Write better: How to cut the crap and say what you mean
In this exercise from her new book, Amanda guides you through using the APPLES approach to help you write better and cut the crap.
Warning: cutting the crap is addictive. Soon you’ll want to red pen newspapers, flyers, online ads, signs and emails from your mum. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!
Life’s too short for crap writing
It takes longer to write, and longer to read. It can also be embarrassing.
If you ever feel lost, agonise over emails, or live in fear of others judging your work, I’ve got good news for you. Everyone has it in them to write better. And we’re all writers.
So, you think you’re not a writer?
But I bet you ...
Spend your days sending emails. Post on social media. Deliver presentations. Send out email newsletters. Jot down ransom notes. Respond to complaints and compliments. Apply for grants or tenders. Publish reports and meeting minutes. Develop policies and procedures. Draft ads for the local paper. Update a staff intranet.
The truth is, we’re ALL writers, whether we like it or not. But, real people need advice on everyday writing, not hypotheticals from fancy writerly types. I get it. That’s why I wrote this book.
Before you write: It’s all about APPLES
Writing better starts before you type a single word.
Understand your AUDIENCE.
Find out where your audience hangs out online and learn their language and what’s important to them. Try Whirlpool, Facebook groups and Reddit for honest reviews.
Be clear on your PURPOSE.
Understand the outcome you want from a piece of writing. Are you trying to sell a product or an idea? Give good or bad news? Apologise? Everything you write should have one big idea you’re trying to communicate. (Yes, even an email.)
PLAN how you’ll get your message across.
You write faster when you have a plan. A simple, three-step outline for any piece of writing: hook their interest, make them feeling something, tell them what to do.
Write in the tone of voice and LANGUAGE to suit your audience.
Step away from the thesaurus. Big words don’t make you look smart. They make you look like you’ve got something to hide. If you wouldn’t say it, odds are you shouldn’t write it.
Go in prepared to EDIT and rewrite to get it right.
You’ve got a long to-do list, not enough time, and deadlines coming out your ears. But here’s the rub: knowing you get to edit means you can write the first draft faster. And if writing gets you what you want, do you have time not to do it?
Plan a STRUCTURE so the right words are in the right place.
Take your audience on a smooth and comfortable ride and they’ll read on without having to make a conscious decision. Get the structure wrong, and you’ll interrupt your reader and jolt them out of the moment.
This is an edited extract from Write Better: How To Cut The Crap And Say What You Mean, available as a shiny book or a shinier PDF at www.writebetter.com.au - Read the book for real examples on writing better emails, apologising like you mean it and sending ransom notes that get noticed.
Illustrations by ALW Clarke at www.alwclarke.com