Popular (But Bad) Writing Advice You Should Ignore

By . Filed in Web 2.0

Whether writing is your business or you need to write for your business, the bottom line is the same: you need to write well to effectively communicate your message. If you’re maintaining a business blog, writing web copy or even tweeting, you need to know how to write well – and to write well you need to practice the craft.

Now just as there’s popular blogging, social networking and freelancing advice that don’t always work, there is also popular writing advice that might not work for you. If you’re looking to become a better writer, you’re going to come across these popular writing advices.

Write every day

Writers swear by this piece of advice. They say it improves their skills and helps them avoid writer’s block. Even Stephen King writes 4 hours every morning without fail.

But here’s the thing, unless you’re a writer by profession and earn money through your words, having to write every day is unrealistic. You have a business to run and it is just not possible to write every day for the sole purpose of getting good at it.



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Even if you do it, I can guarantee that you’ll be thinking about the 101 other things that need your attention and will have a hard time focusing.

Another reason this advice doesn’t work is because writing every day doesn’t improve skills as much as we’d like to think. Think about it, you’re writing every day but what if it’s not your writing but your grammar that’s weak? You’ll continue to write grammatically incorrect stuff every single day.

How to make it work for you

Identify the problem with your writing. Is it grammar, writing structure or not knowing a particular style of writing? Instead of writing every day, learn what you need to and practice it in your daily communication.

If it’s just a case of getting in the habit of writing and improving the flow of your work, then focus on all the writing you do during the day. Emails, Facebook and Twitter updates, blog comments, forum and blog posts etc are all areas you can practice on.

You’re probably writing on these mediums any way; treat them as your writing exercise.

Write like you talk

This sounds like brilliant advice until you realize that writing like you talk is actually unintentionally bad advice. Confused? Most of us ‘Hmm’ and ‘Um’ a lot in our speech. We also tend to repeat ourselves a lot, trying to get our point across. Then there are our pet phrases, things that we say a lot, a whole lot. All of these are murder for the written word.



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The other reason this advice doesn’t work is this: How many of us effectively communicate verbally anyway?

When you’re speaking, you have plenty of ways you can say the same thing to convince the listener. But you only have one shot of making a connection with your prospective clients and audience with your writing. You can’t afford to screw it up.

How to make it work for you

The key idea to take away from this advice is that your writing needs to ‘sound’ like you talk. It should have your personality. One simple way to do it is to listen to yourself talk. Pay attention to what you’re saying. Listen to your own voice. You can even record yourself talking and play it back to see what words and phrases you use most. Is your tone casual or formal?

Once you know how you sound like when you are talking, it gets easier to translate that into our writing. Instead of saying ‘Get what I mean?’ after every couple of sentences, you can simply write that phrase at a point in your writing where it’ll make the most impact.

Get what I mean?

Write like no one’s going to read it

I’ve always felt that this advice originally came from a die-hard bathroom singer. And just as bathroom singing is usually code for off-key singing, it is the same for writing too. Writing like no one’s going to read it puts no accountability on the writer.



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If no one’s going to read it, who are you writing for? It’s so easy to get off topic or lose sight of the reason you were writing when you think no one’s going to read it. So now, instead of your writing being on point and structured you’ve given yourself the liberty to take your writing where your thoughts take you.

How to make it work for you

There’s no denying that when implemented right, this is powerful advice. Here’s my amendment to it: Write like no one’s going to read it but edit with your dream client in mind. The thought that you’ll be editing this piece later is all the accountability you need.

Even as you give yourself permission to write like no one’s going read it, you subconsciously think, ‘Hey, I’ll be editing it so I better stay as true to the topic where possible to avoid extensive edits.

Write what you know

If writing what you know is all that it took to write well, your business website copy would have been converting into sales like hot cakes. Unfortunately knowing your subject is no guarantee to writing well. You may know the ins and outs of your product or service but are you communicating them effectively?



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How to make it work for you:

You’ve probably heard copywriters say that in order for a copy to convert, you need to talk about benefits instead of features. Is your product or service going to save them time? Will it ease their pain or suffering? How will it make their life easier?

If you don’t know the answer to these, list down your features in one column and then think about how each feature improves the life of your audience/reader/client. Think about how your writing will make your audience feel and write accordingly.

Avoid jargon and foreign phrases

Writers are advised to avoid using jargon and foreign phrases on the assumption that not everyone knows what they mean and you risk sounding like a snob. That’s true, but if you write in too simple a language, you risk making your reader feel like a 5 year old. And let’s be honest, sometimes saying ‘Cest la vie’ is a lot more effective than ‘That’s life’.



(Image Source: Valeria Petrone)

How to make it work for you

Know your audience. If you’re writing for industry experts, then there’s no harm in using jargon. If you want to avoid alienating some readers, add a little explanation of the word in parentheses the first time you use it. The same goes for foreign phrases.

If you’re writing for an audience based on their geography then by all means use a few common words and phrases from their language. It will help make a connection with them.

Reflection

When acting on writing advice, make sure it is working for you. Otherwise you’ll be wasting precious time and energy, not to mention having to deal with the frustration!

At the end of the day, it’s not about what type of writing helps boost your website or blog. It’s about what type of writing works for you. Ever tried writing advice that didn’t work for you?

Author:

Samar is a freelance writer, blogger and social media enthusiast. She offers rock-solid tips for freelance writing success on her blog The Writing Base or SamarOwais.com and can be found on Twitter talking about writing, freelancing, productivity (or lack thereof) and travelling at odd hours of the day.

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