7 tips for successful writing

Everyone needs to be able to write well. It will help in every area of your life, professionally and personally. It will help you to recognise good writing in your own advertising and marketing communications. And spot bad writing that is harming your brand, proposition and offer. These seven tips should point you in the right direction:

1) Never, ever try to be clever

Don’t forget that you are communicating your thoughts and feelings, your views and opinions as simply and clearly as possible. You are not trying to show everyone how clever you are. Any piece of writing should make the reader think, ‘Great, I want that product now,’ or ‘That strategy is spot on – let’s do it’. Not, ‘Wow, that’s really clever.’

2) Read it out loud

It’s easy to see if any piece of writing is readable. Just read it out loud. You’ll see if it flows nicely and leads smoothly from one point to the next. It should sound like someone talking. Friendly, relaxed and with a logical argument or pitch that draws you in.

3) Give us a KISS

It’s a much-used mnemonic, but one of my favourites: ‘Keep It Simple, Stupid’. Use short, simple words, not long, complicated ones. Use short sentences. Did you know that the easiest to read sentence is eight words long? Use short paragraphs with only one thought per paragraph. And try to ensure that the first paragraph is no longer than one sentence.

4) Mind your language

In almost every type of writing, you should use words that ordinary people use every day. Just listen to people talking. Hear the kind of words that they use. You should then apply a test to everything you hear, read, see – or most important of all, write. Would the man or woman in the street use this word or phrase? Just explain it in simple English.

5) Don’t use that tone of voice with me

When it’s right, you don’t notice it and you take in the message. When it’s wrong, it’s irritating and you feel either talked down to, or up to which is just as bad. By and large, the ‘default’ setting should be clear and simple, warm and friendly, easy and conversational. Remember, even if you are writing an advertising message for thousands of people, you are writing to them individually. There are just two people involved – you and the reader.

6) Your most powerful word

So what’s the most powerful word in any kind of writing? What’s the one word people want to hear more than any other? ‘Free’ is good. So are ‘Save’ and ‘Save money’. Even ‘New’ will attract attention. But the best word you can use is ‘You’. Along with ‘Yours’ and ‘Your’. So make sure there are more you’s than we’s. It will be more interesting, more readable and people are more likely to act on what you’ve written. 

7) Make it spot on!

But if you haven't got time to do any of this, or the people you normally use are busy, just get in touch.