This week, a guest post from professional editor and proof reader Liz Broomfield, at http://libroediting.com/ with some of her top tips for making a good impression through your written communications. Take it away, Liz!
Annabelle has been talking recently about how you represent yourself through wider choices – like pizza toppings! – and offers brilliant courses helping you to present yourself in a professional and competent manner; your best self, if you will.
And Annabelle’s asked me, as a writing and editing professional, to come up with a few tips about representing yourself well in the written materials you produce, whether that be in the form of CVs, marketing materials, your web site, blog posts …
So, here are some top tips for representing yourself well and honestly in your writing:
Keep it simple
When I was writing my professional CV for my writing and editing business, I struggled a bit with the level of what I was writing. I sent it to Annabelle for tweaking (yes, even editors need editors – see my last point below!). She pointed out a couple of places where I had assumed my readers’ knowledge of what I mentioned. “What’s this?” she asked. “Explain what this means”. And that extends to all kinds of writing, whether it’s a CV or a PhD.
Try not to use jargon and acronyms. If you do use a TLA (Three Letter Acronym), specify what it stands for the first time you use it. By all means employ technical terms used in your particular line of business, but think carefully about whether your audience will, really, know what that specialised term actually means.
Keep it honest
There are two points to this.
One – never promise in writing what you can’t – or don’t intend to – deliver. You will be aware of this when you’re writing service agreements. But don’t have a web page claiming you’re Number 1 in your category when a little widget placed in the page and linked to a business pages website says you’re not (and yes, that’s a real life example).
Two – don’t pretend to be who you’re not. I’ve known Annabelle for years, and her writing style reflects her personality perfectly – both in the sentence structure and the choice of words. You’ll see from reading this post that, even though I work on Anna’s blog posts, I don’t impose my writing style on hers, and, indeed, write rather differently.
If you’re flamboyant on the page and mousy in real life, or the other way round, then what you’re presenting in your writing is not reflecting the real you – and this could well impact on you if you’re, say, a businessperson who needs to make cultivate a particular impression.
Keep it professional
Whatever you’re writing, especially these days with digital records of everything floating around all over the place, will continue to represent you way into the future. This extends to your online presence in general, of course (but that’s for another post: I’ll just say here, I try never to say anything on the internet that I wouldn’t be happy shouting in public in the square in the middle of my city), but also to all of the words you pour out into the ether.
There are two points here, too. The first is to keep the content of what you’re writing appropriate to the audience, the occasion and your reputation in general. No swearing or ranting, unless that’s how you intend to promote your personal brand. No unfounded criticisms of others’ products or personal insults.
The second point is to be aware of the standard of your writing. Grammar, spelling and punctuation are still important, even in more informal messages such as emails and blog posts.
Consider the poll I have running on my own website asking whether you need to proof-read blogs. 112 people have replied so far – and 63% of them agree that “if a blog has errors I will trust the writer’s judgement and opinions less”, with only 3 out of the 112 saying it really doesn’t matter.
Which brings me on to my last point …
Know when you need help
Writing good, concise, representative and appropriate content for letters, marketing materials, websites or even books is not a skill that everyone has. If you know it’s not one of your core skills, yet you need to create content with which to represent yourself and your company, consider calling in the experts.
You may just need someone to tweak your creative and exciting blog posts, round up their commas and bring them into line; you may need someone to write your web text from scratch or create some email templates.
As I mentioned above, even editors need editors, and I make sure I show all my blog posts to a trusted person before I post them (if everybody has to be careful about the professionalism of their writing, imagine the pressure on a professional writer and editor!) – and there’s no shame in doing that, or asking someone to produce content for you. If they’re good and professional at what they do, they won’t impose their style on yours, but will help you express yourself confidently and represent yourself appropriately.
Thank you to Annabelle for allowing me to contribute this guest post to her excellent blog!