After writing for newsletters for more than two decades, I find myself using that format by default: just the facts and lots of bullet points. When I’m writing blog posts or emails to friends, I find myself falling into that familiar pattern. Lately I’ve noticed how limited my word choices have been too.
Take a look at a few writing samples around your office. Can you accurately guess who wrote a memo or report by the use of certain phrases? Perhaps others can recognize your writing by the expressions you commonly use.
Think of the formats you use as tools in a chest. Instead of always reaching for the same ones, be sure that you are choosing the best for your purpose. Think of words as spices in your cooking; salt and pepper are great staples, but dozens of others can make your dishes more interesting.
Here are a few ideas to add some pizzazz to your writing:
- Read something different. Steer out of your reading rut too. Add a few new magazines, websites and authors to your reading list. Notice what makes different pieces compelling, and think about how you can use those elements in your writing.
- View your writing from a new perspective. Gather several pieces that you have written over the past six months and review them at the same time. Look for patterns in the word choices and styles. Experiment with rewriting one in a fresh way.
- Wait to edit. When possible, allow a day or more to pass between when you first draft a document and when you revise it. That break will allow your brain to pick up things that you would miss immediately after writing. Even better: Ask a colleague whose writing you respect to review an important document and offer suggestions.
- Search out tired phrases. If you notice that you use certain words or phrases too often, review your drafts for them. After you check the spelling in a document, search for those words and see how many you can replace with better choices.
Yes, I just wrote another blog post with bullet points. Sometimes tried-and-true styles work best, but be sure that you are using them by choice, not default.
How do you ensure that you vary your writing?
[Image Source: Chris Metcalf]