Writing for the Digital Age
Why the Written Word Still Matters
Writing is not a dying art, but rather an evolving one. Today, it may be less about pen and paper and more about finger to key, but along with photos and video, words are a powerful tool for telling your story. We have more channels available to us than ever before and easy access to a wider selection of audiences around the globe. What’s more, style of writing and tone are now recognized as real brand differentiators. So, whether you’re writing for friends and family, writing to build your brand or to sell a product or service, what you say and how you say it matters.
Below are some key things to remember when writing for this new age.
Who Really Cares?: Think about your audience. Determine what segments or groups of people you want to curate in your audience structure and be purposeful in your approach. Understanding your audience first will inform the tone you use and where you publish content. Perhaps, you want to share personal stories with your friends and family through social media. Just be sure you aren’t crossing paths with your customer segments. It’s ok to share your authentic self with customers, but not everyone is interested in what you cooked for dinner (unless maybe you’re a chef). Separate your personal and your professional pages, and write for your different followers accordingly.Keep it simple (and short): When I’m scrolling through my news feed during a lunch break or at the end of the day, I’m not interested in reading anyone’s novel. Most people feel the same. That’s why pictures and videos are so popular. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t add your comments and provide context. Just keep it simple and limit the amount of words you use to say something. Trust me… in this day and age a little goes a long way.Don’t Rush (Proofread…proofread…proofread): There is so much content churned out everyday that sometimes it feels like a race to get your ideas, thoughts and opinions out first. But, you risk making silly or even serious errors when you rush to publish before you’ve efficiently researched or proofread your content. I’ve come to see spell check as my ‘frenemy.’ It often catches mistakes before I do, and saves me from publishing embarrassing typos. Yet, it can also be the cause of my biggest frustration. How many times have you typed a word or abbreviation that spellcheck decides to change to something completely different? If you don’t proofread your work, you can almost guarantee it will go out with an error. No one wants to publish ‘sex’ when they really meant ‘secs.’Don’t ‘Drunk’ Publish: Ok…whether you’re actually drunk or just bursting with emotion, think before you publish. Feelings change and so do opinions. What you say today may not be what you feel tomorrow, and once it’s out there, you can’t take it back. So, back up opinion pieces with research. Don’t insult others just because they think differently from you and keep some thoughts to yourself. If you decide that you want to let the world know how you feel (whether positive or negative), then just ensure you’re comfortable with the potential consequences. Otherwise, get ready to write an epic apology.Edit the Crap out of Yourself: If you’re a Millennial, you probably have no idea what ‘Wite-Out’ is. For those of us children of the 80’s and before, you may remember those little bottles of white correction fluid all too well. If you made a few small errors with the typewriter, you could ‘wite them out’ and type over them again. If you made a lot of mistakes or wanted to edit fiercely, well, it required a red pen and an entire new sheet of paper. Aren’t we lucky that all we have to do now is hit delete or simply save another version of the existing document? There’s no excuse for skipping the editing process. Aim to cut your word count by half or more, and take out the fluff.
We’re now well into the digital age, and generations young and old have come to understand that what you publish never really goes away. If you don’t pay attention to the details of your words and how they’re distributed, then you may forever be associated with sloppy promotions, aggressive calls-to-action and weak communication. Even when using traditional media, you never know if a digital version will make its way on to the web. From highlighting your personal story to sharing your organization’s journey, you have an opportunity to demonstrate your mark in the world. Take time to analyze the words, images and channels you use to present yourself.