The written word is a powerful tool. A well-written piece of content can educate, influence and build a sense of trust and connection. Poor writing, on the other hand, can alienate readers and destroy all credibility.
Although most professionals are used to typing daily emails and chat messages, marketers, PR reps and others in similar roles do a lot more writing in their day-to-day work, usually on behalf of their clients. Whether it’s an email newsletter, press release, ad copy or an article, a great agency pro needs to be a great writer.
We asked 16 members of the Forbes Agency Council to share the best writing advice they’ve ever received. Here’s what they recommend you do to hone your skills.
1. Just Do It!
The best writers are often the best procrastinators. Force yourself to get started putting your thoughts into words now. It doesn’t really matter if you brainstorm ideas on paper, type up thoughts on your phone or write the entire copy on your desktop. The key is to just do it! Start writing with no filters and no edits. Let the ideas flow and then worry about fine-tuning later. – Katie Harris, Spot On Solutions
2. Write Down Your Thoughts As They Come To You
The best ideas come to me when I am not at my desk. I try to write every idea I have in my phone or iPad so I don’t lose the thought. Then, when I am sitting down, I try to gather my thoughts and order the ideas into writing. – Martha Madero Gonzalez, GROU Crecimiento Digital
3. Write Like You Speak
For messaging to be effective, it needs to be genuine. The best way to ensure that your writing is genuine is to write like you speak. If there are certain words, styles, tones or phrases that you or your company would never use, then don’t use them in your writing. People want to connect with other people, not with faceless brands. – Vinny La Barbera, imFORZA
4. Show, Don’t Tell.
5. Rely On The AP Stylebook
Make sure to use the AP (Associated Press) Stylebook as your bible. Journalism is ever-changing, but the best resource available for PR professionals is the AP Stylebook. – Duree Ross, Durée & Company.com
6. Connect And Build An Understanding With Your Audience
Anne Lamott says, “Good writing is about telling the truth. We are a species that needs and wants to understand who we are.” Think about who you’re writing that email, blog or pitch deck for — there’s a person reading it, and the more you can connect with them personally, the better. –Twila Grissom, Acorn Digital Strategy
7. A Great Writer Has Great Editors
I find that very few things in life can be done well without team support. This is true for writing. Make sure that an extra set of eyes or two reviews your copy before you hit “send” or “publish.” – Jaymie Scotto Cutaia, Jaymie Scotto & Associates
8. Back Up Your Claims
Just because you say it, doesn’t make it so. Support your claims with facts, testimonials and other information that gives readers a reason to trust and invest in your words. – Scott Greggory, MadAveGroup
9. Set Consistent Goals
Setting consistent writing goals on a daily or weekly basis can help you stay on track and be more likely to attain success. Writing is a valuable skill to have, so treat it like it’s a professional job. – Solomon Thimothy, OneIMS
10. Keep It Simple And Authentic
The quickest way to lose your audience is when they have to decipher what you’re trying to say. Keep everything simple and to the point; don’t get lost in overexplaining, jargon and big words that you wouldn’t normally use. – Kate Aurell, Hawke Media
11. Read A Lot
To become a great writer, you need to be a great reader. Read as much as you can, then write as much as you can. The practice of both will make you a much better writer over time. – Aidan Cole, nTuitive.social
12. Tell A Story
When writing anything for my company, I try to keep some structure, but also try to be human and tell a story. I want people to connect, and stories are the ways I can connect with people and brands. – Jessica Gonzalez, InCharged
13. ‘Write With The Door Closed, Rewrite With The Door Open’ (Stephen King)
Though King was mainly referring to fictional writing, this advice is still so applicable to creating quality copy or any textual content in general. When tackling a piece of writing, it is important to not overthink and let your brain explore different avenues. However, editing is absolutely the most crucial part of writing, and a fresh pair of eyes is always a key part of my editing process. – Jason Goldberg, VYRL
14. Write Down Your Purpose Statement First
It’s easy to get distracted when you’re writing; ideas keep coming up and they’re all worth writing about. You incorporate them all and end up with a mess — you’re over your word limit, and your readers are now lost. As primitive as it sounds, always write down your purpose statement first. This way you can check your ideas and ensure that your piece is concise. – Ahmad Kareh, Twistlab Marketing
15. Keep It Brief
Say what you want in as few words as possible. This can get very granular, down to individual words. If each word isn’t adding value to the overall message, cut it. When there is a lot of fluff, the overall piece feels less professional. I usually write 25% to 50% more in the first draft than what I actually publish. – Adam Draper, Gladiator Law Marketing
16. Don’t Spend All Your Words