Whether they’re right or not, people form impressions of your personal brand based on the way you write – from emails, to web profiles, to proposals to cover letters. Today we’ll go over seven tips to improve your writing skills.
Impressions form fast
- Writing is sloppy: You don’t care about quality.
- Writing rambles on: You have no sense of purpose.
- Writing is formatted poorly: You have no sense of design.
- Writing is too informal: You are immature.
- Writing is unorganized: You can’t convey information effectively.
Luckily, you can make your writing clearer and more effective by following a few basic guidelines.
1. Decide for whom you’re writing.
Put yourself in your audience’s shoes: What do they want to know? Give them what they want and nothing more (they’re busy). Where do they expect to find what they’re looking for? Make sure it’s where they expect it to be, whether it’s your email signature or your LinkedIn profile.
2. Get to the point.
Writing is most effective when it’s simple. Your reader doesn’t want to follow you down a winding garden path. Most messages can be clarified by putting it into fewer words. Longer sentences do not make anyone seem more intelligent. The amount of time required to process a sentence with n words is n^3. So if you cut the length of a sentence in half, it will be 8 times easier to read.
3. Keep it skimmable.
Accept the fact that your reader is going to skim-read your content. Not because they don’t like you, but because that’s how people read on their computer. They should be able to grasp everything you have to say by reading only the first sentence of every paragraph. Generally state your main point before you give reasoning that leads to it.
4. Don’t use jargon.
The minute you drop a word or abbreviation your readers don’t understand, you’ve potentially lost them. Don’t risk it – speak in plain English that anyone can understand.
5. Play the devil’s advocate.
Be your biggest critic. Is there anything that can be misunderstood? Are you making assumptions that your readers may not share? If so, tweak your messaging.
6. Proofread, proofread, proofread.
Fix grammar, spelling and punctuation. Then have two other people go through it for mistakes. We’re often too close to our own writing to spot small mistakes.
7. Use formatting to highlight your main points.
Make sure anything that catches your reader’s eye draws them to your main points. Use bulleted lists to convey information quickly. Use bold headings to help the reader decide which section will tell them what they need to know.
By working them in to your writing process, you will enhance your ability to effectively communicate and exude a personal brand that stands for quality and clarity.
To wrap up, here are today’s tips to improve the clarity of your writing – and thus the clarity of your personal brand:
- Decide for whom you’re writing
- Get to the point
- Keep it skimmable
- Don’t use jargon
- Play the Devil’s advocate
- Proofread, proofread, proofread
Pete Kistler is a leading Online Reputation Management expert for Generation Y, a top 5 finalist for Entrepreneur Magazine’s College Entrepreneur of 2009, one of the Top 30 Definitive Personal Branding Experts on Twitter, a widely read career development blogger, and a Judge for the 2009 Personal Brand Awards. Pete manages strategic vision for Brand‐Yourself.com, the first online reputation management platform for job applicants, named one of the Top 100 Most Innovative College Startups in the U.S.