And she asked me, “How do you want me to write?”
So I said, you need to write as yourself.
Carmen asked, what do you mean? Can you send some examples?
I did not have any, so I started this post.
I know what works and I’ve spent years reading about writing, and most of how I write has been picked up by reading so much.
Yet I still have imposter syndrome; I get stopped.
I still fear that Mrs Dunnings, my Year three teacher from when Abba was topping the charts, and a home computer was yet to be a thing, will come in and take me to bits.
So, Carmen, you have to start with what you are going to give the reader.
What is in it for the reader?
What happens in the first few lines is essential, but act natural.
It does not have to to be a Buzzfeed hooker, but a headline is essential.
One of my favourite tools is the Coshedule Headline Analyzer that helps you play around with word order to get a better headline.
What is the job of the headline?
The job of the headline is to get them to read the first line, and the job of the second line is to get them to read the third line, you can see where I am going?
And people scroll, years ago I worked out that people read most things on the phone.
A phone screen is about the size of a newspaper column but can move much faster, so you have to break up the text.
These days I’m addicted to writing in two-line paragraphs and over the last twelve years writing tweets I’ve worked out how to get a lot into one sentence.
What have you done wrong?
I started to ramble Carman; you see, I introduced you and Urban MBA in the first line but never set the scene.
So the quickest way out of that is to say that Urban MBA is a Hackney-based program for young people to learn the skills and mindset to start their own business or freelance practice.
As Kate’s article explains this is a big deal as the ARC Club gets to form a genuine connection with the local area, which in these COVID times is more important than ever, so take a look here.
Where are you going now? Talkers Block?
Now I’m back on track, but my head is still all over the place.
I want to say something about how people always say they don’t know what to write.
But when you say to someone, ‘tell me about your business’ or ‘what are you working on?’ They’ll talk for ages.
Writing for school and university is very different from writing for the web.
The gift of the web is that the more you are yourself, the better the connection you make with the reader.
So write as you talk, and if you need to yer know need to change the wording JFDI!
How to keep it simple
Even industry people don’t like industry speak.
My favourite example of this is Brene Brené, who is a Professor at Texas University.
Around 15 years ago, Brené realised that the ONLY people who read her research on shame and vulnerability were about six people in her academic field.
Brené went on a mission to make shame and vulnerability a national conversation, which meant making her research accessible and readable.
She wrote some books, ended up on Oprah and last year had a Netflix special.
Because everyone could read and understand her words.
If you confuse you’ll loose
In the StoryBrand books, Don and JJ say ‘if you confuse you’ll loose’ and you want to write it so people can understand it.
If people find it hard to read, they’ll burn too many calories trying to work it out, and then if they do work it out, they won’t share it.
Being super smart with long words does not work.
A great app to help you get out of this is the free online tool called the Hemingway App.
The app highlights lengthy, complex sentences and common errors; if you see a yellow sentence, shorten or split it.
If you see a red highlight, your sentence is so dense and complicated that your readers will get lost trying to follow its meandering, splitting logic — try editing this sentence to remove the red.
Don’t be boring
So much business writing is boring; I am not asking for crazy and unpredictable – just human.
In the coworking and workspace industry, most of the writing sounds like a third rate dry newspaper advertorial from the early nineties.
Fu<K me everyone knows you are mates or sponsors!
And the ONLY reason you have an article on that website or the conference is that you paid to be there.
So at least put some effort in, please!
“Bernie Mitchell, CEO of MEAGwork, says the future of the web depends on electricity and people reading words.”
Is not a leading industy insight.
Someone I’ve been following for over a decade and spent time with is Phil Jones; he sells photocopiers and printers – hardly exciting.
Well, he is the Managing Director of Brother UK.
But Phil has more business acumen and charisma than most, he writes and shares non-stop wether on his blogs, Twitter or one of his cycling channels.
Where to learn more
Five books I always point people towards about writing
Everybody Writes by Ann Handley
I like this book because it spells out how to write, what works and what does not.
I also love Ann’s candour and love for words.
Does writing matter?
“Actually, writing matters more now, not less. Our online words are our currency; they tell our customers who we are. Our writing can make us look smart or it can make us look stupid. It can make us seem fun, or warm, or competent, or trustworthy. But it can also make us seem humdrum or discombobulated or flat-out boring.”
Writing Without Bullshit by Josh Bernoff
Again Josh spells it out; he also gives real-life examples of ‘weasel words’ and how leaders hide behind text when giving out bad news.
The story of the Microsoft/Nokia’s long winded letter about mass layoffs vs Jack Dorsey’s to the point ‘we need to let people go and will support you’ is one of the best.
I re-read this twice a year and always find something new, Josh has a killer daily blog making trouble and taking apart things like the USA General election sign up here for updates.
How to Write Copy That Sells by Ray Edwards
Here Ray kicks in about emails and connection and getting to the point.
Being helpful and direct and saving yourself and the people reading time, he also cites many solid real life examples of how tactics and words have worked for him.
“The sort of writing that makes money is not scholarly academic writing, it is human relatable writing.”
Building a StoryBrand by Donald Miller
I’ve heard people ranting about the story for years.
I never could make the connection between story and sales.
Before this book I’d sat through countless pretentious keynotes talking about the heroes journey and business.
I always felt like I was missing something, then other even more pretentious people would rant about myth and story and I’d want to leave and watch Brooklyn 99.
This book laid it out clearly and how you can help people and ‘be the guide’ – I love this book and its little sister Marketing Made Simple..
Master Content Marketing by Pamela Wilson
I’d been reading Pamela on Copyblogger for a long time and always found her advice clear and actionable.
Then when she was writing this book she did a weekly podcast with Jeff Goins called Zero to Book.
They ran a Facebook group where people shared the questions they needed to be answered in a book and here it is!
This book is clear map of how to write, organise yourself and get words on your website so people will buy your product or service.