August 1, 2015

6 words about writing

Readers offer super-short tips

OVERCOME OVERLOAD Can you tell your story in exactly six words?

Last month, in honor of Students First’s six-word essay contest to best describe what it means to be a great teacher, we asked readers to send us their writing tips in six words.

Here are the best of the bunch.

“Dump. Cut. Cut. Cut. Cut. Enjoy.”
— Ned Mann, Media Relations professional
at Chubb Executive Risk Inc.


“Long, dangly sentences are usually DOA.”
— Anita Allen, Ascend contributor at Sabre
“DOA copy is Daunting, Overwritten, Agonizing.”
— Anita Allen
“Marshal muscular verbs. Launch soaring sentences.”
— Dana Van Allen, communications specialist at Siemens Milltronics
“Sometimes, grammar police: look away.”
— Alejandro (Alex) Morones, technical writer and editor
at the University of Texas at San Antonio
“To become a better writer, read.”
— Christel K. Hall, APR CBC,
principal at PRowrite Public Relations Services
“Writer’s block cured by writing anything.”
— Andy DiOrio, director of internal communications, AMC Theatres
“Just write; keep typing; edit later.”
— Laura Temple
“Edit. Edit again. Once more. Polished.”
— Jo Lynn Deal, business management consultant
“Tell a story, don’t report it.”
— Jef White, managing editor, National Business Media
“Mesmerize with moonlight thru looking glass.”
— Susan Parson, operations manager, Business Education Compact
One more tip …

One participant pandered to the judge. He knows the judge personally and correctly assumed that she’d appreciate the pandering:

“Favorite writing tip: Read Ann Wylie”
— Barry Schneider, product communications manager at Waddell & Reed

And the winner is …

My favorite tip, both for the topic (feature leads) and imagery, is:

“Make your lead really sing – loud.”
— Mary Lisa Russell, communication specialist
at Community Medical Centers

Mary, look for one of my favorite things from my new hometown — Portland, Ore. — in your mailbox soon. And thanks to everyone who played.

Be heard

My husband likes to quote “anonymous”:

“If a man speaks in the forest,
and no woman is there to hear him,
is he still wrong?”

For communicators, the question is a little different. David Murray, editor of ContentWise, says:

“If nobody hears your strategic messaging,
does it make a sound?”

The biggest risk in communications is not that we might offend someone or write something that’s eye-rollingly goofy. The biggest risk communicators face is that we never get heard at all.

  • Catch Your Readers

    If you want to Catch Your Readers, you need to think like a reader. Then you need to use the bait your reader likes, not the bait you like. Problem is, many of the techniques we’ve institutionalized in business communication writing are not the bait the reader likes.

    In Catch Your Readers — a two-day Master Class on October 27-28 in Washington, D.C. — we’ll debunk destructive writing myths, how-we’ve-always-done-its and relics from Writing 101. (You’re not still stuffing all those W’s into the lead, are you?!) You'll leave with scientific, proven-in-the-lab approaches for getting people to pay attention to, understand, remember and act on your messages.

    Specifically, you’ll learn how to:

    • Think Like a Reader: Move people to act
    • Go Beyond the Inverted Pyramid: Master a structure that's been proven in the lab to reach more readers
    • Cut Through the Clutter: Make every piece you write measurably easier to read and understand
    • Lift Your Ideas Off the Page Or Screen: Reach flippers and skimmers, increase readership
    • Edit, write, repeat: Bring your laptop and a story to work on, write and rewrite, get and give feedback, and leave with a totally rewritten piece

    Learn more about the Master Class.

    Would you like to hold an in-house Catch Your Readers workshop? Contact Ann directly.

    Register for Writing Workshop in Chicago.

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