As well as knowing about spelling and grammar, a writer has to be many things. In this article, I share my top seven writerly attributes.
1. Psychic: To get inside the mind of the reader – to work out what message needs to be communicated, what channel will be most appropriate, and what tone of voice will achieve the desired response.
2. Clear-headed: To make sense of confusion and obfuscation.
3. An agony aunt (or uncle): To identify the problem and solution – to highlight the problem to be solved or goal to be achieved, and how the communication fulfils that need.
4. A story-teller: To structure the content with a beginning, a middle and an end – a beginning that attracts attention, a middle that contains all the information required and nothing more, and an end that prompts action.
5. A brutal pair of scissors: To cut, cut and cut again – leaving only the words necessary to communicate the message. And that’s all.
6. Back-to-front: Start from the end and work your way forwards. First, decide the objective; what action you want your readers to take. Is it to pick up the phone, visit the website, agree to funding or something else? Write everything with that end in mind.
a. For printed documents, write the body of the text, then write the heading and introduction.
b. For websites, you don’t know what order people will navigate the pages. Each page should stand alone. Still, it’s easier to write the content page(s) of the site before the home page.
c. For speeches, write the conclusion before the introduction. Why? Because, until you know what you are going to say, you can’t introduce it!
7. Patient: It takes longer to write something short than to write something long.