Say what?! – 5 Favourite Tools For Tidying Tangled Texts
Working in Public Relations, we depend on our media contacts putting our written messages out to the public. The only way they will do that is if we deliver clear and exciting texts for their readers. Writing clearly can be tricky, but the right toolbox is a huge help. Behold! We present to you 5 of our favorite tools for crafting great texts.g
1. Think before writing
Before writing anything, sit down and find out what you want your text to communicate to your reader. In other words, what’s the message? A basic rule of thumb is to stick to a single overall message.
As an example, imagine that you’re writing a press release about oatmeal. Not the sexiest of topics, I know, but a quick brainstorm leads to several interesting ways to sell the sticky substance as a breakfast:
To the busy: Oatmeal is a quick meal!
To the poor: Oatmeal is cheap!
To the health fanatics: Oatmeal contains lots of nutrients!
To the conservatives: Oatmeal has been a food stable for centuries!
Keep the audience of the specific media in mind, and target the message to them. As a bonus, it will make your media contact happy, and the chance of your message actually hitting the columns a lot bigger.
2. KISS – Keep It Short & Simple
The second most important thing to remember when writing clearly is to create a flow. You can do this by keeping the text – that’s right – short and simple. As opposed to the Long and Complicated-strategy, the KISS-principle will keep your eyes – and thus the readers’ eyes – on the message.
One way to clean up the paragraphs is to simply delete all words that muffle the message. You’ll be surprised of how many empty words haunt most texts.
Like, let me show you what I mean in a more or less concrete way. It is just that, in some way or the other, a lot of unimportant words totally and utterly distract your reader from the core message in the text.
Say what? – what I really meant was this:
Let me show you what I mean. Unimportant words distract your reader from the message in the text.
Another way is to choose simple words where possible. For instance:
Replace advantageous with helpful.
Replace comply with with follow.
Replace demonstrate with show.
Simple words make texts concrete and easy to understand. Often the overall appearance of simple texts is actually better than that of texts that have been written to look clever.
3. Add a little action
Another tool is the active sentence. Ask yourself who does what, and make sure your sentences answer the question.
For instance, “I wrote it” is much better than, “it was written”. You’ll notice that politicians use the latter form all the time – because it hides the subject and thereby the responsibility. You want your reader to see what happens, so make sentences active by adding a subject.
4. Full stop.
When communicating clearly, the full stop is your friend. Lead your reader to the very last paragraph with short sentences and main clauses:
This is a main clause.
This is a main clause, containing a sub clause.
This is, as opposed to this interposed clause, a main clause.
Main clauses put your message in the front end of the text. However, long sentences, which, by the way, contain interposed clauses, which, then again, can contain additional interposed clauses, in the purpose of elaborating further on the matter, will not help your reader understand your message (see what I did there?)
Cleaning out the interposed clauses and sprinkling some full stops here and there can improve your text by a mile.
5. Re-read it
This might not technically qualify as a tool, but is just as important. Nothing screams bad writing like a text the author didn’t care enough about to read himself. Checking your finished piece for grammar and spelling mistakes is crucial for your credibility – so don’t forget it.
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