In school, I was taught to write a good essay, a killer haiku, but never how to write an email.
Eager to impress, I decided to find out what makes good digital copy and how I could use it to command attention in an email, on LinkedIn and beyond.
So, without further ado here are a few hacks that will help hone conversational and e-writing chops:
Keep a swipe file
A swipe file is writer-speak for a compilation of good writing examples. The best way to become a stellar writer is to observe people who are. Keep a folder in Google Drive and another one in your phone so you can copy/paste, screenshot or type in words and phrases that you think are examples of good writing. How can you tell it’s good? If it makes you laugh, relate, click, scroll or want to keep reading, you should add it to your swipe file.
Next time you watch movie, show or TED talk try turning captions on. Like your swipe file, this will help you internalize what good writing looks like. The more you see it, the more likely you are to replicate it. You also get to feel productive while you Netflix n’ chill.
A word a day keeps bad writing away
Learn a new word every day. A wide vocabulary keeps your mind nimble (no more staring at your screen thinking, “it’s on the tip of my tongue!”) and can unlock new avenues of communication. Think of words as tools. The more words you have at your disposal the more creative and effective you can be when you pitch your case.
If it sounds good, it reads well
Read your work out loud. Would you say this to your reader, in person? If you wouldn’t, then don’t say it to them in writing, either. Change it until it reads like a real, non-awkward conversation.
You Autocomplete me
Avoid typos, save time, and never use shorthand again. Set up autocomplete shortcuts on your phone for words and phrases you use frequently, to avoid sounding curt and making typing mistakes on the go.
Whack a word
Try and play a game of “whack a word”. Which words can you whack? If you can say it in fewer words, do.
Don’t risk it. When you’ve finished writing, there’s a good chance you have limited stamina to run a thorough spelling and grammar check. Use a tool like Grammarly to do the work for you (unlike regular spellcheck, it catches awkward sentences, words that don’t belong and grammar mistakes). I guarantee, you’ll never look at a sent email and realize “shoot I missed one!” ever again.
Don’t don’t be be repetitive
Don’t make the same point twice. Doing so can make you sound rambling and lose your reader’s attention. Does each sentence serve a distinct purpose? Create an outline with key points to make sure you’ve made each clearly and concisely.
Like any lines in this article? Add them to your swipe file!