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Better Writing: What Works and What Doesn’t

  • Posted March 10, 2006
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There’s no better way to promote your business for free than to
write articles on the Internet. It is particularly good for
promoting services, where advertising doesn’t work as well, even
if you can afford it.

All business is about relationship. You can’t meet face-to-face
with each person, or even reach them on the telephone every
time. Often your contact will have to be in writing. How good is
your writing?

I’D RATHER HAVE A ROOT CANAL?

Writing is right up there with public speaking for many of us.
It’s so public, and, in the case of writing, so permanent.

My mother used to say, “Never put anything in black and white
you wouldn’t want the whole wide world to see.” It’s a wonder I
could write at all! Scary thought, isn’t it. Since I coach
Emotional Intelligence (EQ), let’s turn that around and say,
“Put things in black and white you want the whole world to see.”
That’s the power of the pen, mightier, after all, than the
sword.

I went on to major in English and then to earn my living
writing. However, you don’t have to be a professional writer to
write something someone else can enjoy or benefit from, or to
write for your own enjoyment or wellness

YOU AREN’T WRITING FOR MISS CRUMPLESTINE ANY MORE

The first point you should know is that writing for the Internet
should be at the 6th to 9th grade level.

Not everyone on the Internet has a college education, or even a
high school education. We are all in hurry, and we want out
information fast. Short, uncomplicated sentences work well. So
do lists. No need for big words. Just clarity.

WHY WRITING IS SO HARD

Here is a scenario that happened to me repeatedly when I was in
public relations. The boss would call me in and say, “I don’t
know how to say this.” I’d say, “What is it you want to say?”
and I would have my pad and pencil handy. He or she would start
talking, and I would start writing And what I wrote down was
exactly what the person was saying!

I would then go back to my office, dot a few Is and cross a few
Ts, return the article to them, and they would say, “How
marvelous. How do you do it?”

Yes, of course I cleaned up the grammar and added or subtracted
some adjectives or adverbs, and maybe changed the order, but the
point I want to make is that if the person had just written down
what he or she was thinking, he or she wouldn’t have been far
from having a good enough article or letter. Yes, I polished it,
but the diamond in the rough was still there to be polished!

It happened just the other day, which is what prompted me to
write this article. Someone had written me an email with
something profound in it, and I asked if I could quote her in an
article. When I finished the article, I sent it back to her,
with her rather lengthy quote, and here is her reply: “GAD!
Seeing my words in print, I am surprised at my own clarity. Goes
to show that spontaneous reactions are often the truest.”

Then yesterday, I asked someone else if I could quote them, and
she wrote back: “Reading that you want to quote me I am awash
with emotions – pride, astonishment, surprise, delight, a little
scared, somewhat uncomfortable.”

IT’S AN EMOTIONAL THING

Do you see the emotion in what they’ve written back? We know
from Emotional Intelligence how emotions can fog the brain; the
analytical part of the brain.

How so? Many emotions go through your brain if you aren’t used
to writing a lot because of the thoughts you’re thinking,
because of your self-talk. Here are some:

·I don’t know how to write. ·I’ll say something stupid. ·My 6th
grade teacher said I was a terrible writer. ·Someone will
misunderstand what I write and I’ll get cards and letters. ·I
can’t do this. ·I hate to write. ·I flunked writing sophomore
year in high school. ·My last English course was freshman year
in college. ·I never finished high school.

WHAT WORKS

There are two major ways to learn how to write: read and write.

The best writers are those who have read the most. Why? Because
your brain is a marvelous thing, and picks up what you’re
reading, and you don’t have to learn any rules. Just as a child
learns how to speak. We all learn how to speak around the house.
Later on in school we learn grammar rules, but we’ve been
speaking for years.

You have to read the GOOD writers, of course. Read the hard
stuff. Dostoevsky, Faulkner, Shakespeare, Dante. This sort of
reading will benefit you in many ways.

Then write. A writer writes! Like any other skill, you have to
do it to learn it. You can read about it, and memorize rules,
and attend seminars, and go to workshops (and by all means read
Strunk and White’s “Elements of Style”(

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/020530902X/susandunnmome-2

0 ), a classic that’s now in its fourth edition) but you must
not stop there. You must start writing.

One of the best ways to direct the actual writing process is to
work with a writing coach. You won’t be able to judge your own
writing appropriately at first.

WHAT DOESN’T WORK

What will NOT work is learning some skills you are not able to
use because your emotions are interfering, or you don’t use
because you never sit down and apply them.

You must actually start writing. Like learning a language, it’s
practicing it that makes you fluent.

META

A meta way to improve your writing is to develop your Emotional
Intelligence. It teaches you how to manage the emotions which
are throwing obstacles in your path to learning writing. It has
the added value of helping you to learn in general, not just
writing.

It’s about getting the emotions out of the way that are
hampering you from learning. We all suffer from this to one
degree or another. We all had a teacher at some point who was
harsh or punitive, or a circumstance where we weren’t able to
learn it fast enough. Maybe we were rushed, and fell flat on our
face in public, or were embarrassed. Maybe we had a parent who
said, “Marsha will never be an artist,” or “Freddie can’t do
this or that.” Getting rid of the memory of these experiences is
managing your emotions, and part of Emotional Intelligence as
well.

WRITE ON!

One of the wonderful things to me about the Internet is the
opportunity it gives all of us to “tell our story.”

Get in there and write, whether you do it for publication, for
money, for fun, or to promote your products and services. You
have things to say that others need to hear!

Writing things out also brings clarity to your thinking process.
Studies show that writing things down improves your efficiency,
and even is good for your mental health.

Write on!

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  • Posted On March 10, 2006
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