us for one person: his wife.
3. Don’t edit while you write.
In his book, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, Stephen King says, “Writing is refined thinking.” You should have one goal when you initially sit down to write, get the thoughts out of your head and onto paper. Never edit while you write.
When you’re so attached to your writing, you’ll miss errors if you try to edit while you write. It will take twice as long to write and ruin the flow of the thoughts from your head to paper. Focus on expressing your entire thought, no matter what it looks like.
After you’ve done a brain dump, go back and edit. It would even be a smart idea to take a little break before you edit. Step away from the words and refresh your mind. Come back fresh and see what you missed as you edit. To make things even smoother, come back to your writing a day before the article or blog post goes live to give it one more edit. Days away will help you see what you couldn’t during the first edit.
4. Don’t be afraid to be human.
We get short glimpses into each other’s lives through our interactions online. That glimpse, however, doesn’t paint the full picture. It works the same way in our writing.
Too often, we just give people a glimpse into our message when we should be willing to be venerable. Good writing shows people you are human, and that helps your ideal reader connect with you.
Effective writing is vulnerable, honest, paints a picture of the struggle, and lays out a roadmap for success. No one’s life is perfect, why try to pretend? Don’t be afraid to be human in your writing. Many entrepreneurs give the impression that their life is perfect but no one buys it. When you're willing to be honest, no matter how hard it is, you'll stand out.
There’s been a push to write better copy and ads. You should write good copy and ads. But don’t confuse those bursts with effective writing, and what it can do for your business.
Don’t confuse effective writing with content marketing. Good writing takes your reader to places and feelings they didn’t know they had. It changes lives and gives hopes. Use these tips for better writing, and use better writing to grow your business.