It’s common for non-writers to have trouble understanding how writing for a living actually works.
They imagine bespectacled introverts pounding away at their keyboards, detached from social settings and business transactions.
How is a reclusive life compatible with a sustainable job?
Writing is solitary work, but professional writers know publishing is a collaborative process.
And in-demand writers know how the seven practices below foster the solid relationships they have with their editors, clients, and bosses that enable their thriving careers.
You can apply this guidance to:
Your aim is to demonstrate your dedication to clear communication, whether you’re speaking, composing an email, or educating with content.
1. Provide value upfront
Providing value as quickly as possible helps you out in a number of situations.
When you write articles, if you wait until the last paragraph to give a smart takeaway, you’re asking a lot of your readers.
Do you like sticking around when you’re not sure if you’ll receive the payoff you’re looking for?
A thoughtful writer uses his introduction to assure you his article is the right fit for your needs and then continues to add intriguing elements to guide you through the text.
Providing value upfront also includes considering the needs of any other people you may be working with.
If you’re not done with your project yet, but you’ve completed a task someone else is waiting for you to finish, pass along that part of the project to them early.
It shows you care about the project as a whole, and not just your contribution.
2. Choose the right words to connect
Impeccable word choice is the ability to select the words that effortlessly resonate with your target reader.
It’s often not the most fancy or complicated word.
So, research who you’re talking to and do your homework.
3. Write short paragraphs to persuade
Short paragraphs may seem like a minor detail, but they actually contain a critical benefit.
They are simply easier to read, which means they’re more likely to get read word for word.
When your words get read — rather than skimmed — you are more likely to persuade.
4. Add well-chosen hyperlinks
Be selective when you hyperlink to sources.
Too many hyperlinks can be overwhelming and lead to confusing or unfocused writing. But showing someone the right hyperlink at the right time can also lead to a satisfied colleague, editor, or reader.
Balance is key.
5. Don’t hand off fact-checking
In addition to article writing, fact-checking also applies to pitching article topics or proposing an idea to a collaborator — you don’t want to send outdated or incorrect details.
For a writing assignment, your editor, client, or boss should just have to verify your text.
It’s disappointing when they have to correct a misspelled name or replace a broken hyperlink. It’s even more aggravating when a portion of your draft needs to be deleted or revised because it has inaccurate information.
Fact-checkers, proofreaders, and editors love the writers who don’t create more work for them.
6. Finish your final draft a few days early
This is the jolt of energy that supercharges all of the other tips.
When you finish a draft a few days before you need to turn it in, you have the extra time to properly implement the five practices I’ve already mentioned.
Some people like the 24-hour rule where you take a break from your draft before you edit it. My view is that truly compelling content needs even more time to marinate.
It’s not about being a perfectionist. It’s about creating an environment that allows you to do your best work.
In order for me to successfully implement this lesson, I’ve learned that I need to leave more time to write because it always takes longer than I think it will.
One of the reasons it takes longer is because when I’m working on one article, I tend to get new ideas.
Those new ideas give me momentum that I want to follow, which leads to me outlining or researching another article or articles.
Now when I’m setting aside time to write, I think: “In theory, I only need three more hours to write, edit, and proofread the article I’m working on, but I need to set aside six or more hours.”
That extra time is especially helpful if you’re juggling more daily responsibilities than just writing your article. (And who isn’t?)
7. Give deadlines
LL Cool J says, “DDHD (Dreams Don’t Have Deadlines).”
I say, “DAD (Deadlines Aren’t Demanding).”
You might think editors are the ones giving deadlines to writers, but sometimes you have a question for the person who assigned your writing project. Or, you may need information from someone else so you can complete your work.
When you send your request, give a deadline for when you need them to get back to you.
This boils down to effective email communication.
To illustrate why deadlines are helpful, and not demanding, let me show you what it looks like if someone asks me to review their writing and they don’t give me a deadline for when they need the work completed.
Innocent Email Request: “Stefanie, can you look at this?”
Stefanie’s Internal Reaction: Panic. I already have a full plate — when am I going to fit this in? I have a lot of other important work to do, but I don’t want to let this person down either. I need to ask them for a deadline.
Stefanie’s Question: “Sure, when do you need it back?”
Innocent Reply: “Oh, by the end of the week would be great.”
Stefanie’s Mind: Relief.
Stefanie’s Confirmation: “Sounds great, will do!”
Notice how much extra back-and-forth and potential panic/frustration could have been avoided if that first Innocent Email Request said: “Stefanie, can you look at this by the end of the week?”
That whole middle part of the communication wouldn’t have happened, and we would have skipped to Stefanie’s Confirmation that satisfies everyone’s needs in this situation: “Sounds great, will do!”
I hope that inspires you to overcome feeling shy about giving a deadline when you have a request for someone else.
Remember, that extra bit of information will likely help them manage their schedule and reduce the time you both spend writing emails. 🙂
What impresses you?
If you’re an editor or you manage content, how can writers impress you?
And writers … what practices have you learned that keep you in the good graces of your editors, clients, and bosses?
Let us know in the comments below.