(How to) choose your words carefully

I’m a word person. Check it out. Right up there next to my name you’ll see that “writer” is part of my title. I haven’t produced the great American novel (though repeated attempts at NaNoWriMo have me well on my way), but I do write day in and day out, always in an effort to achieve a desired goal, whether it’s to entertain, inform, dazzle or deter.

Because of this, people turn to me almost daily, asking for language advice and grammar input. Sometimes it’s a colleague writing a proposal for a client, other times it’s a friend writing a letter to a neighbor who just can’t seem to pick up after their dog. Whatever the case, I’ve noticed that when people find that they’re having difficulty with the written word, they’re usually getting confused about the how of writing because they’ve lost sight of the what, the why and everything else in between.

Fact: the why and the what (and all of the other little details) will always determine the how when it comes to writing, so without acknowledging these things, it’s likely your words will take you in the wrong direction.

Here are a few things you should always know before putting pen to paper (or finger to keyboard):

  • Audience: Who is your intended audience and what is your relationship to them?
  • Purpose: Why are you writing this?
  • Medium: Where will your writing be used (blog, Facebook post, client proposal, etc.)?
  • Desired reaction: What is the chosen audience supposed to do with the information you provide?

Answer these questions and you’ll be able to determine all of the important factors of writing, including the appropriate tone and voice as well as the proper formatting, length and delivery.

And leverage the Internet! There are plenty of great sources for inspiration, grammar, spelling and words. Here are just a few to get your started. Bookmark these:

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