August 19, 2017

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.

  • Cut Through the Clutter

    Is your copy easy to read? According to communication experts, that’s one of the two key questions people ask to determine whether to read a piece — or toss it.

    Fortunately, academics have tested and quantified what makes copy easy to read. Unfortunately, that research virtually never makes it out of the ivory tower and into the hands of writers who could actually apply it.

    Cut Through the Clutter - Ann Wylie's concise writing master class on Aug. 17-18 in San FranciscoAt Cut Through the Clutter — a two-day concise-writing master class on Aug. 17-18 in San Francisco — you’ll learn “the numbers” you need to measurably improve your copy’s readability.

    Specifically, you’ll learn:

    • How long is too long: For your paragraphs? Your sentences? Your words?
    • Three ways to shorten your copy — and which is the most effective way.
    • How to avoid causing your reader to skip your paragraphs.
    • A tool you can use (you already have it, but you might not know it) to quantifiably improve your copy’s readability.
    • A seven-step system for making your copy clearer and more concise.

    Learn more about the Master Class.

    Register for Cut Through the Clutter - Ann Wylie's concise writing master class on Aug. 17-18 in San Francisco

    Browse all upcoming Master Classes.

    Would you like to hold an in-house Cut Through the Clutter workshop? Contact Ann directly.

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