15 Quick Tips for Effective Digital Writing

effective digital writing
As content becomes increasingly more important in digital marketing strategies these 15 tips will strengthen your digital writing and marketing strategy

 

In our new digital communications world of abbreviations, instant gratification, 140-character limits and pictures, we seem to have forgotten how to write—not only grammatically (we could write a whole different post on that topic) but, more importantly, logically.

I’m sure you have encountered at least some of these scenarios when reading Web articles or blog posts lately—even from traditionally well-respected behemoths dating back to the almost-extinct print era. It sometimes feels as if our respected “print” information sources are going “reality TV” on us.

As content becomes increasingly important in digital marketing strategies, I decided to share with you 15 writing rules that date back to my first job as a brand assistant at Procter & Gamble. Some of you may remember that in the '80s and '90s we were known as the One-page Memo Company. In other words, anything that required more than one page to recommend or “sell” was not worth selling.

This culture not only made our assistants more creative with setting page margins but also forced us to think about what we were writing before actually putting it on paper (or screen). This is a skill that has proven beneficial throughout my life.

Below I have edited the points from a, you guessed it, one-page memo on writing rules my first boss at P&G sent to all his first-year brand assistants.

Here are the 15  Quick Tips for Effective Writing:

1. Think before you write. A document is only as good as the thinking in it. You should spend most time thinking, not writing. Outline your thought flow before writing complex articles.

2. Back statements up with facts. This increases credibility.

3. All charts should have titles that state what the chart is and clarify its purpose.

4. Paragraphs with more than three numbers in them probably could use a chart.

5. No paragraphs longer than nine lines; no sentences longer than three lines. (Use an 8½ by 11 standard as context for these rules.)

6. Lead from strength. Put your strongest rationale first.

7. Lead from the big picture idea/conclusions, and support with data.

8. Avoid adjectives when numbers can do the job. Don't use superlatives such as “spectacular,” “humongous” or “OMG”—better to say “it will build business X percent," even “build business X-fold.”

9. Interpret all data. People analyze; computers spit out numbers.

10. Take every opportunity to see ideas—resist just summarizing past events. Constantly propose how to make things better with specific and reasonable next steps.

11. Make sure the document is organized with headings for key sections, paragraphs in your findings, etc. Follow a specific organized format.

12. Use the 1, 2, 3 format for explaining the basis for arguments, especially if in the same paragraph. I have always lived by the rule that if you have fewer than three points to support a statement or make a recommendation, you are not ready. If there are more than three points, you are either overselling or bulls#@*ing (pardon my French).

13. Never show a chart without first citing the conclusions you want the reader to draw from the chart and a number in the chart that supports that conclusion.

14. Make sure all numbers/facts are consistent.

15. A good document is like a good novel: It has a theme, all events are foretold and next steps or conclusions should flow out of the background or setup.

I hope that you find these rules as effective as I have throughout my adult life. Some are more oriented toward business writing, but most make sense for any kind of writing.

Related articles on web best practices:
Small Business Social Media: It's All About Word of Mouth
When Disaster Strikes Small Business

About the author

Jesús Grana

Jesús Grana has 20 years of experience as a strategy and marketing professional with a special interest in social media marketing. Cuban born, Puerto Rico raised and U.S. educated, he is actively engaged in learning and testing social media strategies and tools.