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Friday, July 22 2005
 So be reassured if your words land on your computer screen in less than perfect form the first time. Be reassured if you spend hours adding, deleting and shuffling phrases, sentences and even whole paragraphs around your document and back again. And be reassured if you're just plain frustrated because it takes longer than you thought to get across the mood and meaning you want. Welcome to the writer's world!

For me there are 3 clearly-defined steps in the writing process.

Step 1 - Getting The Words Down On Paper

All you are doing here is putting information on paper. Everything you know about your topic. Every idea you have about your ideal client and how you can help them. Do it without censoring yourself. Keep writing until you have exhausted all the ideas you believe belong in your piece. Don't worry if you end up with seven pages of information and you only need three. You can go back and edit later.

Step 2 - Editing

Time to review and refine the content. What is absolutely necessary? What can be discarded? Are the ideas organized logically? Does it flow smoothly? Does your content precisely reflect the point you want to get across? Where are there gaps in information: are you making assumptions about how much people already know about your business?

In this step you're also looking for the right words. Not just any old words that say roughly what you want them to say, but the exact words that get your ideal clients excited about your product or service.

Step 3 - Proofreading

Here you're checking for consistency, spelling, punctuation, and the rules of grammar. Make sure that the company name is spelled correctly. Are you using the same format for the phone number each time it appears? Are periods and commas where they should be? Run it through a spell- checker.

You can get yourself into trouble by trying to do all these steps at once. But go about it in a systematic manner and your content will come together much more easily. Each of these steps can involve several rewrites until your material is polished and you're satisfied that it presents you to your best advantage. Be patient with yourself.

Mark Twain is reputed to have said: "If I'd had more time, I'd have written a shorter letter." That's the crux of the matter: it takes time and many rewrites to craft a focused, concise piece that gets your message across with clarity and no distractions.

Now it's your turn: take a look at whatever piece you're working on right now. Which of the above steps are you working on right now? Or are you trying to do them all at once?


Copyright 2004 The Dennison Group.

Posted by: AT 03:43 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Friday, July 22 2005
 Beyond words, there is another aspect to text that can make it easy or difficult for your prospects to read. 


It's the formatting. 

The more inviting your text appears to the eye, the better the chances are that it'll actually be read. 

Here are a few ideas that will make an immediate impact on how your text appears to your readers. 

    • Leave plenty of white space. 

      You've probably heard this before, but do you know WHY it's so important? 

      I know you want to cram as much as possible onto a page, but if you're not careful, you can turn your prospects off. 

      Large blocks of text can seem intimidating and overwhelming. They can actually create resistance to reading more. Breaking up the text makes it appear friendlier and less formidable, therefore increasing the chances that your prospects will read what you want them to read. The space between text is just as important as the text itself. Assuming your prospects are in a hurry, as most people are, it's easier for them to skim the page if it's appealing to the eye. 

      If you look at direct mailing pieces from major companies such as Reader's Digest, Time Life, and AARP, you'll see how they spread a letter out over several pages. They could fit it into a much smaller space and save money by using less paper, but they do it in a way that creates lots of white space - savvy marketers indeed! 

    • Indent the first line of each paragraph. 

      Indent the first line of each paragraph between 5-10 spaces. Yes, I know it may seem old-fashioned. Many years ago it became common to line all text up on the left side of the page. It definitely looks cleaner and tidier. But that's not your primary goal. Your primary goal is to make sure your prospects read your material. 

      The indented spaces create a launching ramp that allows your eyes to find a smooth way into the text. They also create visual variety, which keeps your readers interested. 

      You'll see that I have not taken my own advice in this article: that's because my email distribution system doesn't allow it (or maybe they do and I just haven't figured it out yet!) Sometimes you just have to go with what's possible. 

  1. Don't justify the right margin. 

    Your right margin is justified when the end of each line is lined up neatly under the one above it, so that the right edge of the text looks straight. 

    Let's see how that happens. In order to have everything exactly lined up, your computer varies the length of the spaces between words. That means that as you read, your eye constantly has to adjust as it reads across each line. Rather than an uninterrupted flow, it's like hitting speed bumps. You may not notice it consciously, but it's happening. 

    Do you ever notice how a newspaper column often has a line or two with large spaces between words? That's when they are justifying the right margin and stretching the text to fill out the whole line. Next time you notice this, watch how it stops the flow of your reading. 

Copyright 2005 Maggie Dennison

Posted by: AT 03:42 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
 

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