Nine writing tips for communicators from literary geniuses

Karlea Lewis

From coming up with a great idea to overcoming writer’s block, the writing process is hard work. For a little inspiration, check out the following nine quotes about writing from authors who were masters of their craft. Even if they weren’t talking about public relations, these quotes can offer insight into crafting the perfect message for your next campaign. Whether you are writing an internal newsletter, a blog post, a profile or an annual report, these writing tips from some of the literary greats still ring true.

Create valuable content

“You don’t write because you want to say something, you write because you have something to say.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald

This is especially true for professional communicators.  You can’t just churn out news releases to “raise awareness,” always make sure you actually have something of value to share.

Know your audience

“If a story is not about the hearer, he will not listen. And here I make a rule—a great and interesting story is about everyone or it will not last.” ― John Steinbeck

One of the most valuable traits for a communicator to have is to listen to and engage in a dialogue with their audience. Once you have listened to and understand your audience, you can craft a message that your audience will listen to.

Read more

“Read, read, read. Read everything — trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read! You’ll absorb it. Then write.” ― William Faulkner

Research has confirmed Faulkner’s idea. If you want to become a better writer, read more. Struggling to write a compelling profile or an attention-grabbing media pitch? Get started by checking out some examples for inspiration.

Use plain language

“One day I will find the right words, and they will be simple.” ― Jack Kerouac

It’s easy to get caught up in jargon and big words but as communicators we need to strive to use plain language in our writing.

Do your research

“It is all very well for you to write simply and the simpler the better. But do not start to think so damned simply. Know how complicated it is and then state it simply.” ― Ernest Hemingway

Plain language is important but you still need to convey the key information and be prepared to go more into more detail if you get a call from a journalist or a stakeholder.

Practice word economy

“If a sentence, no matter how excellent, does not illuminate your subject in some new and useful way, scratch it out.” – Kurt Vonnegut

Be ruthless when you go back and edit your work. No matter how great a line or paragraph sounds if it doesn’t add something key to the document, delete it. Your audience’s time is valuable, stick to what they need and want to know.

Show don’t tell

“Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.” ― Anton Chekhov

If you work for a non-profit and you want to share the success of your latest campaign don’t just tell people it went well, show your audience the happy faces of those it benefited and share their story.

Be confident

“And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.” ― Sylvia Plath

One of the biggest challenges to writing can be worrying about what other people will think or that you’ll be wrong. Have confidence in your abilities and just start writing! What do you have to lose?

Practice makes perfect

“You don’t start out writing good stuff. You start out writing crap and thinking it’s good stuff, and then gradually you get better at it. That’s why I say one of the most valuable traits is persistence.”  – Octavia E. Butler

Lastly, remember that the best way to improve your writing is to keep practicing. Seek out opportunities to get experience and to receive feedback, and you’ll be a writing pro in no time!