If someone asks you to define “good writing,” how would you answer? Big words, you might say, words that show that the writer is smart. Maybe a few metaphors, similes, and other similar tricks. While all of those elements are fine in moderation, the key to good writing is much simpler.
Contrary to popular thought, good writing isn’t writing that makes a huge fuss over itself. In fact, good writing lets its content shine — it’s written in such a way that the reading is effortless.
The following suggestions are ways you can easily hone your newsletter copy for optimal readability.
Make sure spell check is turned on in your word processor. Nothing erodes a publication’s credibility more than a carelessly misspelled word. If you were careless enough to misspell words, how careful were you about checking the rest of your information? However, make sure that you don’t over-rely on this spell-check function, as a computer program will never replace human intelligence. Without checking it over again yourself, you may become the victim of an incorrect word change, which often happens if spell-check is debating on several options for one misspelled word.
For Microsoft Word users, take advantage of an option within the grammar-checking function to evaluate and hone your writing. Activate the option that produces readability statistics once you run a spelling and grammar check. Every spell-check afterwards will generate two very helpful pieces of information. The first statistic consists of the 1) Flesch Reading Ease Score, which rates your piece of writing on its level of readability. This number should be as high as you can possibly make it. 2) The Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level which determines the lowest grade level of audience that can easily comprehend this particular piece of writing. Ideally, for your newsletter articles, this number should be between 6 and 10.
Read your writing out loud. This technique quickly lets you spot weak areas and strange wording. This is one of the fastest ways you can catch mistakes. You may stumble over your sentences and realize that your writing isn’t as natural as your spoken speech; make the necessary changes to your newsletter copy.
Get a second opinion on your articles. Have a trusted friend or relative look over your newsletter articles and make the appropriate edits. Fact is, writers are the most subjective readers of their own writing. After spending hours on one piece, they often tend to miss glaring mistakes on rereads, be it a typo, grammar inconsistency, or awkward usage of a word.
Lastly, revise and produce more than one draft. Every writer should do this, because the first draft is always rough. If time permits, even set aside the writing for a day or two, and then return to it. This will give you clearer eyes with which to reread your copy; it will make it far easier to pick out any mistakes.
Good copy is simple, readable, and focuses the spotlight on its content. It’s difficult to achieve perfection in anything, but trying is important — anything less will impact the professional reputation of your newsletter.
Jim Palmer is known internationally as ‘The Newsletter Guru’ – the go-to resource for smart, effective strategies that maximize the profitability of customer relationships. Jim is also the author of The Magic of Newsletter Marketing – The Secret to More Profits and Customers for Life. Get a free newsletter template at www.TheNewsletterGuru.com.