At today's writing workshop we discussed how a text should be seductive – it should get your attention somehow from the very beginning. And the best way to do this is to be clear about who you are, or what your project is, and what you and your work can offer. Believe in your work and your ideas, and give them the lucid, calm description they deserve.
Here are the key points we discussed at the beginning of the meeting, plus some more ideas that came up during our discussion. Thank you to everyone who came and shared their thoughts and experiences on professional writing.
- Clarity is important! Cut long sentences, never use five words where you could use one or two, and try reading draft versions out loud to yourself to check that they sound human
- People are busy – don't make someone read five paragraphs before they get to the main point, and don't use email attachments if you can copy the text into the body of a message
- Read other people’s writing with a critical eye – what works, what doesn’t? What made you keep reading and what made you stop? Apply this knowledge to your own writing
- Make a list of what your basic points are before you start (in your head or on paper) and check them off so you can be sure you’ve included everything
- Don’t rely on spell-check; get someone else to do a final read-through
- Same thing goes if the language you’re writing in isn’t your first language – unless you’re totally fluent, get a native speaker to check it over
- If you start with something interesting – an arresting quote, an interesting fact about your product, etc – people are more likely to read on
- Tailor your writing for different platforms – email, print, blogs, Facebook
- Don’t make huge theoretical claims about your work that it can’t support – just being precise will be more convincing
- Your writing will be better if you have a grasp of what is important in your work, and say why
- Think of longer wordcounts as having the luxury of space to explain your work – if someone asks for, say, 1000 words to describe your project, it's like someone saying "I'm going to listen to you talk about your work for half an hour"
- Alternatively, if you have a shorter word count, avoid the temptation to compress everything in there – not every single detail of your project is interesting to every audience, just like you wouldn't start every conversation by explaining what you had for breakfast and so on
- If you're dyslexic or find writing uninspiring, try recording yourself speaking about your work and transcribe or take notes from what you've said
- Struggling to know what to say? Go back to basics – throw out grammar and structure and just come up with as many thoughts, fragments and images as possible, then gather the results of this process around themes, which can later provide the structure of your text
- Don't assume that people already know what you're talking about – your interests, ideas and research process are specific to you
- Don't use overly complex language for the sake of it, let your ideas shine through
- What are the key features of the work, or of the visualisation of the project? The text should highlight the same features
Our next come-and-share style event (informal discussion rather than a talk) is on internships, and will be led by the Precarious Workers Brigade.