How to Write Right
I cannot guarantee you’ll fall in love with me but I can promise you the best home-brewed beetroot wine you’ll have ever tasted.
I teach people to become better at communicating and so I love it when I come across real life examples of communication that hit the spot.
This week, three pieces of writing made me stop in my tracks.
One is about love, one is about a job and another is about the life of perhaps the most fascinating person you’ve never heard of.
Looking for Love
The first piece of writing is from a book about “sales.” A book about selling yourself – quite literally, as it’s from the personal ads.
If you want to tighten your writing skills, I highly recommend reading this book.
In the space of a single sentence or a crisp paragraph that I imagine has been agonisingly crafted, edited and polished, this book is a collection of personal ads in the London Review of Books.
The book is called “Sexually, I’m more of a Switzerland.“
The ads are often laugh out loud, playful with language and they get to the point.
And so they contain three really important features of writing: they entertain, they make people think and they’re clear and straightforward.
Here are some of my favourites:
I am the only valid reason to visit St Albans. Ambidextrous psychiatrist and amateur fire-eater. Female, 37.
I’m still Jenny from the block. Which is odd because yesterday I was Keith from the allotment. Keith from the allotment, 49. You can call me Jenny.
I cannot guarantee you’ll fall in love with me but I can promise you the best home-brewed beetroot wine you’ll have ever tasted. Man, 41.
To further sharpen your writing skills try this short, fun exercise.
Help needed, apply within
The second piece of writing was a job advert I saw on Linkedin. This post came up on my stream and immediately grabbed my attention.
The piece of writing was two short sentences and was followed by a link to the job description. It read “We need someone to keep us organised! Please share if you know someone who would like to be our part-time Office Manager in Perth.”
Short, snappy and something that can be read and understood very quickly.
But here’s the clincher.
The post was accompanied by a photo of the 6 folk who work at Rowan Consultancy.
The group were photographed in a lovely park setting, sending themselves up a little with a kind of jazz hands thing going on and lots of welcoming grins. They looked like a warm and friendly bunch that enjoys a laugh.
For me, this piece is great for two reasons.
When we break up our writing with graphics or pictures it creates a kind of oasis among the text and it also reinforces the mood you want to convey.
Yes, this was a serious job advert but the colourful photo of the people who worked in the company caught your attention and it also told you a lot about their culture.
The second great thing about this piece of writing was that it was brief. We’ve all read writing that is a wall of words, and this happens a lot in job adverts with a laundry list of things you must, should and need to do.
Such a dumping of information can switch readers off (here’s how to make sure your writing isn’t a long ramble).
This job advert was essentially two brief sentences and a photo. That was it.
If you wanted more information on the job then a link was supplied, but the job advert itself was short and sweet.
A Life Lived Well
The third piece of writing I think is brilliant is from The Economist magazine. It’s their regular feature on the back page, the obituary.
One obituary that stands out for me is of Italian, Emma Morano, who was the oldest person in the world at 117.
Emma’s obituary makes for fascinating reading, learning about the ups and downs of someone who was born before the birth of the aeroplane and the television and includes little details like what she had for breakfast each day – two raw eggs scooped up with biscotti from a bowl.
This kind of writing is great for those who need to write reports.
Why? Because it shows how you can distil a lot of information into a small amount of space.
In Emma’s case, 117 years into 1000 words – which is quite a tall order.
So, it’s a great exercise in seeing how a writer condenses lots of information: which is what you have to do when you write reports.
And if you’re like most folk when you get down to doing the report it’s likely that you’ll run out of time long before you run out of words and so you’ll want to find ways to use your words more economically – no pun intended.
Furthermore, reading this quality of writing from the likes of The Economist can make you a better writer, as the quality of what you read filters through and affects the quality of your own writing.
So, whilst it might seem odd to read an obituary in your well-earned break, not only will it tell you the fascinating story of someone’s life, it will sharpen your own writing skills.
Lonely hearts columns, the jobs page and the obituary section of your local paper: all the stuff of life.
As you go about your day today have a closer look at the kind of writing you’re met with and how it uses words to engage with you. I’d love to hear what you come across that connects with you.