Good writing always serves the reader. It delves into a specific topic and strives to explain it so that the reader understands the issues surrounding the topic of interest. It has logic and structure that makes a complicated subject clear and accessible. Good writing is clear and compelling. It serves a specific purpose and is presented in such a way that it meets the requirements of the platform.
These last two points are vital yet often misunderstood. Below we’ll offer some advice on writing clear and compelling copy and explore how different platforms and purposes impact your writing.
How Do You Write Clear and Compelling Copy?
Clear and compelling copy is relevant and relatable. It focuses on one key point at a time and minimizes distractions and tangents. Clarity of writing usually follows clarity of thought — so take the time to think about the message you want to convey and then say it as simply as possible. To write clear and compelling copy:
- Write with the reader in mind. Use plain language and prioritize clarity over cleverness. Give the reader the context they need to understand your message. Make it simple but not simplistic.
- Minimize jargon and abbreviations. Use jargon and abbreviations sparingly, and make sure both are defined unless you’re sure the reader is already familiar with the terms you are using.
- Incorporate research. Data adds credibility and context to your writing. Figures and tables are excellent visual aids to help the reader understand complex concepts. If you’re writing an opinion piece, root your message in research so your reader understands your perspective.
How Do Different Platforms and Purposes Impact Your Writing?
Will your writing be published online, or will it appear in a printed document? Are you writing to persuade someone to take a specific course of action, or are you reporting your findings? Your writing must be responsive to the platform on which it appears and the purpose for which it is written. Before you submit the final draft, you must:
- Understand the platform requirements. Writing for the web? Make sure you incorporate plenty of white space by using headings, subheadings, lists, and short paragraphs.
- Know your purpose. Persuasive writing presents a logical argument and makes an emotional appeal to convince the reader to take an action or adopt a point of view. Expository writing presents the reader with the facts and educates the reader so they can deepen their understanding of the topic.
Writing is an essential skill that anyone can develop with practice. To start, understand the purpose behind the piece you are writing and determine how it will be presented to the reader. Take some time to think about the message you want to convey and distill it to its simplest form. Finally, write it all down — and then rewrite and edit it until it is clear and compelling.
Next month, we’ll talk about how to edit your work, how to work with a professional editor, and the importance of consistency.
Sophie Michals is a writer, editor, and writing coach who helps subject matter experts deliver clear, concise writing with a consistent brand voice. Learn more at (SM) Edits LLC.
Erica Holthausen is the founder of Catchline Communications, a collaborative of writers and editors partnering with executives, consultants, and coaches to transform their ideas into published articles.