Here are some more ideas to create the right impression and to test your content – not just emails but everything you write:
- Avoid too many Latin shortcuts – fewer people are comfortable with them these days. – n.b. (note). Write ‘for example’, rather than e.g. Avoid i.e. But P.S. still works.
- Never use expletives, no matter how angry you are. Even if you’re quoting someone directly, take out their expletives or use asterisks if you must! Better still, work around them. We seem to think we live in age when bad language and ‘OMG’ might be acceptable, but it may offend or turn off some people. So why risk it?
- To test any piece you have written and take out all the formatting, drop it into an email and chose Plain Text. Drop the re-formatted version into your Word doc again. Any gnarly little formatting errors are then removed and you will have a clean style.
- Free tool: Readability Score – Why is it important to score your text? Well, you never really know if your content is good until you test it. You may well think it looks all right, but does it work? Try this neat tool on your browser: Readability-score.com to score your text. Click on the Text button – next to the Home button. Cut and paste a block of your text up to 500 words at a time into the ‘paste your text here’ Then click ‘Measure Readability’. Your text will then be scored. The scoring system:
- On the right-hand boxes, the ‘Flesch-Kincaid’ grade level is the school year age. It is an American product, but the school year system is much the same as ours. You’re aiming to score at around year 5-6 – meaning that a child in year 5-6 can understand it.
- The Reading Ease box gives you a score. Your target is a minimum of 65. There’s a ‘passive voice’ count, too, but we’ll look at that later.
- If you’re puzzled as to why there’s a low score, then check and balance: does it flow? Is it in Plain English? Are the sentences around 10-14 words long? Is it punctuated with commas, single or double inverted commas, semi-colons?
- Add the Readability Score tool to your toolbar for easy access and get into the habit of testing everything, including important emails to clients and prospects.
- The tool is free if you only use it a couple of times a day, then for unlimited daily checks, it’s only three dollars a month as an individual. So, if you’re writing material regularly, it’s well worth it.
- It’s not just a matter of your personal style, it’s how others read it!
- Blocks of CAPITAL LETTERS – AVOID THEM BECAUSE IT LOOKS AS IF YOU’RE SHOUTING!
- Bold and italics – The thinking is that you shouldn’t overdo it, but it is effective to draw attention to key points for those who only skip-read.
- Read it out loud – does it flow? Does it sound like plain English? (Plain English articles later)
- You may need to make a key point more than once. Otherwise, take out all repetitions, words that don’t add any value, and exaggerations. Trim as much as you can.
- Set the stage for creative writing time. You do need to devote time and attention so find a quiet room, switch off your phone and get some peace! Distractions cause mistakes. Too many mistakes in your content and people will switch off.
- Decide on the time of the day that is your best time – when your head is clear and you feel at your most creative and fluent.
- Never write under pressure – if you’ve had an argument with a supplier, a neighbour, or if BT hasn’t showed up (again). Or if it’s ‘just not happening’, then leave it! Don’t do it!
- Never start and finish a piece in one day. You will want to change things tomorrow when your mind is in a different place.
Tell us if you think this is useful.
p.s. This article scores 86.3