Do you have what it takes to be a great writer?
Most emails, proposals, and blog entries fired off to customers and posted to the web are first drafts... but they shouldn't be.
Become a better writer by thinking of yourself as a great editor.
Here are some tips to get you started:
1. Sleep on it. If you have time, do the overnight test. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve written something and loved it only to reread it the next morning and wonder why I was so enamored the night before. I did it with this post, as a matter of fact.
Finish your first draft as a writer. Return as an editor for the final version. Proposals to prospects. Emails to customers. Posts for your blog. Sleep on them for a fresh perspective.
2. Read it out loud. I do this all the time. I typically go someplace where no one else will hear me. (Not for anyone else's sake, for mine.) You’ll be amazed when you read something out loud vs. reading it to yourself. Often the patterns and inflections you hear in your mind don’t translate to the spoken word. Hearing the words come from your own mouth will shine a bright light on the trouble spots you need to work on.
For added impact, have a friend or coworker read it out loud while you shut your eyes and listen.
3. Don’t just revise. Cut. Cut mercilessly. You can say a lot with a few words.
4. Omit unnecessary adjectives.
5. Make sure words mean what you think they do. Have you ever had a conversation with someone and it becomes painfully obvious that he or she is using a word and has absolutely no idea what it really means? Like using "historical" when they really mean "historic," or "infamous" when they mean "really, really famous." Faux pas like these make you look silly, and not in a good way. Keep a dictionary app at the ready whenever you're writing.
6. Trust your gut. The more you write, the better your instinct will be for what works and what doesn’t. Getting a second opinion on your writing is never a horrible idea, but don’t do that to escape accountability for your work. Everyone will have an opinion on how you can make something better, but in the end it’s up to you to decide what you're going to say, and how you're going to say it.