This post originally appeared on PR Daily in June of 2018.
Writing isn’t easy.
Whether it’s marketing, academic or technical copy, or you’re simply trying to think of what to scribble on a co-worker’s birthday card, writing can be arduous work—more so on some days than others.
Communicators don’t want their results or standards to slip simply because they’re having an off day. Even when you feel profoundly unmotivated, avoid these five shoddy practices.
1. You don’t consider your audience.
In corporate communications, “writing for your audience” often takes a back seat to the demands of executives or colleagues. Your boss might want to include 500 words of background information in a blog post, but that doesn’t mean readers want to read it.
Remember, your audience is not your boss, but rather the “end user” of what you’ve written. Think about that audience before you start writing. Let go of what you want to say and focus on what your audience wants to know.
2. You skip the “why.”
Whether you’re telling customers about a price increase, employees about changes in company policy or encouraging people to stop texting while driving, leading with the “why” helps everyone understand the purpose of your message up front.
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For example, the sentence “Due to recent security concerns, all employees must now wear their name badges while in the building” is more clear and effective than simply stating “All employees must now wear their name badges in the building.”
3. You bury the lede.
Burying the lede is the failure to mention the most urgent or interesting elements of a story in the first few paragraphs. It means your copy fails to highlight the most important or actionable items at the beginning of the message.
Readers have little time to digest your message. Too much information can cause readers to tune out. Yet, many clients and executives insist on putting background or irrelevant information front and center.
Background information and statistics can be included in the message, but link to that information or list it under the headings “Background” or “Quick Facts” in later paragraphs.
4. You lean on “crutch” phrases.
“Crutch” phrases are often used when a writer is not sure how to start a sentence or how to connect two sentences.
“As many of you are already aware, happy hour starts at 2:30.”
The phrase “as many of you are already aware” doesn’t add anything to the sentence. It can be removed, allowing you to jump straight into the sentence. “Happy hour starts at 2:30.”
Unnecessary phrases add to the noise readers are trying to filter out.
5. You regurgitate the words everyone uses.
Some words are used so frequently, they become invisible. Think about the word “disaster.”
It’s been tossed around so haphazardly that no one pays attention to it. If everything is described as a disaster, then nothing is a disaster.
English is a versatile language, and we have a wealth of synonyms available. Use a thesaurus or keyword search tools to find alternative terms. Avoid terms such as amazing, epic, cool, exciting, unique, and significant. However, always look up new words before using them or risk missing the mark.
What other lazy writing habits have you seen, PR Daily readers?
A medical writer in Austin, Texas, Laura Hale Brockway is a regular contributor to PR Daily . Read more of her posts on writing and editing at impertinentremarks.com.