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Make Your Writing Pop: 8 Tips

With email and social media, everyone writes all the time now. Are you any good at it? Here are eight ways to improve.
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If you didn't have to write much before, you sure do now. Writing is pervasive in everything we do. Today's communication is dependent on tweets, posts, emails, blogs, presentations, profiles, resumes, websites, white papers, case studies, and proposals. Whew! And that's just for people who don't write for a living. I swear, my 10th grade English teacher Mrs. Mitchell never said it would be like this!

Have no fear! I teamed up with best selling author, and communications expert Sam Horn to help make your writing POP! (Also the title of Horn's awesome book.)

Whether you're composing a compelling tweet or writing the great American novel, these eight tips will help you do the write thing.

3 Tips for Quick Writing (Tweets, posts, short blogs and emails)

1. Ink It When You Think It

They don't call them fleeting thoughts for nothing. Horn's favorite phrase reminds us; if you don't capture ideas as they occur, they disappear, never to return. What a waste of creativity. Vow to jot thoughts while they're hot so you leverage insights instead of lose them.

2. Raise Eyebrows

Be creative and attention getting. You'll never get above the noise or be memorable if you scribble plain, boring prose. I use poems, puns, irony, sarcasm, satire, humor, and virtually any other tool available to make readers take notice. Horn points out if the eyebrows are flat or furrowed; you're not getting through. Make it so compelling that even Botox users get a lift.

3. Compel With Compassion

You often write the way you think and feel. But with quick messaging it's the audience that matters. Connect with empathy. Consider your reader's attention span, location, state of mind, and the importance of your message. If you aren't connecting, go interview your intended readers. Then feature their frustrations, challenges, and success stories (with credit) so your writing comes alive with real-world wisdom.

5 Tips for Big Projects (White papers, case studies, presentations, websites, books)

1. Write in Your 3rd Place

Ergonomic experts say home is your 1st place and the office is your 2nd place. These places can be distracting because of every day activity such as laundry or paying bills. For a change, Horn suggests finding a 3rd Place like a coffeehouse or outdoor cafe, where you can work in private, in public. You'll feed off the ambient energy adding to your own. Isolate yourself from email and social media. The lack of personal distraction will give you a productive cocoon of concentration.

2. You Don't Have to Know to Go

Horn relates the story of E. L. Doctorow. When asked what it was like writing a book, he thought about it and said, "It's like driving a car at night. You can only see to the end of your headlights; but you can make the whole trip that way." Here's the point. Don't know what you want to say? Write anyway. Clarity often emerges from your work; it doesn't precede your work.

3. Draft, Then Craft

Horn teaches that your voice--your distinctive personality and perspective--comes out in the first draft. Yet too often people edit out their uniqueness. They care more about commas than connecting. One of the best ways to bypass the inner editor is to write fast. Raymond Chandler said, "If I'm going slow; I'm in trouble. It means I'm pushing the words instead of being pulled by them." Commit to producing a measurable number of new pages each week. Your initial goal is to finish, not to finesse. Critique and clean up only after you have something to show for time invested. The best way to keep the judge at bay and let your creativity come out and play... is to keep those digits moving.

4. Channel Your Inner Twelve-Year-Old

Often people get so trapped in the responsibilities and complexities of being an adult, they forget how to observe and speak simply. Some use words on paper that never leave their lips. Looking though adolescent eyes opens perspective and renews inspiration to even the most cynical sourpuss inside. Once clear of prejudice you'll be ready to freshly explore new ideas and concepts. Then stay in that adolescent zone while writing, making sure to use simple language and phrasing. After all, what good is writing something few can understand?

5. Want to Be Great? Collaborate

My own writing success is shared with the friends, coaches, editors, and co-authors that have inspired and critiqued my work along the way. Some of my best collaborators are experts no longer alive, like E.B. White, who support me through great books on the writing process. Sure much of my writing time is solitary, but involving people and resources I trust for feedback, brainstorming, and insight makes the process more fun and makes me a much better writer.

Don't let writing intimidate you. As Sam says: "Ideas in your head help no one. If you observe, experience, or learn something that might benefit others; not only do you have the right to write; you have a responsibility to write." Write On!

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IMAGE: iStock
Last updated: Feb 15, 2013

KEVIN DAUM | Columnist

An Inc. 500 entrepreneur with a more than $1 billion sales and marketing track record, Kevin Daum is the best-selling author of Video Marketing for Dummies and the executive producer of Amilya! on 77WABC New York. Sign up here and never miss out on Kevin's thoughts and humor.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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