There is no escaping the immeasurable importance of being a strong writer and communicator in this field. Use the following writing tips to improve your communication skills:
- Focus on voice and tense. Your writing should always be in active voice and present tense. Not only is this the best way to communicate to your audience, it is a concise and to-the-point form of writing. Using passive voice diminishes the effect of your sentence and often creates confusion. Take a moment and look for this in every sentence you write.
- Use AP style. Associated Press style is essential to learn and use every day. From spelling to capitalization to abbreviations and hyphens, AP style guides the written word, no matter the subject. Once you get the hang of it, it is easy to incorporate, and when you use AP style properly, it reflects well on you and your writing. Have the AP Stylebook on your desk, copy a couple of pages that you use regularly, and then tack them to your board for quick reference. PR professionals throughout the industry use this style of writing, and it is an integral part of all the materials you develop.
- Remember your audience. Depending on your clients, the industry, and the type of material you are developing, you are going to target various audiences when you write. Adjust your message accordingly in order for your writing to be effective. If you’re putting together an internal newsletter, know your audience. If you’re writing a news release, think like a reporter. If you’re writing a blog, read other entries to ensure the right tone and content. With each audience comes a new writing style, a new tone. Focus on whom you want to reach, then write.
- Write, then edit. It is always important to write your copy and then step away from it before you finalize it. Put the document down, and then come back to it with a fresh pair of eyes so you can see areas that need improvement and errors that need to be corrected. Often you develop a new perspective and come up with some new ideas, and your final product turns out that much better.
- Proofread, revise, then check again. Here is some news: spell check does not fix everything. Look at spelling, grammar, sentence structure, word choice, AP style, and how well your writing conveys the core message. A document should never leave your desk without being edited and revised at least once. Nothing is perfect the first time around, which is why we give ourselves the opportunity to make it better. I find that printing something out and editing it by hand always works the best. Reading a document backwards or having a colleague look at it are also good ideas.
- Be consistent. Focus on consistency throughout your entire document. If you use bullets, don’t change to dashes. If you write in third person, don’t adjust to first person halfway through. Maintain the same writing style, and be sure everything from tone to continuity stays on track. Maintaining consistency throughout a document helps your reader fully understand your message without confusion.
- Learn from your mistakes. No matter how closely you follow these tips, you are bound to make a mistake here and there. Chances are if you make a mistake once, you will have a tendency to repeat it. Pay attention to what these tendencies are and work to eliminate them each time you write. Not only will your finished product improve, but you will also demonstrate your ability to learn from your mishaps and correct them moving forward.
About the Author
Angela Loiacono is an account coordinator at Arment Dietrich Inc. She currently works with clients in the lawn and garden, hospitality, consumer goods and services, and business services sectors. Before joining Arment Dietrich, Angela interned with the American Cancer Society, working in media relations, and also wrote for an independent newspaper in Washington, DC. She graduated with a journalism degree from the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign in 2007 and currently resides in Chicago.