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 San Francisco This Year's Premier Digital Marketing Event is #CZLSF
ClickZ Live San Francisco (Aug 11-14) brings together the industry's leading practitioners and marketing strategists to deliver 4 days of educational sessions and training workshops. From Data-Driven Marketing to Social, Mobile, Display, Search and Email, this year's comprehensive agenda will help you maximize your marketing efforts and ROI. Register today!

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

BigDoor: The Marketers Guide to Customer Loyalty

The Marketer's Guide to Customer Loyalty
Customer loyalty is imperative to success, but fostering and maintaining loyalty takes a lot of work. This guide is here to help marketers build, execute, and maintain a successful loyalty initiative.

Marin Software: The Multiplier Effect of Integrating Search & Social Advertising

The Multiplier Effect of Integrating Search & Social Advertising
Latest research reveals 68% higher revenue per conversion for marketers who integrate their search & social advertising. In addition to the research results, this whitepaper also outlines 5 strategies and 15 tactics you can use to better integrate your search and social campaigns.

WEBINARS

    Information currently unavailable

Jobs

    • Internet Marketing Campaign Manager
      Internet Marketing Campaign Manager (Straight North, LLC) - Fort MillWe are looking for a talented Internet Marketing Campaign Manager to join the...
    • Online Marketing Coordinator
      Online Marketing Coordinator (NewMarket Health) - BaltimoreWant to learn marketing from the best minds in the business? NewMarket Health, a subsidiary...
    • Call Center Manager
      Call Center Manager (Common Sense Publishing) - Delray BeachWanted: Dynamic Call Center Manager with a Proven Track Record of Improving Response...