Today I started my last class at UMASS for my journalism certificate and it reminded me of something I heard. At a presentation by Peter Shankman, Founder of HARO & Geek Factory, he ended by telling the audience to focus on our writing skills. That may sound obvious, but it is very profound when you think about it.
Writing is one of those abilities essential to storytelling especially with the explosion of online communication. PR pros have to blog, tweet and craft copy. If your words are not compelling and engaging, the public simply moves on. We need to tell the good story, but it needs to be well written. If not, it gets buried or worse, passed over.
I wonder how many of us have gotten in the bad habit of using the same old terms and descriptions? It’s time to dust off the Thesaurus and explore some new words. I cringe when I see “State-of-the-Art.” Seriously, things move so fast, your state-of-the-art service/product becomes yesterday’s news in no time. The other day I read a great article on Ragan Communications about cliches that need to go (www.ragan.com/WritingEditing/Articles/42620.aspx). You’ll laugh and you’ll probably recognize some of these in your recent copy. I like how Lindsey says of cliches: “do not add value to what you are trying to say…”. I think the reader/listener tunes out when they hear a cliche coming. Who knows if they tune back in?
That’s not a risk any communicator wants to make. Make 2011 the year to go through those overused, tired words and phrases. Let’s put some new life into those news releases, tweets and blog posts!
If you need a grammar refresher or an excellent reference, check out Mignon Fogarty’s excellent website: grammar.quickanddirtytips.com. Bonus: there are quick & dirty tips for EVERYTHING ELSE too.
Stop reading and go grab a pen (or a keyboard) to write something extraordinary!