Home  › Marketing › Strategies

Strategies for Writing Tighter

  |  April 3, 2001   |  Comments

With or without a keyboard, high-octane coffee, or a full lexicon, there's more than one way to become a tighter writer. Read how others have honed their craft.

Two weeks ago I wrote about writing for wireless devices. I said I'd written the first draft of the article on my personal digital assistant (PDA), using a stylus to poke an onscreen keyboard, to get into the "zone."

I said I thought the experience had made me a tighter writer, and I recommended it for other writers.

That didn't sit well with Robert Young, a writer in Geelong, Australia.

"I've agreed with nearly everything you've said in previous articles," he said, "and have a high regard for your expertise. But after reading your last column, I can only assume you've either slipped a cog or drunk too much of that Seattle coffee.

"Do you seriously think that drawing silly characters on a screen or poking at a keypad with a pointy stick will make me a better writer? Do you seriously expect me to deliberately take five times as long to write an article just to have a 'user experience'?"

Ouch.

But then he offered a lovely analogy: "A famous American actor once asked a famous Australian actor to shout at him and slap him around in order to help him get into character for a fight scene.

"The Australian replied, 'Why don't you just try acting?'

"So I say to you, Kathy, instead of going through these silly PDA machinations, why don't you just try writing?"

Due Diligence

Robert has a point. Being a good writer is like being a good actor. It's like being a good composer or a good golfer. That is, you're nowhere without talent, and to get anywhere at all you have to "do it" -- act, compose, golf, or write -- diligently. You have to practice your craft every possible moment.

But practicing your craft means more than writing melodies, playing three rounds of golf a day, or showing up for rehearsals seven days a week. Beethoven wouldn't have written the Ninth Symphony, Tiger Woods wouldn't have won every Major, and Julia Roberts wouldn't have gotten the Oscar for best actress without grueling, lonely hours of practicing different aspects of their craft day after day.

Here's my own analogy. Years ago I was a marathon runner. When I was training for a marathon, following the advice of running experts I would do two things: Some days I would run long miles at an aerobic pace, while other days I would run short wind sprints at an anaerobic pace.

Typing my article on a PDA reminded me of running wind sprints. It was painful, but it tightened my writing in ways that typing on a keyboard and looking at a big screen couldn't.

Having to Choose the Right Word the First Time

I also received email from Avanti Kumar, a British journalist living in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

"I've planned and written whole articles on my PDA using on-screen graffiti," he wrote, "as it is the only way for me to write my columns while maintaining the responsibilities of my 'day job.' As you said, this is tedious!

"Even with the keyboard PDA, there is a forced economy when writing. So there is certainly an impact on style: It forces you to choose the right word even in the first draft."

Someone Had to Say It

A comment from Eric Miller, an advertising writer in Raleigh, NC, made me laugh:

"I used to write tight, but I couldn't handle the hangovers." Touchi.

"Composing articles on a PDA is an excellent idea," Eric continued. "I've used a folding keyboard with my PDA for about a year. I may have to give it up now!"

He cited other ways he imposes discipline on himself:

  • Writing in haiku

  • Writing longhand

  • Writing longhand with his right hand (he's left-handed)

  • Writing using a 300-word magnetic poetry set -- "the child's version"

"The result of the last technique was so fresh, so concise, so free of 'adspeak,' that I decided to recreate the magnets as a Word file on my laptop (with the addition of a second set, it has grown to 600 words)."

Eric sent me the file, and I put it to the test with some short copy I was writing for a client site. (Don't worry, Robert, I didn't use it to write this article!) The client loved it.

With or without a keyboard, with or without cog slippage or too many Cherry Street Cafi double lattes, with or without a hangover or a full lexicon, there's more than one way to become a tighter writer.

Next time: when your copy never gets used.

ClickZ Live Toronto On the heels of a fantastic event in New York City, ClickZ Live is taking the fun and learning to Toronto, June 23-25. With over 15 years' experience delivering industry-leading events, ClickZ Live offers an action-packed, educationally-focused agenda covering all aspects of digital marketing. Register today!

ClickZ Live San Francisco Want to learn more? Join us at ClickZ Live San Francisco, Aug 10-12!
Educating marketers for over 15 years, ClickZ Live brings together industry thought leaders from the largest brands and agencies to deliver the most advanced, educational digital marketing agenda. Register today and save $500!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kathy Henning Kathy Henning is managing editor of CommunicationFitness, a Web site for learning and teaching more effective communication skills. A writer and editor for 20 years, since 1997 she has focused primarily on the Web, and during that time has written and edited copy for nearly 40 sites. She also teaches writing and editing, and has an MA in English. Prior to her Web days she spent eight years as an editor at a law firm and two years as a magazine editor.

COMMENTSCommenting policy

comments powered by Disqus

Get the ClickZ Marketing newsletter delivered to you. Subscribe today!

COMMENTS

UPCOMING EVENTS

Featured White Papers

Gartner Magic Quadrant for Digital Commerce

Gartner Magic Quadrant for Digital Commerce
This Magic Quadrant examines leading digital commerce platforms that enable organizations to build digital commerce sites. These commerce platforms facilitate purchasing transactions over the Web, and support the creation and continuing development of an online relationship with a consumer.

Paid Search in the Mobile Era

Paid Search in the Mobile Era
Google reports that paid search ads are currently driving 40+ million calls per month. Cost per click is increasing, paid search budgets are growing, and mobile continues to dominate. It's time to revamp old search strategies, reimagine stale best practices, and add new layers data to your analytics.

WEBINARS

Resources

Jobs

    • GREAT Campaign Project Coordinator
      GREAT Campaign Project Coordinator (British Consulate-General, New York) - New YorkThe GREAT Britain Campaign is seeking an energetic and creative...
    • Paid Search Senior Account Manager
      Paid Search Senior Account Manager (Hanapin Marketing) - BloomingtonHanapin Marketing is hiring a strategic Paid Search Senior Account Manager...
    • Paid Search Account Manager
      Paid Search Account Manager (Hanapin Marketing) - BloomingtonHanapin Marketing is hiring an experienced Paid Search Account Manager to...