When working in the public relations, marketing or journalism industry, it’s important to know how to write – correction, write well. So I took it upon myself to improve my writing skills with the help of a Ragan webinar featuring Michael Sebastian, founding editor of PR Daily, who covered the topic, An Editor’s Guide to Writing. From this presentation, I took away the following five tips about how to change dull writing into must-read stories:
- Write attention-grabbing headlines. Headlines are the most important part of a story because they invite the reader in. When writing for the web, headlines are the only part of the story that is displayed. When a reader scans an RSS feed, Facebook or Twitter, they use what the headline is telling them to decide if they are going to read the article.
- Embrace lists. Readers like lists because they understand what they are gaining from the article. Lists are straight forward and more interesting to readers, though some journalists may argue this style is over used.
- Write a zippy lead. Leave the fillers and “gobbledygook” for the second or third paragraph. A lead, much like the headline, should invite the reader in and start a conversation. Use a simple question or declarative statement that grabs your reader’s attention. In addition, a writer should not back into their story and spread the main points throughout the article. The lead should be direct, punchy and inform the reader what the article is about.
- 82 percent of readers love stats. A headline with a statistic is just as captivating as a list. Statistics encourage readers to think of the “us vs. them” scenario and are more likely to comment on the article if they feel they are part of the statistic. (For the record, there is no evidence to support this statistic.)
- Slip into something a little more comfortable. When writing, lose the corporate speak and write as if you are having a conversation with a friend or colleague. Keep the language casual and free flowing. Don’t use words or phrases that you wouldn’t normally use in a conversation.
As a young professional who is still learning the ins-and-outs of this industry, I’m always looking for ways to improve my writing and other communication skills. So join the conversation and share with us. What tips do you suggest for writing a catchy story?