Writing Tips Posts

Sprinkle Similes into Your Business Writing

Paul Barton Communications business writing

By Barbara McNichol
Guest Blogger

Teaching a weekly fitness class—like writing weekly business messages— can get repetitious. A good instructor motivates action while guiding people in their exercises. My instructor likes to interject colorful similes to keep us going. And I suspect it’s also her way of staying sharp and engaged, too.

Here’s an example of her colorful use of language. Describing what not to do while on all fours, she said, “Think of an overburdened mule in a spaghetti Western movie and don’t slump your back like that.” Later, while on our tummies, she told us to lift our arms “like you’re jumping out of an airplane.” Great visual!

Her imagery boosts our enjoyment and helps make the point of the exercise stick. And what’s good for fitness is also good for your writing. Sprinkle similes and other figures of speech into your prose so readers can visualize your point more easily.

Examples from a fitness class:

“Drop your head to your shoulder like it’s a 10-pound bowling ball.”

“Flatten your back like you could put a tray of food on it.”

For over 50s who remember typewriters: “Shift your ribs to the side like the carriage on a typewriter.”

Example from a book:

This excerpt is from Martha Beck’s Finding Your Own North Star. I recommend Martha’s books for the sheer delight of seeing how she applies similes, metaphors, and other figures of speech to her points and stories.

If you’re planning to wait for them [your family] to locate your true path, draw you a careful map, pack you a lunch, and drive you to your North Star, you might want to take up needlework. I hear it passes the time.

Similes lead to smiles. Use them in your business writing whenever you can!

ABOUT OUT GUEST BLOGGER

Phoenix Public Speaking Barbara McNicholOn a crusade to boost the quality of business writing, Barbara McNichol conducts Writing Essentials WordShops and edits nonfiction books. Over the past 24 years, she has placed more than 350 books on her editor’s “trophy shelf.” She is the author of Word Trippers: Your Ultimate Source for Choosing the Right Word When It Really Matters.

On an ongoing basis, you’ll gain valuable writing tips by requesting her free monthly ezine Add Power to Your Pen and subscribing to her Word Trippers Tips program (details at www.WordTrippers.com).

Feel free to contact Barbara at 520-615-7910 or editor@BarbaraMcNichol.com and connect on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

 

3 Terrific Tips to Reach Digitally Distracted Readers

By Jeff Herrington
Guest Blogger

Today’s readers are more distracted than ever. Thanks to voluminous emails, always-on cellphones, and ubiquitous social media, your audience has more reasons than ever to look away from your newsletter . . . if they look at it in the first place.

Alas, no one is guaranteed an audience these days. But these three tips for writing for today’s more distracted readers will increase the likelihood people check out what you have to say . . . and act on it.

 

1) Keep sentences to less than 25 words

No exceptions. It’s always better to present info in three, 14-word-long sentences than one 38-word-long sentence. Your content contains four more words but is more approachable. Especially in an era when so much content is getting consumed on cellphone screens that make your articles skinnier and longer. So, keep it short. REALLY short.

 

2) Use sentence fragments now and then

Giving every sentence a subject and verb is as antiquated an idea as is using words like “forthwith,” and “heretofore.” We don’t talk that way, so why write that way? In the previous tip, I included THREE sentence fragments (“No exceptions,” the phrase beginning with “especially,” and “REALLY short.”) You understood them, and their brevity helped the section zip along. Which is the point. (Another sentence fragment.) 😊

 

3) Craft tantalizing subheads

Let’s say the topic of your longer article is, “employee benefits.” You could insert subheads like, “Health Insurance,” “Vacation,” and “Special Discounts.” But why settle for the mundane, when you could just as easily craft subheads that say something like, “Your wellness redefined,” “You deserve a break today,” and “Boosting your family’s budget?” Not only are those subheads more alluring to the reader — they also position the company as a true benefactor to the employee in a way the generic subheads do not (you can always place those more generic subheads in parentheses after the creative subheads to help those readers who are scanning the page/screen.)

Respecting the fact your readers have less time than ever to absorb your content puts you two-thirds of the way toward your goal of producing effective newsletter content. Applying the tips above will take you that much closer to the finish line.

 

ABOUT OUR GUEST BLOGGER

Jeff Herrington is a communications consultant and writing coach who helps communication teams write for today’s more distracted reader. Jeff has provided consulting expertise for such companies as Coca-Cola France, Whirlpool, John Deere and Wausau Insurance. His writing and content workshops have been brought on-site multiple times by more than 100 companies in the Fortune 1000, including JPMorgan Chase, American Century Investments, Arizona Public Service, Phillips 66, and the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia.

In addition to his consulting, coaching and workshops, Jeff also has composed several crossword puzzles that have been published in The New York Times, and he writes under the name of Jeffrey Eaton as a murder mystery author.

Connect with Jeff on LinkedIn or on his Jeff Herrington Communications website.

5 Ways to Make Your Writing Easier to Follow

By Barbara McNichol
Guest Blogger

Whether it’s an email, an employee newsletter, or a message from the CEO, are you sometimes challenged to make your writing easier for your readers to follow? How can you create a smooth flow that guides them with ease and doesn’t leave the impression it’s tedious to read?

Give these five techniques a try:

Use subheads: When you use subheads throughout your piece, readers can skim your content and quickly discern what’s intended to follow. Even more, subheads indicate a change of subject has occurred. In turn, that subhead allows readers to find the related topic quickly. Your guide: new subject, new subhead.

Convey one idea per paragraph: If you pack a paragraph with more than one idea, it creates difficulty following the meaning. In an email about a talk, for example, you might use three separate paragraphs: one explaining the subject of the talk, one explaining who the presenter is, and the third showing the date, time, and place of the event. You can also add subheads to separate each paragraph.

Use bullets points and numbered lists: When you list similar things (such as names, steps, benefits, requirements), you help readers recognize similar content quickly. With lists, you can leave out transitional words that paragraphs command. It aids the understanding when you use the same part of speech (e.g., a verb or a noun) at the beginning of each point. Note: When crafting a list, use numbers when the order of the points matters; otherwise, use bullets.

Vary sentence length: Although short, concise sentences are easy to read, a string of short sentences can feel disjointed. You can add interest by varying the length of your sentences. My rule of thumb is keeping sentences shorter than 21 words so readers don’t get bogged down. Instead, they follow your meaning more easily.

Vary sentence structure: Building your sentences in the order of subject-verb-object (active structure) is simple and clear. But if all your sentences are constructed that way (passive structure), it can come across as monotonous. Along with varying your sentence length, remember to break out of the mold (command). Use a combination of commands, passive, and active structure to create a variety that keeps readers interested.

Practice these techniques to make your writing easy to follow, and you’ll get better responses from your readers every time.

To learn more ways to write better, order 18 Days to Become a Better Writer e-guide. Use code 18days for a discount.

ABOUT OUT GUEST BLOGGER

Phoenix Public Speaking Barbara McNicholOn a crusade to boost the quality of business writing, Barbara McNichol conducts Writing Essentials WordShops and edits nonfiction books. Over the past 24 years, she has placed more than 350 books on her editor’s “trophy shelf.” She is the author of Word Trippers: Your Ultimate Source for Choosing the Right Word When It Really Matters.

On an ongoing basis, you’ll gain valuable writing tips by requesting her free monthly ezine Add Power to Your Pen and subscribing to her Word Trippers Tips program (details at www.WordTrippers.com).

Feel free to contact Barbara at 520-615-7910 or editor@BarbaraMcNichol.com and connect on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.