You think people should want to read your stuff? Then edit your writing with three things in mind:
- Your point. (You have a reason, a purpose for what you’re writing. By definition, as an infowriter, your writing is aimed at getting some kind of work done.)
- Your reader. (The word is deliberately singular. Don’t think of a faceless mass of eye-swiveling heads poring over your stuff; think of a single person and write to her or him.)
- Your voice. (An irritating speaking voice drives listeners away. Just so, writing in a condescending or pompous or monotonous tone alienates readers. As you read your writing out loud, how does it make you feel? It will evoke a similar reaction in your reader.)
Your point and your reader are a dynamic duo.
People will invest time in reading only if your writing helps them achieve goals of their own. So check each document for:
- An informative and attention-grabbing title. Check Brian Clark’s tips for writing great headlines. They’re copywriting tips and not directly applicable to titles and headings for infowriting, but they will help you focus your thinking on capturing a reader’s interest and attention–an absolute must for any effective writer.
- An opening paragraph that draws the reader in. Again, check what Brian has to say about getting a document off to a good start.
- Logical flow from one point to another. This reinforces an earlier post in this series (Make It Coherent).
Your voice keeps readers engaged…or not.
Mother and very talkative toddler walk through the security entrance into the children’s library. Mom looks down at Johnny and puts her finger to her lips. “Remember Johnny, use your indoor voice.” I’m not your Mom, but I do care about your writing. So, when you read over your documents, you need to hear these words in your head, “Remember…use your infowriting voice.”
An infowriting voice IS NOT:
- Intimidating: We write to get through to readers, not to showcase our knowledge or call attention to our expertise.
- Clever: If the typical reader of a business or technical document notices the eloquence of the language or the aptness of a well-turned phrase, the infowriter is probably being way too clever.
- Professorial: Infowriting is neither textbook material nor lecture notes. Our relationship to our readers is collegial, not schoolmaster-pupil.
An infowriting voice IS:
- Competent: Infowriting doesn’t showcase knowledge; it builds on it. Readers must be convinced that we know what we’re talking about, and gaps in foundational knowledge show up as defects in the writing. Writing with a competent voice means assembling all the relevant facts, eliminating knowledge gaps, and building the document on a solid base.
- Conversational: Boredom, inattention, and laziness, and distraction show up in oral conversations. They also affect the voice that comes through written documents. To keep the reader engaged, adopt the reader’s point of view and use the reader’s language.
- Wise: writing with a wise voice means anticipating the reader’s questions, finding the answers, and integrating that information into the fabric of the document.
Other articles in this series:
- How to Make Your Own Dogfood Palatable
- Make It Coherent: Tips for documents that are structurally and logically coherent.
- Make It Clear: Tips for adjusting your document’s vocabulary and sentence structure to be easily understood and appropriate for the intended audience.
- Make It Correct: Why you need to sweat the small stuff by re-checking spelling, grammar, and consistent use of potentially variable words and constructions.