I have loved writing for as long as I can remember. I believe that this is due to the fact that I read voraciously as a child, because this initial interest was cultivated and stretched by my education, and because I am an external processor. Because of this, I am constantly caught in the dichotomy of writing streams of consciousness brought on by bursts of inspiration, and of writing something well; writing something that makes sense to someone other than myself. (And then again, there are times when even I don’t understand what I once wrote!)
The ability to write well is not necessarily a skill that one is born with. Of course, there are those who have a natural affinity for words and for presenting ideas in a cohesive manner, but there are multiple components to effective writing that have to be learned. The secret to writing well does not lie in correct grammar and proper spelling, although both of these things are of great importance. The key to excellent writing is often found in the overarching principles that govern your writing style. Although there is a myriad of rules and tips that one could follow, I will focus on three guidelines that will greatly increase your effectiveness as a writer.
- Keep it concise
Hans Hoffman once said that “the ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak.” There are those who write with so much ostentation that their writing is almost like another language; it must be translated before it can be understood. On the other hand, there are those who write simply to fill up space on a page; their writing is repetitive and confusing. The key to writing in the fine line between that which is esoteric and that which is ultimately meaningless is to keep it concise. Simplicity and straightforwardness are critical, especially in the world of public relations.
- Keep it sincere
Yet another way to maintain clarity in writing is to be sincere. When you say what you mean and mean what you say, your credibility increases along with your relatability. In the world of PR, both of these qualities are vital. The degree of rapport you establish with your audience directly affects the influence you have over their perceptions. George Orwell maintained that “the greatest enemy of clear language is insincerity.” To effectively challenge opinions and influence others with our writing, we must write with sincerity.
- Keep it audience-focused
In textbooks and lectures we are often told to be audience-oriented, but it can be difficult to construe what that means for our writing. According to Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch, “style resembles good manners. It comes of endeavoring to understand others, of thinking for them rather than yourself—or thinking, that is, with the heart as well as the head.” Writing with my audience in mind is something that is difficult for me because the ideas that often make sense to me don’t necessarily translate to my audience. Joseph Williams, in his book Style: The Basics of Clarity and Grace, highlights an important point: striving for a measured objectivity when we write is imperative because “our own writing always seems clearer to us than to our readers, because we read into it what we want them to get out of it…instead of revising our writing to meet their needs, we send it off the moment it meets ours”.
The beauty of writing is that there is always room for improvement. By following these three strategies, your writing will become increasingly clear and effective. And with that, you’re well on your way to writing the right way.
By Cassie Appleton, Junior Account Executive,Exploration Station