Persuasive writing can get people to do all sorts of remarkable things – give you a life-changing pay rise or your dream promotion, snap up your product or service, even borderline-stalk you (I have experience of all of these).
It can make the difference between getting exactly what you want and chewing on your keyboard with frustration.
And yet so often we just go on autopilot when we sit down to write.
We churn out the same stale old fusty emails and cut and paste from hangover-mouth-dry documents like a robot, without thinking about what we want to achieve or who we’re talking to. (Actually a bot could do a better job in many cases these days.)
So I’ve put together my top five odd tips that can transform your tired writing. Whether you’re writing sales slides, a critical report, everyday emails or a passive-aggressive note to your colleague who’s been stealing your milk, these weird-but-wonderful tips will have your writing whipped into shape in no time.
1. Put your proofing into reverse: Proof read for typos by reading your document backwards. Your brain can’t skip ahead like it can during normal reading, so you’re more likely to notice if you’ve missed the ‘l’ in public.
2. Go for a Michelin star: Top chefs know that we eat with our eyes as much as with our stomachs. So they put huge focus on how their food looks, titillating microherbs with tweezers and smearing sauces in semicircles to whet our appetite.
And it’s the same with your writing – readers judge your content not just on what it contains but how it looks. So ditch tiny fonts and long paragraphs for bitesize chunks and lots of white space.
3. Have words with yourself: Once you are done writing, read what you’ve written and after every sentence or paragraph ask yourself ‘Who cares?’ If you don’t have a strong answer, get out the scissors and start chopping.
4. Make it harder for yourself: Try giving yourself a fixed word count to keep within (around half what you’d normally write). It’ll make your writing much sharper once you’ve cut out all the flab.
5. Murder your darlings: Take Hemingway’s lead and ditch all the bits of your writing that you’re most attached to. Chances are, they are too flowery/cheesy/stuffy. If you have trouble letting go, get a second opinion from a colleague or friend. You know, the one that manages to get away with snarky comments by saying ‘I just speak from the heart.’