Regardless of your industry, chances are good that you’re called on to communicate, be it in speaking or writing. Especially now, in the age of social, it seems that everyone has become a writer. That certainly doesn’t mean everyone knows how to write – or communicate – clearly – and in the best way possible. So, here are four of the top rules. Some have stood the test of time, others have had to change with the times. I’ve given them a verdict of “Follow It” or “Break It” so that you’ll know next time you’re faced with communicating, whether that’s online, via social platforms, in front of a live audience or in a blog post, which ones are worth following and which ones are worth throwing out.
Rule #1 Write What You Know
This is a common rule among writers. One of the first things we learned in college. Write what you know. The theory behind it is that you are more passionate about the things that are important to you, so it stands to reason that you’ll write with more passion, more knowledge and confidence.
The Verdict: BREAK IT
The internet has opened countless doors to experts and research that just weren’t available when this rule was made. Now… if you don’t know about it? Find out about it. Google it, ask followers and contacts for help, learn, grow, and become an expert. Just like a great singer can wow us with the phonebook, a great writer can make any topic worth reading about.
Rule #2 Keep It Simple
There are more than a million words in the English language. It’s no wonder then, that there are so many different ways to say the same thing! But communication shouldn’t be a chore. If you can say it in five words, don’t use 10. And always, always choose the shorter, simpler word. It doesn’t make you sound smarter to say that you plan to “initiative a scholarly extrapolation.” Just tell them you’re going to make an educated guess.
The Verdict: FOLLOW IT
As Albert Einstein famously said, “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” Have you ever sat through a meeting or presentation with someone who just loves big words? It becomes exhausting just too listen, doesn’t it? As C.S. Lewis said, “Don’t say ‘infinitely’ when you mean ‘very'; otherwise you’ll have no word left when you want to talk about something really infinite.” A simple word will get your point across just fine. It does not make you look smarter to use big words, but only like you are trying really, really hard.
Rule #3 Write Specifically for Each Audience
Social media has opened the floodgates on communication, giving people the opportunity to share their thoughts with the world. Make it a point to know what type of demographic fits each platform and tailor your message for each specific audience.
The Verdict: FOLLOW IT
One size messages do not fit all. We must be sure that we are communicating to each of our audiences specifically.
Especially in social, each platform has different demographics and will respond differently to your posts and tweets. For every blog post, write 10-15 different tweets and posts, covering each demographic you want to reach. Test humorous headlines, serious ones, questions, and leading statements and track which ones work best for each audience.
Rule #4 Keep Blog Posts Short
Who made this rule? And what constitutes long, anyway? I’ve written very short blog posts (under 200 words) and much longer posts (1,000+ words) both with success, and sometimes without. But their length had little to no bearing on that success. What matters is the quality of the content. If you’ve got a well thought out, well written article, then it’s as long as it needs to be – however many words that turns out to be.
The Verdict: BREAK IT
But do so carefully! Always break up longer posts (anything longer than 600 words) with subheads, numbered or bulleted lists. This makes it easier for readers to digest, so that they can skim your article and take away the most important information if they’re short on time. Including relevant visuals such as graphs or charts that explain the copy will also help.
As with any rule, it doesn’t hurt to understand why it was made in the first place, but then determine if the ruling makes sense for you. Sometimes they’re worth following. Other times? Breaking the rule can open a door and make communicating a little easier, and isn’t that what it’s all about?
Blogs, feature articles, presentations and infographs are ideal for sharing content, positioning yourself as a thought leader in your industry and increasing awareness about your company, but they are time consuming. If your goal is to increase content creation, create a new blog presence, or improve the one you’ve got, I’d love to help. Let’s connect and create something fantastic!