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Resolve to #WriteBetter: Writing for Different Formats

playing_with_letter_clothespinIt’s the end of January, which means you’ve already lost your holiday weight (and more) by sticking to your New Years’ resolution, right?

Don’t worry if you’ve fallen off the wagon – we won’t judge you. But we WILL judge you by your writing! In particular, because this month we have given you the resources you need to #WriteBetter.

We’ve outlined our top five writing pet peeves and our top five style secrets. In our third and final post this month, we have some tips on how you can write well for different formats.

Today, we are equipped with more communications channels than ever before. It can be overwhelming. But it doesn’t have to be! Just lift your head out from under that snowstorm of tweets, texts, e-mails, blog posts, short articles, long articles, slideshows, photo captions, and status updates, and use these tips as a guide.

1. Tweets: A lot of people are nervous about getting started on Twitter, because they aren’t sure how it works. Just like eating an apple, we suggest you start by tweeting once a day, every day, and go from there.

A good tweet has four components: a link to an interesting news article or website; a short intro to the article that gives it context and intrigues your followers to click; a mention of another user related to the article (often the writer or the publication); a hashtag (#) that expresses something about the article or connects it to a larger trend.

We’re sticklers when it comes to correct grammar in traditional formats. On Twitter, though, because of space limitations, we think it’s acceptable to abbreviate words that are less important. We still suggest you avoid abbreviations when tweeting, unless absolutely necessary.

2. Status updates: Updating Facebook or LinkedIn to share company news? Complete sentences and correct grammar are a must. We suggest you include a link to make an update more interactive. Come up with two to five sentences about the topic and end with a question that will encourage dialogue.

3. E-mails: Read them over before you press send! Make sure that what you’ve written can’t be misinterpreted by your recipient. Be clear, polite, and to the point.

4. Blog posts: Blog posts shouldn’t exceed 300 to 400 words. They are meant to be digested in a single sitting, like a snack. Your tone should be engaging and conversational.

5. Articles: If you’re writing an article for an outside publication, whether print or online, get editorial guidelines from the publication before you start writing. Let these govern the article’s style and parameters. Each publication is different, and you’ll want to make sure you’ve tailored your piece to its audience and its needs.

Have a great 2014, and write on!

Posted by Beth Connolly

Resolve to #WriteBetter: Hausman’s Five Style Secrets

Slide1It’s a new year, so it’s time to kick your bad habits to the curb. We suggest you free yourself from your unhealthy dependence on poor writing and resolve to #WriteBetter in 2014! We’re here to help you out with our top five style secrets. (Click here for a list of our top five writing pet peeves.)

Read on to get 2014 off to the “write” start!

1. Shorter is sweeter.

Wordy writing is hard to understand. Keep your sentences clean, crisp, and clear. If a sentence takes up three lines of text, break it in half. Likewise, paragraphs longer than six sentences can be intimidating. Break them up, but maintain a logical structure. Remove any information that isn’t directly related to the focus of your paragraph or article. If you can get your point across in 300 words, don’t say it in 600.

2. “Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity!”

Henry David Thoreau said it best in his treatise on living with purpose, Walden. Avoid the temptation to puff up your writing with unnecessarily complicated words or complex sentences. If your reader has to re-read each sentence two to three times, you are not doing your job right! Be prepared to revise your draft several times in order to create simple writing that isn’t simplistic.

3. Subdivide and conquer.

You don’t need to rely on fancy words to give your work pizzazz. Especially in a longer piece, divide your text into sections and open each with a relevant, eye-catching heading. This piques your reader’s interest and helps her identify your key points.

4. Take a stand.

Why say that something “seems to be” when you really think it “is”? Why say something “may have been” when you believe it “was”? Make statements with conviction, and back them up with evidence. Your writing will benefit. If you’re not convinced, take a look at this video:

5. “Precision is next to godliness.”

So said playwright Samuel Beckett, who understood the relationship between meaning and absurdity. It takes extra effort to be specific in your writing, rather than rely on vague generalities and buzzwords. But if you fail to be specific, your written work won’t contribute anything of value. In this social media age, we live in an echo chamber, where “writers” throw euphemisms and empty catchphrases back and forth at each other, accomplishing exactly nothing. Push yourself to say what you really mean, and your work will be memorable.

Implement these five secrets in your next piece of writing and let us know if they help you #WriteBetter!

Posted by Beth Connolly

Resolve to Write Better

2014-2Forget improving your diet. Forget going to the gym. This year, we suggest that you resolve to #WriteBetter! Poor writing is a bad habit that’s so 2013. In this month’s edition of Design on the Haus, we’ll help you keep this resolution by providing some tips.

Here, we’ve offered you a list of our top five writing pet peeves. Eliminate these bad habits from your writing diet and you’ll kick-start your plan to make your communication much healthier!

1.     Pitiful punctuation

Have you read Eats, Shoots & Leaves? It’s one of my favorite books about grammar. If a panda “eats shoots and leaves,” we know what his diet is. If he “eats, shoots and leaves,” he’s a fierce bandit who kills his waiter before he departs. See what a difference a misplaced comma can make? Keep that in mind when you’re writing. Precision in punctuation counts. If you still don’t believe me, see below:

PICTURE

2.     Frivolous filler

In school, most writing assignments had a length requirement. As a result, many of us learned to pad our writing with unnecessary words. If you picked up this bad habit in school, now is the time to drop it. No one wants to read diluted writing – especially not in this age of information overload. Get to the point quickly. Reread your piece after you’ve finished and strike everything that isn’t absolutely essential.

3.     Just too much jargon

The words you use to speak with your colleagues are not the words you should use in an article, even if it’s about your work. Unless you are writing for a trade publication like Civil Engineering or Architectural Record, your readers will be put off by words they don’t understand. If you need to use terminology that your Aunt Carol wouldn’t understand, introduce it first with a brief explanation. This is especially true for acronyms.

4.     Abandoning your audience

Similarly, your piece should have an angle that’s relevant to your audience. Every publication has a different set of readers. Take this into consideration when you write. If you don’t, you won’t get published or have any readers!

5.     Using no-no words

Aspire/inspire, beacon, composition, connection/connectivity, contextual/context, dynamic, green, improve, innovate, metaphor, nimble, one (as a pronoun), seek, unique

If you only take one thing away from this blog post, let it be this: stop using the above no-no words in your writing! Push yourself to replace these words and find a more specific, descriptive way to express your meaning. For an extended list of overused words from the New York Times, click here – and see the suggestions in the comments below the article.

What bothers you most when you read bad writing? Let us know by tweeting your pet peeves to @HausmanLLC with the hashtag #WriteBetter!

Posted by Beth Connolly

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