It might be hard to tell from my recent posts, but my day job is in Marketing Communications. I write a lot, and I edit a lot of copy written by others. Over the years I’ve noticed some patterns that no one shared with me while learning to write, and for what it’s worth, I thought I would share:
I see (or commit) these specific wimpy writing techniques almost daily. When you have these moments: stop, think, and write boldly.
1. When you say something “helps”
A wise yogi once said, “You don’t have to prove anything to anyone; just become it.” It reminds me of sheepish writing. If we know Open Educational Resources save money, why would we say OER helps save money? Just say the subject DOES the verb. Consider: If you aren’t sure it’s true, why are you writing it that way? Know your material and say it like you mean it.
2. When you use the word “and” twice (or more) in once sentence
I run into this often, when the writer seems to lack focus. It’s like they haven’t quite figured out what they want to say. They want to talk about how great this thing is, that it does everything for everyone! If it really does all of those things, are you sure you want to cram them all into one sentence? I’m as big a fan of tight copy as the next lady, but there are times when more sentences are needed to tell the story. Ask yourself: if it’s not worth elaborating on, is it worth including at all?
There are two types of these sentences:
The double list syndrome: The application saves money, time, and energy for students, parents, teachers and staff.
The ‘and we can’t forget…’ sentence: “The tools and resources we’ve developed will help drive research and scholarship at Ohio State and around the world.”
Just decide what you’re talking about and make it a stronger statement. Consider: Can’t we just say tools OR resources? Is this thing we’re doing actually involved in research or is it really about publishing scholarly work? Be decisive. Be direct.
3. When you use an exclamation point
Exclamation points are to copy writing as “thirst” is to dating. What you have to share is valuable, right? If it isn’t, you’d just not write it, right? Exclamation points say “hey I couldn’t figure out a way to make this relevant for you, but I’m desperate so here’s THIS!”
Find other ways to connect readers to your content. It takes more brainpower than tacking on an exclamation point (or, G-d forbid, points), but punctuation isn’t going to convince someone to be excited about what you have to say.
How do you write boldly? When do you catch yourself writing wimpy?