If you’ve ever run from the shower to write down an idea or found a quarter in a birthday cake as a kid, you know how some of the best stuff comes out of nowhere.
Writing has been a lot like that for me.
Often, it isn’t lectures, conferences, and courses that have the most impact.
It’s the seemingly insignificant things that help you the most.
Here are seven examples of this theory in action – seven completely unexpected lessons I’ve picked up along the way that have undoubtedly made me a better writer.
I hope they do the same for you!
1. One Question That Makes Your Writing Effective
An older journalist friend asked me this once when discussing a title, and I’ve used it ever since. Here’s how it works:
Every time you sit down to write anything, ask, “So what?” And keep asking that question until you get to the core of what’s in it for the reader.
“It’s a 2022 Mazda MX-5 Miata.” So what?
“Mazda Launched the 2022 MX-5 Miata…” So what?
The final version will depend on your audience the Czech Republic Phone Number and what their priorities are. If you’re talking to academics, your answer will be different from new moms. But the important part is that you find it.
I’ve found that asking myself, “So what?” until I get to the real gem of what it is that actually matters about the topic has made my copy more effective and concise.
2. There’s A Secret Formula
If you talk to well-known writers, you’ll find they all have a unique way of approaching the writing process.
And while some operate on feel, others find a formula or strategy and repeat the winning technique, applying it to different contexts.
I’ve found some of my own over the years, but I’ve borrowed a few as well.
Lists are a great example, and they can be created in different ways:
- Visually appealing: From shortest to longest character count.
- Memory-based: Most important listed first. The most remembered item listed last.
- Patterns: Power of 3, the popularity of 7, etc.
- Logical order: Logical or procedural order.
- Decision-making order: Use the anchoring bias to guide decisions (eg.: Placing the product you want to sell most often in the middle.).
But there’s another way.
Several years ago, a popular comedy writer shared some insights into what made Letterman’s top ten lists so successful.
First, he said, was to write each item as a separate joke with a punchline, so it stands on its own. The writers also designed the sixth joke to elicit a more prolonged laugh to give the team a chance to change graphics on the screens.
Are these tips going to result in effective business content? Not exactly. But they taught me to think closely about the functionality of the content.
I pay close attention to how the words appear on the page.
I deliberately arrange lists using processes beyond the standard formulas. And I use content to fill in design or customer journey gaps.
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Most importantly, I experiment and test to create formulas that work for a specific audience that I can use for repeated success.
3. Everything You Learned About Writing Is A Lie
Your teachers were busy and would have likely preferred to do anything other than reading your high-school version of a five-paragraph essay.
That’s why schools taught you to demonstrate what you learned in a way that was quick and easy to mark.
But your readers are not your teachers.
Readers don’t want to know about what you learned (usually, anyway), and they’re not trying to grade 50+ papers. So, why would you write the same way for both audiences?